Governors Island rezoning process is underway

City Planning Commission certified the application on Monday

City Planning commissioner Marisa Lago and Governors Island (Getty)
City Planning commissioner Marisa Lago and Governors Island (Getty)

Governors Island is inching closer to becoming a year-round attraction.

The City Planning Commission on Monday certified an application to rezone the island, officially kick-starting the months-long land use review process. The rezoning would pave the way for up to 4.5 million square feet of development on the south side of the island, including university space, hotels, offices, biotech/research and retail.

According to zoning documents, the Trust for Governors Island has considered two development scenarios: In one, most of the land available for development would be dedicated to university and dormitory use, with some hotels and retail. The second would dedicate more than 1.8 million square feet to office use and 1.5 million square feet to biotech/research, with space set aside for 1,363 hotel rooms, a conference center and retail. In September, the Trust and the De Blasio administration unveiled a proposal that would create a “Climate Solution Center” on Governors Island that would be anchored by an academic or research institution focused on studying the impacts of climate change.

The rezoning application seeks to expand the boundaries of the Governors Island Special District to cover the southern half of the former military base, and change the zoning in that area from low-density residential to mid-density commercial use. (An active deed restriction at Governors Island bars permanent residential use.) The southern section of the island is home to vacant Coast Guard buildings, which will be demolished.

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A request for proposals for potential development, which would help finance infrastructure improvements (including expanded ferry service), is expected to be released in 2021.

During a hearing on Monday, some commissioners voiced concern about the proposed scale of the development, as well as the fact that details on the project wouldn’t be hammered out until after the rezoning.

The Governors Island rezoning is one of a handful, along with Soho and Gowanus, that Mayor Bill de Blasio has identified as a priority during his final year-plus in office.

On Monday, City Planning certified two special permit applications seeking to allow ground-floor retail and other uses at 61-63 Crosby Street and 5 Mercer Street. Much ground-floor and residential use is technically illegal in Soho, a
long-standing issue that the broader neighborhood rezoning is expected to address.