New York City to Take Governors Island From State

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It was, perhaps, the best real estate deal in New York City history: For one lousy buck, New York State bought 172 acres of land less than 800 yards from lower Manhattan. Governors Island, the former military base and Coast Guard stomping ground, was going to be, at times, a park, an oasis of affordable housing or a theme park, and always a symbol of the New York's ability to reinvent itself.

But seven years after the sale, pretty much nothing has happened on Governors Island other than the continued decay of its historic buildings and the arrival of picnicking visitors. It has instead become a symbol of the state's dysfunction. So last week, New York City won the right to take over development of the island.
Mayor Bloomberg will appoint nine of the 13 members of the Governors Island Operating Entity, who will be taking over from the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, or GIPEC. Maybe a shorter acronym means a more efficacious group?

By almost all accounts, the switch is good news. Despite plenty of budget hardships, the city has more money to draw on than the state, and the public certainly has more faith in Mayor Bloomberg than it does in Gov. Paterson. Chances have increased that we'll gain an 87-acre park, a new high school and some architectural restoration in a more timely manner, but they're certainly not a given. The city now has to bear the brunt of the $200-million project and all the operating costs (minus the national monument, run by the National Park Service), and it has its own $5-billion budget deficit to contend with.

Yet it also has a commitment to provide green space, and the mayor's PlaNYC demands that every resident have access to a public park. And we do have a precedent for city takeovers of state parks: The city took over operation of Brooklyn Bridge Park from the state earlier this year.


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