Volume 79, Number 42 | March 24 - 30, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


City hopes to get Governors I.

By Julie Shapiro 

Now that the city has hammered out a deal with the state to take over Brooklyn Bridge Park and fund its construction, Governors Island is next on the agenda.

Like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island is funded through a state-city matching program. The partnership has been rocky to say the least. Last year, Governor David Paterson cut Governors Island from the state’s budget, putting the island’s summer season in jeopardy. Only after a rally on City Hall steps and pressure from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other elected officials did the governor change his mind at the last minute and allocate the necessary funds.

That funding crisis prompted Mayor Mike Bloomberg to start pushing to take over the island. The New York Post recently reported that Bloomberg may take $30 million from the Javits Center expansion project, which is on hold, and put it toward Governors Island instead.

Before relinquishing state control of the island, Silver, whose district includes the island, wants to be sure not only that Bloomberg has enough funding in place, but also that the mayor will address the community’s concerns about the island, said Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s chief of staff. Among Silver’s top priorities are to ensure that much of the island is mapped as parkland and that the community has a say in the island’s future development, Rapfogel said. She added that it would be good for Lower Manhattan to “not have to worry year after year” whether the financing for the island would be in place.

Rapfogel said the detailed negotiations weren’t drawing to a close just yet, but she hoped for a resolution that included a new memorandum of understanding soon.

A spokesperson for the governor’s budget office said Paterson allocated $7 million for the island’s operation for this coming summer, which means that whether or not negotiations with the city pan out, the island should still be open. However, Paterson’s budget isn’t final, as the state still faces a $9 billion deficit.

Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson, said in an e-mail, “We’re optimistic we’ll arrive at an agreement soon, but we’re not there yet.”

Rob Pirani, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance, said he supported the mayor’s bid for control, as long as Bloomberg agreed to a public planning process and the stipulations the federal government made when it transferred the island to New York in 2003. Those points include no casinos, no private residential development and a commitment to public open space, historic preservation and educational uses.

 

 

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