Celebrating 10 Years of The Trust for Governors Island
Aug 6, 2020 10:50 am
This month marks the tenth anniversary of the transfer of 150 acres of Governors Island to full City control, and the creation of the Trust for Governors Island, the entity responsible for the Island’s ongoing planning, operations and development. Over the past decade, the Trust and its community of partner organizations, tenants, visitors and supporters have transformed the Island into one of New York’s most beloved destinations and a resource for all New Yorkers.
Here’s a look at some landmark moments and major achievements from the last decade on Governors Island. Click the ‘+’ or ‘x’ next to each entry to expand or collapse the content.
The Trust for Governors Island was formed in 2010 when 150 acres of the Island were transferred to full City control.A joint city-state agency, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, had previously served as steward of the Island. Announced by Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver and State Senator Squadron, The City created The Trust to oversee the operation, preservation, planning and redevelopment of 150 acres of the Island, with the remaining 22-acre Governors Island National Monument managed by the National Park Service
The Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan was released to the public in 2010.Following an international design competition, the award-winning plan lays out the redevelopment of 87 acres of the Island into new parkland and improves the Island’s resiliency in the face of climate change, raising much of the Island out of the 100-year flood plain along with other measures to ensure the park’s and Island’s longevity.
The Master Plan also allocated 33 acres of space for future development, to support the Island’s ongoing operations and expanded public access.
Governors Island has a long history of hosting public artworks throughout its historic and new landscapes. From hosting many installations by artists from around the world, including a series of works byMark di Suvero, commissioned in partnership with Storm King Art Center in 2012, to the Trust’s annual commissions program, to its seasonal art exhibitions by organizations from across the City, Governors Island has long been a go-to destination for art lovers.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) began its artist studio program in Building 110 in 2010 as one of the Island’s first year-round tenants. The program included studio space for 20+ artists to work in the building each season, which was open to the public on select Open Studios Weekends and laid the groundwork for LMCC’s eventual Arts Center at Governors Island.
Construction began on Phase 1 of the Park, which includes Liggett Terrace, Hammock Grove, the Hammock Grove Play Area and the Play Lawns in 2012. Over 1500 trees were planted in this phase of the new parkland!
To make way for the new parkland, structures from the Island’s Coast Guard era were demolished on the South Island, like this 11-story apartment building, the tallest on the Island. Much of the materials would be reused in the park’s construction, particularly in The Hills.
The Trust for Governors Island has made many improvements to the Island’s infrastructure over the past decade, not the least of which includes bringing potable water to the Island in 2014.
Phase 1 of the park opened in 2013, welcoming visitors to brand-new public spaces like the redesigned Liggett Terrace and the visitor-favorite Hammock Grove across 30 acres of open space.
Shortly after Phase 1 of the park opened, construction on the next phase, The Hills, began. Consisting of four artificial hills and 10 more acres of open space, The Hills are the culminating feature of the new parkland and the newest landmark in New York Harbor.
Construction on The Hills continued for two years and involved the use of almost 300,000 cubic yards of material and the planting of nearly 43,000 shrubs and 1,000 more trees. The Granite Scramble was constructed using pieces of the Island’s previous sea wall, which was replaced with a more resilient wave barrier.
As part of the Island’s public art program, Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread’s sculpture, Cabin, was installed on Discovery Hill during construction in 2015. Cabin, situated along Discovery Hill’s naturalistic paths, creates a sense of peaceful seclusion that contrasts with the skyline on the horizon.
In 2015, the Trust announced another new Island tenant: Italian spa company QC Terme, which would renovate three buildings on the Island to create an affordable, year-round destination day spa, now under construction.
Since 2010, over $400 million has been invested in Governors Island by the City of New York. This has paid for everything from the sprawling new parkland and its resiliency measures (pictured above, resilient 'riprap' being installed to mediate wave action) to transportation and utility infrastructure upgrades including an additional, purpose-built ferry vessel.
In his State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the next phase of Governors Island’s transformation, including plans to expand the use of its historic buildings and development areas for new education, cultural and commercial innovation uses.
The Hills opened to the public in 2016, allowing visitors to experience a new landmark in the Harbor unlike any other. The tallest of the Hills, Outlook Hill rises 70 feet above sea level to provide uninterrupted, 360-degree views of Lower Manhattan and the surrounding skylines as well as Harbor sites like the Statue of Liberty.
In 2017, Governors Island remained open to the public through October for the first time, allowing visitors to experience its scenic settings in a new season.
The Trust for Governors Island relaunched its public art commission program in 2017 to create site-specific artworks by renowned artists for this truly unique setting, starting with David Brooks’ Rock, Mosquito and Hummingbird (above). In 2018, Jacob Hashimoto created The Eclipse (above), displayed in St. Cornelius Chapel, and Never Comes Tomorrow in Liggett Archway. In 2019, Shantell Martin created Church and The May Room (above) using the exterior and interior of the deconsecrated former chapel Our Lady Star of the Sea.
Governors Island has become a foodie paradise over the years with its diverse selection of food and beverage vendors during the public season. From the Jamaican fusion cuisine of Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights to other favorites like Taco Vista, Threes Brewing, Makina Café and Kimchi Taco, everyone will find something to satisfy them on Governors Island. In 2019, Soissons Landing dining destination Island Oyster, above, was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Restaurant Design!
The Trust for Governors Island commissioned Rhode Island-based Blount Boats to construct a brand-new vessel, the Governors 1, to increase service between the Island and Manhattan during the public season. The 400-passenger new ferry launched in summer 2019.
Following its use as a venue for artist studios, LMCC and the Trust partnered on a renovation of Building 110 into the first permanent home for the arts on Governors Island. LMCC’s new Arts Center includes galleries for exhibitions and installations, space for public programs, year-round studio areas for up to 40 artists, and a café.
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School offers a unique high school curriculum based around seven educational tracks covering different aspects of maritime studies, from aquaculture and ocean engineering to professional diving and vessel operations. In 2019, the Harbor School celebrated its 10th school year on Governors Island.
Every year, the American Planning Association designates a number of Great Places across the United States. Governors Island was honored to be named one of 2019’s Great Public Spaces.
More and more organizations from across the City and beyond have established a presence on Governors Island, joining the Island’s community of seasonal arts, science and culture program presenters. In 2019, 30 organizations based primarily in Nolan Park, Colonels Row and the Urban Farm, like the American Indian Community House (above), Pioneer Works, Climate Museum (above), 4heads (above), West Harlem Arts Fund, New Art Dealers Alliance (above), Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts and GrowNYC (above) presented over 70 free programs during the public season.
Governors Island has seen more and more visitors stepping ashore every year—an average 16% increase in visitors each year since 2010. In 2019, nearly 800,000 visitors shipped out for an Island excursion! In total, over 6 million visitors have taken a trip to Governors Island since it opened to the public.
As the Trust enters a new decade of stewarding Governors Island and pursuing its ongoing transformation and, we look forward to making the Island an even more robust resource for all New Yorkers for years to come.