Don’t sink island’s season, demonstrators plead


Activists wearing life preservers flooded City Hall steps last Friday afternoon to keep Governors Island afloat.

The island just off Lower Manhattan’s coast will not open to the public this summer unless Gov. David Paterson steps up with $7.4 million in operating funds, which Mayor Mike Bloomberg has promised to match.

“Let’s not make the same mistake we made during the 1970s,” Borough President Scott Stringer said, referring to the deep service cuts because of budget shortfalls.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler said the federal government has done its part in giving Governors Island more than $1.8 million for capital construction this year.

“It would be awfully ironic if there were nothing to do there,” Nadler said.

Allowing the island to fall into disrepair would waste the millions of dollars already spent on restoring and stabilizing historic buildings, said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Governors Island is where the Dutch first settled in New York, and with the city planning a quadricentennial celebration of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor, Breen added that it would be embarrassing to close the island.

Ken Fisher, chairperson of the Governors Island Alliance and a former city councilmember, led Friday’s press conference in front of a giant, neon pink, U-shaped inflatable, which was on the island last summer for children to climb and play on. Between the fleet of life preservers and the sky-high inflatable, the protestors attracted curious looks from people rushing in and out of City Hall.

Many of the people with a stake in Governors Island attended the press conference, including Murray Fisher, who is planning to move his New York Harbor School to the island in 2010, and Tom Fox, who is opening Water Taxi Beach, including a performance venue and restaurant, on the island this summer. City Councilmember Alan Gerson also attended.

In addition to asking for operating funding, the Governors Island Alliance also wants Paterson to put $7 million in his budget for the island’s capital expenses, which the city would match as well.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron sent a letter to Paterson reiterating the need for funding, but Paterson has not made any promises.

“The budget is like a planet’s weather system,” Squadron said in a phone interview. “A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and you could have a snowstorm in Brooklyn. I’m hopeful, I think people understand, but there are a lot of butterflies flapping their wings.”

— Julie Shapiro