Demolitions in Governors Island district approved

Late-period buildings dating from the island’s time as a military base will be cleared for open space. On July 26, 2011, Landmarks approved the Trust for Governors Island’s proposal to demolish six buildings and install landscaping in the Governors Island Historic District. The buildings are located in the southeast corner of the historic district and include a wood-frame garage, a mechanical shop, a ferry waiting room, two transformer buildings, and an exercise studio attached to barracks designed by Mc- Kim, Mead & White. The demolition was proposed in order to improve passenger circulation at the nearby ferry landing and to increase visual corridors on the island.

The 172-acre island served as a U.S. Army base from 1821 until 1966. The island was then used by the Coast Guard until 1997. The Governors Island Historic District, designated in 1996, encompasses 92 acres in the northern portion of the island, including the Governors Island National Monument. In April 2010, the State transferred primary responsibility of the island to the City, which plans to redevelop the island’s southern portion into a recreational and cultural area. 7 City- Land 63 (May 15, 2010). 

At the hearing, the Trust for Governors Island’s Claire Kelly testified that a 1986 mechanical shop would be demolished and replaced with landscaping, as would a noncontributing shed. The non-contributing garage would be eliminated from a 1902 home once used as officers’ quarters. An above-ground pool that was part of a former YMCA would also be demolished. The 1917 former ferry waiting room would be replaced with parking and an open plaza to be used as a queuing area for the Yankee Landing ferry.

The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams opposed the proposal, claiming that the buildings did not intrude on open space and could easily be re-purposed for visitor services or other uses. The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Andrea Goldwyn applauded the creation of a new park on the island, and agreed that the buildings did not contribute to the historic district. According to Chair Robert B. Tierney, Manhattan Community Board 1 supported the proposal.

Chair Tierney stated that the proposal was an appropriate step toward the City’s ongoing efforts to preserve and revitalize Governors Island. Commissioner Libby Ryan found that the removal of the buildings would be an important step in reviving the area. Commissioner Michael Goldblum agreed, finding that the proposal would enhance “the landmark quality of the overall site.” Landmarks unanimously approved the plan.

LPC: Governors Island, Manhattan (12- 1781) (July 26, 2011).

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