Maloney Charts A Course for Governors Island

Apr 12, 2002
Press Release

NEW YORK: Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY) - a leading voice for the transfer of Governors Island from federal to regional control - advanced talks about the use of the island by detailing several glaring concerns that need to be addressed as the island's transfer moves forward. Maloney's statement from today follows:

"President Bush has rekindled the chance for the transfer of Governors Island from federal to state and city control by offering his support for the idea. This is great news for New York, but there's more than one hurdle to cross to make sure this pledge becomes a workable reality. For New Yorkers to seize this rare opportunity for access to precious open space, education-centered development, and historic monuments, we need to develop a sound plan for use of the island that doesn't saddle New Yorkers with an enormous unfunded mandate at a time when the city and state are facing a dual budget crisis."

"First and foremost, we need to ensure that costs for the island's upkeep don't fall heavily on the shoulders of New York taxpayers, while at the same time making the acres of precious green space and historic monuments on the island accessible to all. The cost of maintaining the island has been estimated to range from $15-35 million a year, not including the vast sums necessary for converting the buildings for educational or other uses. It makes sense to convert some of the island's buildings, many of which resemble a college campus, to an educational use, but there's plenty of room for creative uses for the rest of the island as well, to help sustain it.

"Some ideas that deserve serious consideration include high tech research centers, facilities for the bio-tech industry, conference centers, museums and marinas, all of which have an educational component.

New York cannot afford to accept Governors Island without the ability to develop revenue generating activity. In addition, the federal government could provide seed money for the island's development as it does when military bases are closed around the county. Governors Island was an Army base for decades, but the only reason it has been excluded from base closure funding is because it became a Coast Guard facility for a short period before being vacated entirely from the federal government.

"Then there is the question of the two forts, Castle Williams and Fort Jay. Not willing to allow President Clinton to leave office without fulfilling part of his promise, I found a clause in a federal law that would allow a President to designate historic areas as national monuments. I brought it to his attention and lobbied him to take action. Thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of Mrs. Clinton, to whom I spoke daily about this project, he issued a Proclamation declaring the two historic forts on the island to be a National Monument. The Bush Administration's Office of Legal Counsel took the position that the forts had to be sold with the island despite their historic designation. So, under the Bush proposal, what happens to the forts? Do they stay with the federal government, where they can join the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Gateway National Park under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service? Or are they transferred to the city and state? If they are being transferred, what commitments would be required to ensure that these important relics of American history are properly preserved? What provisions are being made for their upkeep?

"President Bush's intention to return the island to New York is certainly the right thing to do, but New York needs to know that the price tag will truly be nominal and that the transfer won't get bogged down in a legal morass. For decades Governors Island has been the missing jewel in a treasured chain of historic destinations around New York harbor. Let's make sure that Governors Island doesn't become a Trojan horse - a wonderful gift containing a terrible hidden surprise."

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