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Governors Island rezoning proposal begins public review process

A public hearing on the rezoning proposal will be held in September.

Governors Island, seen here on June 19, 2016,

Governors Island, seen here on June 19, 2016, is being proposed for a rezoning project encompassing 33 acres of land. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has begun its public review process for a proposal to rezone part of Governors Island.

The rezoning encompasses 33 acres in the southern half of the island and would open up the area to commercial, academic and cultural development, according to the mayor’s office.

“Governors Island’s 43-acre park has made it the jewel of New York Harbor,” de Blasio said in an emailed statement on Friday. “The island is now set to dramatically expand its role in our city’s economy as we turn its southern half into a center of innovation and education.”

The proposal most notably does not include plans for residential development — a major point of contention with community advocates in other rezoning proposals — since there is a federal deed restriction that prevents people from living on the island full-time. Instead, there will be a focus on academic and institutional development that will best compliment the island’s “character as a popular recreational and cultural destination,” the mayor’s office said, and all revenue streams will be funneled back into park operations, maintenance and other projects aimed at expanding access to the island’s open spaces.

Governors Island has experienced a 65 percent jump in visitors since 2014, according to the mayor’s office. Since the park opened in 2016, New Yorkers’ access to the island has expanded from four months to six months of the year. The New York Harbor School and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Art Center currently reside there year-round. Two more year-round tenants, Spaceworks and the Billion Dollar Oyster Project, are already preparing to move, per the mayor’s office.

“Thanks to almost a decade’s worth of substantial city and philanthropic investment, Governors Island is already a destination for recreation, relaxation and culture for nearly a million visitors annually,” Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development, said. “This rezoning represents the next step in marrying the Island’s rich history with its future role as a global hub for convening, the arts, tech, and education.”

The city worked with Community Board 1 and the Governors Island Community Advisory to create several “guiding principles” for future development on the island, including the promotion of innovative design approaches in environmental sustainability.

In an effort to protect the island’s sweeping views of New York Harbor, the new developments are expected to be predominantly low- and mid-rise buildings, the mayor’s office said.

“Governors Island is a rare and precious resource for the entire city and region that inspires creativity and innovation,” Michael Samuelian, president of the Trust for Governors Island, said. “This next chapter presents an unparalleled opportunity to activate the Island with new educational and research facilities in a destination unlike anywhere else”

An environmental impact review for the rezoning will kick off in September. The city is planning a public hearing on the proposal for Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Battery Maritime Building, located at 10 South St. in Manhattan.

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