The Trust for Governors Island recently unveiled plans to develop the Climate Solutions Center, 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 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. In 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.”Trust for Public Land New York and New Jersey Director Carter Strickland.
The Climate Solutions Center is projected to have a $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
“From our coastlines to our street trees, New York City’s open spaces are integral to climate resilience. 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.”New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Adam Ganser.
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, 24/7 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.
Image Credits: WXY architecture + urban design/bloomimages