The Trust for Governors Island is seeking new concessionaires to join our lineup of delicious vendors. Food and beverage establishments are now invited to submit proposals on a rolling basis to operate on Governors Island in 2021.
The Trust offers flexible, high-traffic stationary sites for buildout of semi-permanent structures, opportunities for mobile food carts, and locations for mobile food trucks. In addition to seasonal on-Island vending opportunities, the Trust is seeking a concessionaire to operate a year-round café kiosk space in the lobby of the Battery Maritime Building, the Island’s primary Manhattan ferry terminal. Operators should consider which type of site best suits their business and offerings—proposals are also welcome for alternative locations not specifically mentioned.
Governors Island is one of New York City’s most beloved destinations. Between the months of May and October, visitors from across the city and around the globe discover a world unto itself, filled with history and an award-winning spectacular park at the center of New York Harbor. Just minutes by ferry from Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront, nearly 1M visitors come to the Island each season to enjoy a robust calendar of cultural programs, public art, car-free biking, festivals, and an expansive park with unrivaled views of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
During the public season, the Island is open 10AM–6PM Monday through Friday and 10AM–7PM on weekends with earlier access for vendors, staff, and tenants. Typically, the Island hosts 3,500+ visitors per weekday and up to 12,000+ on weekend days. On weekdays, concessions also benefit from the Island population that includes employees, tenants, a vibrant arts and cultural community, and day camps. Operators also have opportunities to cater the many corporate and non-profit retreats, events and volunteer days held on the Island.
Our ideal partners to provide food and beverage are businesses that:
provide high-quality, affordable, delicious food for our visitors
have demonstrated success running similar concessions
are enthusiastic about partnering with the Trust for the best possible menu, design and service
share the Trust’s goals of promoting a sustainable and zero-waste environment
Many visitors know Governors Island as a destination for music. Musical events, festivals and performances delight visitors throughout the public season every year, like this year’s annual Porch Stomp and African Film Festival Inc.’s Family Day Celebration. These modern musical events continue the long tradition of music on Governors Island that stretches back centuries, much of it accompanying the Island’s history as a military base.
As early as 1750, the American provincial regiment stationed on the Island included a band. Musicians remained part of military postings through the following decades as the Island changed hands in theAmerican Revolution. In the early 19th century, music took a more prominent role on the Island with the establishment of the Sixth Infantry Band School. Though the school remained on the Island for only a short time before it was moved to West Point, it began a tradition of training musicians on Governors Island that lasted over a century.
The new School of Practice for U.S.A. Field Musicians opened on Governors Island in the 1830s. The school trained musicians in fife and drum, adding bugle after the Civil War. Between fifty and ninety students, initially quartered in the casements of the South Battery, attended the school at one time. They were known as the Music Boys, an apt nickname for a group that skewed young; in 1860, two-thirds of the 60 Music Boys were between the ages of 13 and 16. Field musicians would perform multiple times each day, performing bugle calls like reveille in the morning and retreat in the evening, as well as at daily dress parades. The army band would also play at ceremonial occasions, like welcoming visiting dignitaries, at military funerals, and at the Island’s esteemed garden parties.
In the 20th century, one of two Army Music Schools for bandsmen calledGovernors Island home. It boasted a highly selective bandleader training program; only five of 75 applicants were admitted for the inaugural class in 1911. Demand for military musicians grew during World War 1, with the ranks of the Recruit Band swelling to nearly 50 enlisted soldiers being trained for duty at home and abroad. In 1916, the War Department created the Third Disciplinary Band composed of prisoners housed in Castle Williams to raise morale and provide vocational training. Within a few years of its formation, over 115 men had been members of the band and about 90 percent had qualified for assignment to a military band when restored to duty or allowed to reenlist. The Castle Williams band was so popular that it competed with the famed Sixteenth Infantry Band for Saturday night spots and holiday parties at the Officers’ Club, sometimes performing even more frequently than the enlisted band.
The Army Music School departed Governors Island in 1921, relocating to Washington, D.C., though multiple bands remained. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was a particular fan of the Sixteenth Infantry Band, often inviting them to play at Wall Street parades. The U.S. Army Band called Liggett Hall its home as it traveled to perform around the world until the Army left Governors Island in 1965. The Officers’ Club continued to host musicians, one notable regular being Burt Bacharach, who played nightly for a time during his enlistment in the early 1950s. Bands were often present at social events for the rest of the 20th century, including during the Coast Guard years, as when the U.S. Coast Guard Band played for two days around the July 4th festivities in 1992.
Today, visitors can expect to hear and see all sorts of live musical performances on Governors Island during the public season. This music, spanning genre, era, arrangement and scale, echoes the performances of centuries past to keep the tradition of playing music on the Island alive. While the 2020 public season has ended, Governors Island’s music venues are never quiet for long.
Header image: 8th Infantry Band at Fort Jay, 1906.
As the end of Governors Island’s 2020 public season approaches, there’s still plenty of arts and culture programming from organizations active on the Island to discover on and off our shore and online.
Saturday 10/24 is the last installment of Hey Neighbor!, an artist talk series livestreamed from the porches of Nolan Park. Tune in at 3pm to hear from artists from Beam Center, BronxArtSpace, Harvestworks and NARS Foundation.
Works on Water presents Drawing the Water on Sunday 10/25. Meet artists at the water’s edge north of Castle Williams to join a conversation about our relationships with water and to draw the surrounding Harbor waters.
On Saturday 10/31, Harvestworks presents Out/With/In, a day-long experience combining live musical performances and installations across the Island. See performances in two programs beginning at 11:15AM and 3:15PM.
ArtCrawl Harlem invites viewers along for a virtual studio tour with GI Residency Initiative artist Demarcus McGaughey, Saturday 10/31 at 12PM, livestreamed from ArtCrawl’s Nolan Park house.
NY Virtual Volcano Observatory resident artist Jemila MacEwan’s outdoor installation, Dead Gods, is on view every day outside House 15 in Nolan Park. Dead Gods honors giant, prehistoric fungi known as Prototaxites, common ancestors to many modern organisms, with monolithic structures sprouting living mushrooms.
West Harlem Art Fund’s first outdoor installation on Governors Island, Conrad Levenson's Personal Goal Post, is on view daily outside House 10 in Nolan Park.
See a diptych of illustration and prose by Shandaken Projects year-round resident artist Jonathan Gonzalez outside House 2B in Nolan Park, and pick up artist Jeremy Sorese’s new broadsheet there or at the Soissons Landing Welcome Center through 11/1.
Billion Oyster Project’s GI Residency Initiative artist Zef Egan’s pinhole photographs of BOP’s initiatives and activities are on view daily outside House 16 in Nolan Park.
Artist Aviva Rahmani presents a new installation, Lost Forests, Found, in collaboration with LMCC, NYC Audubon and Earth Matter outside Earth Matter's Lavender Field south of Nolan Park. Lost Forests, Found is part of the collective public art project, Hunt for the Lost.
Off the Island, NARS Foundation is hosting an exhibition in their Sunset Park space of works by their GI Residency Initiative artists. Holding Breathis available to view through Friday 10/30 by appointment only.
Reserve tickets to see these works in person before the Island closes, or explore our website for virtual and socially distanced events and more info about the Governors Island Residency Initiative! The Island is open through 11/1 this year.
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Trust for Governors Island (The Trust) today issued a request for proposals (RFP) to develop a hub for businesses and non-profits working in climate and the environment in Building 301, a historic waterfront building located on the Northern section of Governors Island. An early step in establishing Governors Island as a leading center for climate solutions, this project will serve as a beta-space for new innovative technology, research and policy action within the climate and environmental fields.
The RFP released today will seek developers and operators to transform Building 301, a 23K SF historic structure, formerly used as an elementary school by the U.S. Coast Guard, into a hub for businesses, entrepreneurs and non-profits working within climate and the environment. Already home to like-minded tenants and partners like the Harbor School, Climate Museum, and Billion Oyster Project, the project will expand opportunities for businesses and non-profits to focus onnew, innovative research, technology and policy action on Governors Island. The project is expected to create over 70 good paying jobs once fully constructed and operating.
“The climate crisis is already – and will continue to be – a public health crisis, too,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s time to rally New York City’s scientists, innovators, and big thinkers to preserve our ability to leave safe, healthy lives by fighting climate change and adapting to an unpredictable future.”
“Establishing a hub at Governors Island to lead the world in research, design, and education about climate change and adaptation is one of the key parts of the Mayor's COVID-19 recovery agenda, and this RFP helps us get a head start on this crucial work,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “The climate crisis is a major threat to the health and well-being of New Yorkers, and our economic recovery must both bring us back from the pandemic and prepare us for such future threats to public health. The transformation of Governors Island will not only create good green jobs, but will jump start innovative strategies to avoid and mitigate the effects global warming will have on the health of our residents.”
“Governors Island is uniquely poised to become a leading center for climate action, and we’re thrilled to begin realizing this vision now by bringing small businesses and non-profits together under one roof, with opportunities to showcase their work and engage New Yorkers,” said Clare Newman, President & CEO at the Trust for Governors Island. “This new space will create jobs and breathe new life into a treasured historic asset, while laying the groundwork to establish Governors Island as an even greater resource for the long-term resilience of New York City.”
“Climate change is an existential crisis that impacts our way of life, the health of our communities, and our economy,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. “As we continue to look towards the City’s recovery, sustainability tied to green technology and jobs will play important roles. This new hub where small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs can research, innovate, and ideate, is an important starting point that will help create a more resilient New York City for years to come.”
“As the world works to recover from COVID-19, it is clear that we must put climate and environmental justice at the heart of our actions,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor. “Supporting job-creating investments in clean energy, resilient infrastructure, and environmental justice will be essential to the city’s recovery and will accelerate the creative solutions necessary to end the age of fossil fuels. We applaud the Trust for Governors Island on their commitment to a livable future for the next generation.”
“Adapting the world to climate change is a mammoth task that blends science, engineering, and design,” said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency. “This hub will create new opportunities for innovation and collaboration across sectors, critical ingredients in our work to build a safer and more resilient future.”
Today’s announcement comes one month after Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Trust unveiled plans to bring together a multi-disciplinary community of researchers, educators, advocates, innovators, and policymakers devoted to addressing the global climate crisis on Governors Island, as part of the Mayor’s Recovery Agenda. Those plans and proposed rezoning of the South Island entered the formal public land use review process this week. In 2021, the Trust plans to issue a solicitation to attract an academic or research institution to anchor the center for climate solutions on Governors Island.
“The release of a RFP for the revitalization of Building 301 marks a crucial point in Governors Island’s development into a leading center for climate solutions and action”, said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “Through this innovative hub, Governors Island will continue to provide valuable resiliency projects as well as economic opportunities for New York City today and for the future.”
“We know that small businesses and not-for-profit organizations will play a significant part in driving the innovation that will be necessary to address climate change and the many interrelated environmental challenges we face,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who represents lower Manhattan, western Brooklyn and Governors Island. “This RFP will help assess the extent to which Governors Island can serve as a site for such innovation within the confines of the island’s existing structures, even as the Trust embarks on the essential public engagement and review process for its broader vision of redeveloping a portion of the island to create a much larger amount of space for environmental work.”
“Sustainability is the key to New York City’s future,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “It will get people back to work and deliver the environmental justice many New Yorkers deserve. We in government must find creative solutions like Building 301 to help our brightest minds and dedicated innovators deliver that future.”
“Manhattan Community Board 1 is looking forward to seeing our treasured historic buildings on Governors Island come alive and be restored as a part of the Trust's vision for an Island that includes environmental consciousness and action,” said Tammy Meltzer, Chairperson, Manhattan Community Board 1.
In September 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Trust for Governors Island announced plans to bring a center for climate solutions to Governors Island as a key part of the Mayor’s Recovery Agenda. Leveraging the Island’s waterfront location and unique environment, the project will concentrate research and innovation, testing and development, and education and public engagement around innovative climate solutions in a single physical hub, bringing together a multi-disciplinary community of researchers, educators, advocates, innovators, and policymakers devoted to addressing the global climate crisis. In total, the center could encompass millions of square feet of mixed-use development to support and expand public access to Governors Island year-round, and create 8,000 direct jobs.
Over the next several months, the Trust and the Mayor’s Office will work with stakeholders, advocates, local elected officials, agencies, and New Yorkers to help bring the vision to life through a proposed rezoning of the South Island, which entered the City’s formal land use review process this week. The proposed rezoning will support a mixed-use district within development sites on the South Island, including an academic or research institution which will anchor the center for climate solutions, while protecting the Island’s park and open spaces.
This year, we’re requiring visitors to wear face coverings at all times while boarding and riding our ferries and while on the Island when social distancing isn’t possible. It’s a breeze to grab some new Personal Protective Equipment before boarding the ferry or while you’re on Governors Island thanks to two vending machines stocked with Brooklyn Navy Yard-made materials.
These two machines, one located in the lobby of the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan and the other in Liggett Archway on the Island, carry a variety of face coverings and hand sanitizers. Besides the stylish Governors Island bandana, all of these PPE offerings are made by companies based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
These easy-to-use machines offer masks by Accurate Knitting, American Heirloom, Atoms, Crye Precision, Engraved Signs, Fydelity Bags, Rebel Designs, Stitch, and Tracey Tanner that come in different styles and designs. You can also grab a Governors Island bandana with a fun ferry pattern (or if you aren’t visiting soon, pick one up in our online store) that doubles as a great face covering.
Once you’ve got your face covering, keep your hands clean during your visit with hand sanitizer gel by Scully’s, Kings County Distillery, and Ecologics, or with Ecologic’s hand sanitizing spray.
Four arts organizations currently hosting artist residencies on Governors Island – 4heads, Beam Center, Harvestworks, and the NARS Foundation – have announced the launch of a new Zoom conversation series in which artists from their different residency programs will be partnered together for one-on-one conversations about their studio practices, residencies, and topics such as how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their work. Launching on Saturday, October 3rd, and taking place every Saturday for four weeks, the Hey Neighbor! Artists’ Talk Series brings together artists who are currently working in close proximity but might otherwise never interact because of the nature of their studio practices or the social distancing required by the pandemic. 4heads initiated the collaboration to continue their mission of supporting their residency artists and helping them build networks in a year in which they could not host their annual art fair on Governors Island.
Participating organizations are hosting residencies on Governors Island as part of the Governors Island Residency Initiative, a partnership between the Trust for Governors Island and 19 cultural organizations to host free residency programs for artists and cultural practitioners that have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly 100 artists are currently working on Governors Island in studios as part of this initiative.
Each conversation will begin with a short video intro about each artists’ work. The artists will then speak with each other for around 30 minutes before opening the conversation up to a Q&A with the audience. All of the conversations will be moderated by Jack Robinson, one of the co-founders of 4heads.
All of the conversations, which are free and open to the public, will take place on Zoom. Learn more here.
The full program follows below.
Saturday, October 3, 2020
3-4 PM: CHiKA (NARS Foundation) and Katherine Freer (Beam Center)
ChIKA is a Japanese-born New York-based artist who works in light sculptures, audiovisual performances, and technology. Katherine Freer is a multimedia designer working in theater, installation, and film.
4-5 PM: Joseph Baker (Beam Center) and Sizhu Li (4heads)
Joseph Baker is a multimedia artist who uses light and sound. Sizhu Li is a Chinese-born New York-based artist who creates immersive kinetic installations
Saturday, October 10, 2020
3-4 PM: Sarah K Williams (NARS Foundation) and Lauren Petty & Shaun Irons (4heads)
Sarah K Williams is a performance artist who creates short intimate pieces engaging time as object and gesture as an effective mode of communication . Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty are Brooklyn-based artists who make multidisciplinary performances, multi-channel installations, experimental films, documentaries, as well as interactive video scores to accompany live performance.
4-5 PM: Alexandra Goldberg/Joseph Morris (Harvestworks) and Sam Sundius (4heads)
Alexandra Goldberg and Joseph Morris are currently collaborating on new work that uses art and technology to make human phenomena visible. Sam Sundius is a fiber and installation artist whose work deals with concepts of isolation, family, gender, and the body.
5-6PM: Jemila MacEwan (Virtual Volcano Observatory) and Elizabeth Demaray (Swale)
Jemila MacEwan is an interdisciplinary artist known for her intimately interwoven earthworks, sculptures, and performances. Elizabeth Demaray is a sculptor focusing on the interface between the built and the natural environment.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
3-4 PM: Shannon Finnegan (Beam Center) and Valérie Hallier (Harvestworks)
Shannon Finnegan is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist whose work aims to increase perceptions of accessibility. Valerie Hallier is a French multidisciplinary artist whose work reflects on the illusion of control.
4-5 PM: Tim Fite (4heads) and Zeelie Brown (Swale)
Tim Fite makes large-scale, compositionally complex, black and white drawings that occasionally have a musical or performative component. Zeelie Brown is a visual artist and cellist who often uses sound and textiles in her installations, most notably queer sanctuaries called “soulscapes.”
5-6PM: Julie Ann Nagle (Swale) and Simone Johnson (Works on Water)
Julie Ann Nagle creates interactive installations and is currently building on the experiential aspect of her practice by weaving an enormous outdoor structure based on the nests of birds local to Governors Island. Simon Johnson is a process-based installation artist who is currently researching the relationship between climate change and the ocean, algae, surrealism, and the imagination.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
3-4PM: Anne Wu (NARS Foundation) and Charlotte Mundy (Harvestworks)
Anne Wu’s work draws from architectural structures and decorative elements commonly found in existing urban landscapes. Charlotte Mundy is a vocalist and composer who is now working on multisensory installations.
4-5PM: Aarati Akkapeddi (Beam Center) and Christian Hincapié (NARS Foundation)
Aarati Akkapeddi is a first-generation Indian-American, cross-disciplinary artist, educator, and programmer interested in the poetics and politics of datasets. Christian Hincapié's work is equal parts research-based, studio-based, and made in collaboration with public space.
5-6PM: Nilufa Yeasmin (BronxArtSpace) and Anooj Bhandari (Beam Center)
Nilufa Yeasmin is a New York-based artist born in Bangladesh whose work is influenced by the travel between these two places she calls home. Anooj Bhandari is a community organizer, storyteller, and performer who is interested in poetics, movement, and physical theater.
About 4heads: 4heads is a 501(c)3 nonprofit arts organization run by artists for artists. It was launched in New York in 2008, when Nicole Laemmle, Jack Robinson, and Antony Zito, who are working artists themselves, saw an opportunity to create a platform that would serve emerging artists and the local community through exhibitions, education programs, and artistic collaborations. The organization’s DIY spirit helps catalyze the ongoing dialogue between artists and people from all walks of life. Its diverse slate of initiatives includes art fairs, arts-education for underserved communities, and a summer Artists in Residence program on Governors Island. 4heads is committed to shedding new light on hidden culture and bringing new life to unexpected and unique spaces across the city.
About Beam Center: Beam Center is a community of kids, teens, adults, artists, and teachers collaborating to create spectacular projects rooted in a passionate curiosity for learning, making, and sharing. Beam has more than 16 years of experience creating large-scale youth-built art installations, including FlipNYC, giant flipbooks at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, +Pool Light at Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan, and Iceberg , a massive thermochromatic structure floating in the middle of a lake in New Hampshire. Lighthouse is Beam’s artist residency on Governors Island that provides space for artists to engage their interdisciplinary practices with FabLab technologies and tools.
About Harvestworks: Founded as a not-for-profit organization by artists in 1977, Harvestworks has helped a generation of artists create new artworks using sound, image and interactive technology. The 2020 Harvestworks Artist Studios continues their Art and Technology Program on Governors Island that is centered on art works created at the intersection of art and technology. Since 2011, the program has included artists' open studios, exhibitions of digital media art, public workshops and an educational research facility. Harvestworks’ goal is to provide exhibition opportunities to electronic media artists and also to educate the public about how artists use new and emerging technology for artistic expression.
About the New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation: The New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit arts organization committed to supporting artists and curators on an international level as well as engaging the local community in Brooklyn and the Greater New York area, through short-term integrated residency programs, progressive exhibition programs, international exchanges, and engaging public programs that foster global understanding and dynamic cross-cultural dialogues. The 2020 NARS Satellite Residency at Governors Island hosts 5 New York based artists, who are provided with administrative, curatorial, and professional support to explore and expand the scope of their artistic practice through research, dialogue, and production of new projects. As a studio based residency, the focus is on practice within the studio and the experimentation and exploration that results from creating new work. Residency artists benefit from NARS’ community driven program and the ongoing dialogue between fellow residency artists.
NEW YORK (September 17, 2020)—The Trust for Governors Island today unveiled plans to develop a center for climate solutions, leveraging Governors Island’s unique environment and waterfront location as a public living laboratory. The proposed center will provide a central convening spot for researchers, advocates, innovators and students from around the globe focused on climate change solutions, while offering meaningful opportunities for public engagement, bringing hands-on education, programming and advocacy initiatives around climate and environmental issues directly to New Yorkers. The Trust’s proposal comes as the ongoing pandemic has underscored the need for coordinated, cross-sector planning that centers equity around the world’s most urgent issues.
The center is projected to create 8,000 direct new jobs and $1 billion in economic impact for New York City. The proposal could include:
An academic or research anchor institution to study the impacts of climate change to advance related fields, bringing climate science, policy, communications, climate justice initiatives and solution development under one roof
A living laboratory and/or cultural uses that showcase solutions and invite conversations on the environment through public art and programming
Platform for environmental justice organizations and environmental non-profits to research, host programs and convenings, and connect with New Yorkers
Commercial innovation for technological research in the climate field
Dormitories to support an academic anchor and create a uniquely immersive community for learning and innovation
Space for convenings that offer opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors alike to engage in conversations about climate change
Space for policy, advocacy and programming organizations to engage with the Island’s nearly 1M annual visitors
“Governors Island has a distinguished past in New York City, and an even brighter future,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re proud to continue the growth of Governors Island as a resource for New York City to fight climate change, create jobs, and showcase our city’s world-class research and scientific talent.”
“Governors Island is a jewel in New York Harbor, and it is poised to serve as an inspirational demonstration of how New York and other cities around the world can adapt to climate change,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “This ambitious plan to pair research and innovation in the climate field with public education and meaningful opportunities for dialogue about climate change is exactly the sort of project the city needs as we turn our attention to getting New Yorkers back to work and restarting our economy. We are excited to work with the Trust for Governors Island on a project that will further position New York City as a leader in climate action, while simultaneously delivering jobs and cementing Governors Island’s position as a beloved cultural, historic and recreational resource.”
“As we recover from the ongoing pandemic, New York City will continue to do what we do best – bring forward bold and creative solutions to pressing problems,” said Trust for Governors Island Chair Alicia Glen. “As a city of islands with 520 miles of coastline, the devastating impacts of climate change remain one of the most urgent issues facing our communities. This exciting plan for Governors Island will bring a tremendous resource that not only represents an important step forward for the City’s recovery, but also acknowledges and builds upon our history as the global center for innovation and progress.”
“Even before the pandemic, the need for preparation and innovation around our world’s most urgent crises was clear,” said Trust for Governors Island President & CEO Clare Newman. “As one of New York City’s great public places, Governors Island can serve as a powerful platform and living laboratory for research, innovation and advocacy. We’re thrilled to announce a vision that realizes the full potential of Governors Island, marrying its extraordinary open space, history, arts and culture with a visible center for confronting one of the defining issues of our time. We look forward to working with community stakeholders and our local elected officials in the coming months as we begin to make this plan a reality.”
“As we watch California burn while record-setting hurricanes pummel Louisiana, it is clear that even amid a pandemic we cannot lose sight of our looming climate crisis,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor. “Today’s announcement of a climate solutions hub on Governors Island is exactly the kind of initiative we need to deliver on New York City’s world-leading Green New Deal and end the age of fossil fuels. We are committed to doing our part by divesting from fossil fuels, decarbonizing our economy, and investing to create a resilient and inclusive city. That’s how we will create the jobs that will accelerate our economic recovery, achieve justice for our communities on the front lines of our climate crisis, and ensure a livable future for the next generation.”
“As we face down climate disaster, we must reimagine a new world—and that world will be built right here in New York City,” said Mayor’s Office of Resiliency Director Jainey Bavishi. “Drawing on New York City’s boundless talent and existing expertise in climate adaptation, this first-of-its-kind center will foster new strategies and technologies with the goal of creating and safer, fairer, and more prosperous future.”
“Twenty years ago, I succeeded in returning Governors Island to New York,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “Today’s announcement of a global center for climate solutions continues the remarkable transformation of Governors Island. Climate change is an existential threat to life on our planet, if we don’t take action now the harm will be irreversible. By bringing together a wide array of perspectives, including those of researchers, environmental justice advocates, educators, and members of the public, the center will position New York City to lead the fight against climate change. It is a fight we must win.”
“While the impact of climate change remains one of the world’s greatest challenges, we have the opportunity to make our communities more resilient and to build a 100% clean renewable energy economy that works for everyone. Governors Island could play a role in achieving that vision,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who represents lower Manhattan, western Brooklyn and Governors Island. “I’m glad that the Trust for Governors Island has committed to an inclusive approach to developing a plan for this portion of the island. I cannot stress enough the importance of having communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn actively involved in every step of the process. I look forward to working with the Trust, my colleagues in government, community residents, and other key stakeholders to ensure that the public engagement and review are thorough, open to all voices, and equitable.”
“The Trust for Governors Island, through their plan for a global center for climate solutions, is working to implement an important step in protecting our city from the harshest effects of climate change,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “It is not about if there will be another super storm, it is about when, and I am excited and grateful that Governors Island is putting forth this initiative in their unique space to create a research institute, laboratories, and a place to have these crucial discussions on climate change. It is important that we prioritize resiliency in our city and in our country and part of that is having these important conversations as well as having access to spaces which focus on this urgent issue.”
“Manhattan Community Board 1 is encouraged by the Trust's vision for an Island that is a hub of environmental consciousness and action,” said Manhattan Community Board 1 Chairperson Tammy Meltzer. “We look forward to working closely with the Trust to ensure that the Island is equitable for all and achieves the mutual goals of the community, including exciting opportunities such as energy self-sufficiency, carbon neutrality, prioritizing open space and green infrastructure”
“I applaud the Trust for Governors Island for creating its innovative vision for the Climate Solutions Center,” said Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Head of the Climate Impacts Group at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and former Co-Chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change. “The Center will provide a myriad of opportunities for the actions and knowledge-sharing needed to tackle climate change challenges. New York City has long been a leader in responding to climate change and this exciting initiative will ensure that the City will expand this significant role, both locally and globally.”
“As New York Harbor continues to become a flash point for the impacts of climate change, Regional Plan Association applauds the Trust’s timely decision to create a center for climate solutions in the heart of the harbor,” said Regional Plan Association President and CEO Tom Wright. “Since the mid-1990s when RPA convened the Governors Island Alliance to plan the future of the Island, we have advocated for a place that is truly public in nature and which preserves open space, prioritizes educational uses and adheres to sustainable development principles. The Trust is taking a bold step towards these goals with the re-zoning plan, and we look forward to reviewing the plan during the land use review process.”
“The climate crisis will be one of the greatest challenges of our generation, but we know that smart design at parks and open spaces can help communities be more resilient, absorb stormwater, and reduce heat levels,” said Trust for Public Land New York and New Jersey Director Carter Strickland. “In New York City we have already demonstrated the power of parks to create healthy, livable, and resilient communities, and by providing a dedicated Center for Climate Solutions at Governors Island, we can refine our designs and spread our best practices.”
“From our coastlines to our street trees, New York City’s open spaces are integral to climate resilience,” said New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Adam Ganser. “Housing an innovative center for addressing climate change on Governors Island, one of the most unique public spaces in our city, is a natural fit. It affirms the many important roles that public spaces serve: protecting the environment, supporting the health and wellness of visitors, and serving as anchors for community and collaboration.”
“Governors Island is closely entwined in our region’s history, and its future potential is tied to its role as a revitalized, resilient, accessible, and innovative waterfront community,” said Waterfront Alliance President and CEO Cortney Worrall. “What better place for a center of excellence and innovation focused on the climate crisis than on Governors Island? As a hub for future engineers, scientists, researchers and planners working together for resilience, the Island will play a critical role and provide opportunities for hands on learning and more direct access to the waterfront.”
"This makes so much sense for Governors Island, which is such an iconic and appropriate place to anchor New York's research might in the fight for solutions to climate change,” said Center for an Urban Future Executive Director Jonathan Bowles. “It has the potential to help make the city a global leader in climate change research, and it will create a lot of good jobs at a time when that’s needed more than ever.”
“As longtime tenants of Governors Island and proud partners of the Trust for Governors Island—not to mention citizens of New York City and the world—we at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council are thrilled to be aligned with this urgent and visionary initiative,” said Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Executive Director, Artistic Programs Lili Chopra. “Climate change is among the most dire threats to our city, our country, and our planet, and we believe firmly that artists and the arts have a vital role to play in the public’s investigation of issues surrounding the environment, ecology, and sustainability.”
“For decades LMCC has been rooted in Lower Manhattan and on Governors Island, and as such we have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of climate change on our neighborhoods, our infrastructure, our city,” said Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Executive Director, Finance & Administration Diego S. Segalini. “We have always taken an active role in the recovery of our communities, and are proud to stand alongside our partners at the Trust for Governors Island in this proactive initiative to acknowledge and address climate change now, and meet future challenges head-on.”
“We fully support this new vision for Governors Island and are thrilled that the plans are designed to make real use of the Island's position in the center of New York Harbor,” said Billion Oyster Project Executive Director Pete Malinowski. “We look forward to working with the Trust to achieve this ambitious vision.”
“This is an inspiring, urgently necessary initiative,” said Climate Museum Director Miranda Massie. “We're thankful the Trust is stepping up to the extraordinary challenge of the climate crisis and looking forward to extending our generative, rewarding partnership.”
“Lower Manhattan has always been a gateway to the future and to Governors Island,” said Alliance for Downtown New York President Jessica Lappin. “It is thrilling to think of a center, here, that could help us solve one of the great crises facing not only New York, but the entire globe. It's a perfect use for this precious place.”
“We are grateful to the Trust for accommodating GrowNYC's Teaching Garden on Governors Island for the past seven years,” said GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen. “For the first six, our primary focus was hands-on environmental education for New York City school children and other visitors. But this year we pivoted to concentrate on food production and, to date, have distributed more than 12,000 pounds of food grown on the island to New Yorkers struggling with the effects of COVID-19. Governors Island is a uniquely special resource for New Yorkers, and we look forward to working with the Trust and others as they plan the next phase for the Island.”
“The vision for the Climate Center is perfectly aligned with the early values our organization helped establish,” said Friends of Governors Island (formerly the Governors Island Alliance) Executive Director Merritt Birnbaum. “Despite the great progress of the last two decades, Governors Island is still only a seasonal destination. The proposed plan will create a year-round environment where more and more people can discover and enjoy the Island’s extraordinary park and public space, while enhancing its existing focus on sustainability, education, the arts and recreation. As our City and our world look to overcome the burdens of recovery and resilience, this ambitious proposal will unlock the Island’s full potential and could not come at a better moment.”
In the coming months, the Trust will work with stakeholders, local elected officials, agencies and New Yorkers to help bring the vision to life, including through a proposed rezoning of the South Island to bring a resilient, mixed-use climate innovation district to life. The new district would allow for academic, commercial, non-profit, cultural, convening and hospitality facilities.The rezoning proposal, expected to enter the City’s formal public land-use review process in October, would extend uses allowed in the North Island to designated South Island development sites to support a year-round, 24/7 mixed-use district, anchored by an educational or research center. All buildings across the development sites will strictly adhere to flood-resistant construction methods.
The rezoning would expand the Island’s open space, increase its public connections, and protect all open space on the South Island. No zoning changes are being proposed for the North Island/Governors Island Historic District. All earned revenue generated on the Island through the rezoning will stay on the Island and go toward funding park maintenance, property management, transportation, security, utilities and infrastructure, creating a long-term path for the Trust’s financial sustainability. As part of this vision, the Trust plans to issue a solicitation to attract an anchor institution and complementing uses. At the same time, The Trust plans to continue to issue requests for proposals for historic buildings within the North Island, including cultural, educational and amenity uses to support expanded public access.
Governors Island provides the ideal location for such an ambitious proposal. Accessible by ferry, its position at the center of New York Harbor offers the feeling of being a world away with close proximity to Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, making it a potential magnet for the city’s talent and a retreat for research, collaboration and education. The Island is also imbued with a focus on confronting and adapting to the impacts of a changing climate on a daily basis, from its direct water access and natural upland environment to its award-winning 43-acre park, which is a global leader in resilient landscape design and construction.
Thirty-three acres of development area on the Island’s southern end were designated for future construction as part of the Island’s Park and Public Space Master Plan, released in 2010, including the 6.5-acre Western Development Zone and 26.5-acre Eastern Development Zone. The proposed rezoning would comprise roughly 4.2 million square feet of development across those two zones.
The Island has undergone a wide-ranging transformation over the past decade, including a $400 million investment to build an award-winning 43-acre park and in infrastructure upgrades. The Island is currently home to year-round tenants, including the New York Harbor School, the Billion Oyster Project and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s newly expanded Arts Center at Governors Island, as well as dozens of seasonal arts and cultural partners. Since opening to the public in 2005, the Island has welcomed more than 6M visitors, and welcomed nearly 1M in 2019 alone. Nearly 80% of Governors Island visitors reside in New York City.
In March, the Trust issued a Request for Proposals from artistic, cultural, environmental and educational organizations for the use of two buildings in Nolan Park, a collection of 20 former military officer homes, on a long-term basis. The RFP is part of the Trust’s broader efforts to breathe new life into several buildings within the Island’s Historic District with year-round tenants in the areas of arts and culture, commercial activity, and hospitality and amenities to support both expanded access and increasing visitorship.
Governors Island has been open to the public since July, and we’ve been thrilled to provide New Yorkers with much needed open space during the COVID-19 pandemic. As summer winds down, we’re excited to share a few updates about this season thus far.
Our 2020 public season has presented unique challenges and offered unique opportunities. While our public opening was initially delayed due to COVID-19, the Island opened to the public on July 15 with a new set of health and safety measures in place and a goal of providing more equitable access to the Island for all New Yorkers.
A major feature of the enhanced health and safety measures is our new timed ticketing system. By requiring visitors to reserve tickets both to and from the Island, the new ticketing system allows us to maintain low capacity on our ferries to ensure that social distancing remains possible during the trip.
This year, the Trust for Governors Island also shifted Brooklyn ferry service from Pier 6 to Red Hook / Atlantic Basin in order to reach a wider audience, particularly NYC communities underserved by public space. Additionally, free rides were extended to all residents of NYCHA housing for the entire season. So far, residents of NYCHA housing, IDNYC holders, and current and former military servicemembers, all of whom ride for free, have reserved over 16% of all tickets this year.
To date, over 100,000 visitors have taken the ferry to Governors Island since we reopened the Island in July. More than 40% of tickets reserved have been free of charge, including over 23% as free rides available to all visitors before noon on weekends.
Another major change this year has seen the historic houses of Nolan Park and Colonels Row rededicated as workspace for artists and cultural workers. The Trust for Governors Island, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and 18 arts and culture organizations joined forces to introduce the Governors Island Residency Initiative to provide the space in response to the effects of COVID-19. LMCC’s Arts Center and the houses awarded through our Open Call for 2020 programming organizations provide enough space for over 115 artists chosen by the organizations to work in the buildings through the rest of the public access season. You can learn more about the artists in residence here.
Nolan Park and Colonels Row aren’t the only areas on the Island finding new use. GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden in the Urban Farm shifted focus this year from educating visitors and school groups about urban agriculture to full-on food production. They’re aiming to produce 20,000 pounds of food this year, which will be distributed to New Yorkers whose food security has been threatened by the effects of COVID-19. Across the road, Earth Matter’s Compost Learning Center has remained focused on its mission of processing food waste and compostable materials collected on the Island and elsewhere into valuable compost to be distributed to gardens across the City. Both sites are open for passive visits on weekends, 12-4pm.
Governors Island-based Billion Oyster Project has also had a banner summer, between installing their first community reef in Queens and huge new tanks across the channel in Red Hook that can support up to 50 million juvenile oysters at once.
It was a record-breaking year for the Friends of Governors Island's volunteer program, too, with over 130 new volunteers joining 45 returning volunteers. This amazing group of volunteers helps welcome and orient visitors and works alongside our gardening team to tend to the Island's 120 acres of open space. So far they've provided a 131% increase in hours of service as compared to last year, demonstrating the impact every day New Yorkers can have giving back to the city they love.
The Island’s food and beverage options are more robust than ever this year with all13 of 2019’s vendors returning plus four new ones. Almost all are small businesses based in New York, and between them offer a globe-spanning selection of cuisines. This includes longtime favorites like Little Eva’s and Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, Soissons Landing mainstays Island Oyster and Taco Vista, and newcomers like Pizza Yard, serving up Neapolitan-style pies on Colonels Row, and Terry & Yaki, whose teriyaki bowls come in vegan and halal varieties.
This year marks the Trust for Governors Island’s tenth anniversary as the stewards of 150 acres of Governors Island. Head over to our blog to see highlights from the past decade as we look forward to the next one. We’ve been thrilled to welcome so many visitors to the Island this year to enjoy its sweeping parkland, scenic historic district, wide selection of food and drink vendors and more.
If you haven’t visited yet this year, you’ve still got time. Governors Island is open until November 1 for biking, hiking, grilling, or just hanging out in a hammock. We’d love to welcome you ashore.
Every year, the Friends of Governors Island welcomes a cohort of high-school and college age interns to join our Visitor Experience team. Despite the challenges facing NYC youth this summer—quarantine, adjusting to remote learning, and even forgoing graduation ceremonies—the Friends was grateful to continue our internship program in person this year. The program was made possible under these challenging circumstances thanks to a partnership with Futures and Options, a nonprofit organization that partners with New York’s business community to provide career opportunities for underserved youth, and businesses with a trained, educated, and diverse workforce, which connected Governors Island to most of the interns on the team. In fact, Governors Island was the only host site through which Futures and Options was able to offer in-person internships this summer. Oummoul, a rising senior at Frederick Douglass Academy in the Bronx and Futures and Options participant, spoke to the value of an in-person experience, “My experience this summer on Governors Island was truly amazing. I never thought I would have a great summer this year due to COVID-19, but this internship changed that.”
From July through mid-August, six interns worked alongside the Governors Island Visitor Experience team, gaining first-hand experience with visitors as greeters, data collectors, and through assisting with retail operations at Soissons Welcome Center. For many, being a Friends of Governors Island intern was their first job. Asher, a student at Friends Seminary, appreciated getting to interact with people looking to find escape on the Island. “During my internship at The Friends of Governors Island, I not only had the pleasure of working away from a busy and sometimes hectic New York City, but I also got to help visitors who wanted the same.”
In the photo above, Governors Island intern, Fidel, provides information to a visitor at the ferry terminal
“During my internship at The Friends of Governors Island, I not only had the pleasure of working away from a busy and sometimes hectic New York City, but I also got to help visitors who wanted the same."
Asher, Governors Island intern
As part of training to provide excellent visitor services, interns also experienced Governors Island like a visitor! Some activities included getting a free bike rental before noon on weekdays from Blazing Saddles, and visiting the Lavender Field and Soil Start Farm at Earth Matter. Interns also sampled several food vendors and trekked to The Hills. Jake, an incoming freshman at RIT, said, “I recommend getting an ice cream sandwich from Melt. And the views from Outlook Hill are amazing!”
This summer’s interns also felt first-hand the calming benefits of being outdoors, on an island in the harbor and were happy to share their love for green spaces with visitors. Aroa, a rising freshman at SUNY Oswego, found respite while working on the Island before her move to a new school: “[Governors Island] is a getaway from New York City. Really relaxing.”
The interns visit the Lavender Field with Earth Matter
"As a small nonprofit with limited staff resources, we rely on the interns to be our frontline in welcoming and orienting visitors to the Island. Thanks to this year's amazing crop of bright young students, we've been able to better serve the public at a time when people need access to quality outdoor space more than ever before."
Merritt Birnbaum, Friends Executive Director
In addition to meeting a weekly requirement of 25 hours per week of in-the-field visitor service experience, interns attended career development workshops focusing on resume building and financial literacy. They also had opportunities to connect with professionals from The Friends of Governors Island staff and board on topics like education, work experience, and career advice. For example, the Friends Board Chair, EB Kelly, shared her career trajectory from her time as a student to her current role managing Rockefeller Center.
Over the course of six weeks, interns provided nearly 1,000 hours of direct service and helped thousands of visitors. While gaining work experience is a goal for our interns, building meaningful connections with individuals on the Island and in the city they call home is also important to them during these uncertain times. Fidel, a student at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, says “Not only did I get to learn more about myself as a person, but I also got to meet great people along the way that I can rely on if I ever need help.” For the Friends, the feeling is mutual. Friends Executive Director, Merritt Birnbaum explained: “As a small nonprofit with limited staff resources, we rely on the interns to be our front-line in welcoming and orienting visitors to the Island. Thanks to this year’s amazing crop of bright young students, we’ve been able to better serve the public at a time when people need access to quality outdoor space more than ever before.”
Thank you to our Friends of Governors Island Internship class of 2020! L-R: Jake, Fidel, Leilani, Aroa, Oummoul, and Asher.
Since 2015, GrowNYC’sTeaching Garden has been a fixture in Governors Island’s Urban Farm, welcoming visitors on weekends during the public season and field trips of students throughout the year. This summer, with visitors allowed only for passive visits to Urban Farm sites, the Teaching Garden has shifted its focus from public programming to full-scale food production.
Last month, the New York Times covered GrowNYC’s new direction for the Teaching Garden this year, detailing how the staff had converted the one-acre garden’s demonstration farm rows to produce an abundance of berries, beets, collard greens, eggplants, herbs, squash, potatoes, and more. Previously, the Teaching Garden’s primary purpose as education center meant that most of its produce went home with visiting students, while some was sold at a farm stand or allowed to wither to demonstrate the plants’ life cycle. With the focus now shifted to production, GrowNYC Program Manager Shawn Connell, who oversees the Teaching Garden, estimates it could yield up to 20,000 pounds of produce or more this year.
All this produce is put to good use by groups from around the city that distribute it to New Yorkers whose food security has been threatened by the effects of COVID-19. Among their partner organizations is the Black Feminist Project, which takes produce deliveries from the Teaching Garden every other week to create free or low-cost coronavirus food relief boxes that are distributed to families across the southeastern Bronx.
The Teaching Garden grows more than just vegetables; GrowNYC has also partnered this year with Brooklyn-based nonprofit BloomAgainBklyn to make use of the farm’s abundant flowers, as covered by the NY Daily News. BloomAgainBklyn turns the flowers into gorgeous arrangements that they distribute to nursing homes and frontline workers, spreading a little bit of the Teaching Garden’s natural abundance to even more who will appreciate it.
Even without their usual crowds of visitors and school groups, GrowNYC is finding ways for the Teaching Garden to provide a valuable service to New Yorkers. If you’d like to see the Garden for yourself, swing by for a passive visit 12-4pm every weekend in the Urban Farm.