Governors Island’s future

And speaking of the mess in Albany, the Governors Island problem is not on the level of the multi-billion-dollar M.T.A. shortfalls, but it does have an easier solution.

We heard good news this week that Gov. David Paterson is likely to agree to put $6 million in the budget to keep the island running this year. But the annual problem funding this jewel in Lower Manhattan’s harbor suggests there is a better way.

Last year, the state stiffed the island, but officials were able to keep the parks and ferries running with surplus revenue. The expanded events and programs drew 130,000 people last year, doubling visits to the island for the second year in a row.

The state and city have shared island funding until now. Last year’s city allocation for the island of $8 million continues to sit unused because the state never came up with the matching funds. Mayor Bloomberg says he wants to take over the state’s burden in exchange for getting full responsibility. It sounds like a good idea to us. We can’t expect Rochester or Montauk to care about funding the island. If state funding is indeed likely this year, it never would have been possible without the sustained pressure from Bloomberg and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Losing the island’s momentum would be a disaster. It’s been hard enough convincing potential tenants to use some of the island’s historic buildings without adding annual budget uncertainty to the mix. The mayor says he can make things happen with more control, and the idea deserves serious consideration.  Important details like maintaining public review and reopening the island firehouse still need to be decided, but Albany clearly can’t handle all that’s on its plate and would be better off with one less burden.