City Council greenlights Governors Island rezoning

Plan clears the way for nearly 4M sf of development

Governors Island (Getty)
Governors Island (Getty)

Governors Island could soon be home to nearly 4 million square feet of new development.

The City Council on Thursday voted in favor of rezoning the south end of the island, which will allow for the construction of university space, hotels, offices, research facilities and retail across 34 acres. New development would be located within two areas that are home to vacant Coast Guard buildings and former barracks, which would be demolished.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, a number of changes were made to the Trust for Governors Island’s rezoning application, including a cap on building heights, and limitations on the amount of office and hotel space. Planned development includes a research center that would be anchored by a yet-to-be selected institution focused on studying the impacts of climate change. A timeline for construction has not yet been finalized.

Ahead of her vote in favor of the rezoning, Manhattan Council member Margaret Chin, whose district includes the island, noted the high cost of restoring its historic buildings. The proposed development is expected to generate revenue to help maintain the island and turn it into a year-round public attraction.

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“Governors Island was meant to be mixed-use so that it can help sustain itself,” she said. She also dismissed concerns raised by advocates that the rezoning would threaten public space, saying there is still “lots of precious open park space.”

“Go out there and visit the island. The island is open to everyone,” she said.

Adjustments to the proposal — including the height caps, addition of increased ferry service and limitations on intrusions on public space — were made after Chin and community board members raised concerns about the scale of the potential development. The Metro Area Governors Island Coalition, which opposes the rezoning, has called the changes “inadequate.”