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Trust for Gov­er­nors Island Unveils Bold Vision for Cli­mate Solu­tions Center

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 Advi­sorToday’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 Strick­landIn 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, 247 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.