The rezoning of Governors Island is nearing a final vote, albeit with a few tweaks and limitations on new development.
The City Council’s land use committee on Tuesday voted in favor of the proposal, which will pave the way for nearly 4 million square feet of development, including university space, hotels, offices, biotech and research facilities, and retail across 34 acres on the island’s southern end. The committee also approved a series of amendments that cap building heights and intrusions on public space.
Future commercial development would be limited to two areas that are home to vacant Coast Guard buildings and former barracks, which would be demolished. The total square footage of new developments would be capped at 3.77 million square feet, down from the 4.5 million initially proposed. New buildings could rise no higher than 200 feet, with the exception of one that could rise 225 feet. The proposal would also limit the amount of office and hotel square footage permitted on the island, though those restrictions will be finalized ahead of the full City Council’s vote.
The Department of City Planning certified the rezoning application in October, launching the city’s public land use review process. The rezoning is aimed at creating a steady revenue stream for maintaining the island and turning it into a year-round public attraction.
And in September, the de Blasio administration and the Trust for Governors Island announced a “Climate Solution Center,” which would be anchored by an academic or research institution focused on studying the impacts of climate change. A partner hasn’t been selected yet, but the Trust has projected that the climate center would create 8,000 new jobs and generate $1 billion in economic activity.
But the proposal faced pushback from Manhattan Community Board 1, whose members had concerns about the scale of the potential development. Another group, the Metro Area Governors Island Coalition, also criticized the proposal’s density, and framed its opposition as a fight for “the preservation of natural habitat and beauty” of the island.
Manhattan Council member Margaret Chin, whose district includes the island, had voiced concerns about a more dense Governors Island in a previous subcommittee meeting. In a statement on Tuesday, she commended the modifications made to the proposal, saying they ensure expanded ferry service to the island and prioritize public park use in open space within the rezoning area.
“In the many months of discussion and negotiation with the Trust, it has been my top priority that Governors Island retains its open and organic atmosphere and that newly created spaces complement the historic buildings that define the island’s history,” she said.
Roger Manning and Allie Ryan, co-founders of the Metro Area Governors Island Coalition, however, called the changes “inadequate.”