"World Park" to Grace New York Harbor

Event: Governors Island: A Park for All New York
Location: Museum of the City of New York, 04.15.08
Speakers: Betty Chen, AIA — Vice President, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC); Robert Pirani — Regional Plan Executive Director, Governors Island Alliance; Jonathan Marvel, AIA, Robert Rogers, FAIA — Principals, Rogers Marvel Architects
Moderator: Robin Pogrebin — New York Times
Organizer: Museum of the City of New York

Governors Island

Proposed hills made from demolition rubble on Governors Island will provide 360-degree views of New York Harbor.

West 8

When the Federal government sold Governors Island to NYC in 2002, the $1.00 price tag came with a number of conditions including development of a waterfront esplanade and a minimum of a 40-acre public park. Now, after a well-publicized international competition in which the team West 8/Rogers Marvel Architects/Diller, Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM was selected, research and development has begun. Groundbreaking for the phased plan is expected in 2009.

The new “World Park,” as the team titled its competition entry, acknowledges the island’s central location in New York Harbor among world-renowned icons such as the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. The park itself will be located on the southern half of the island, where an abandoned military airfield and surrounding buildings will be demolished leaving a blank slate for development. The park will be sandwiched between buildings along the waterfront leading to the southern tip.

A visitor’s experience of World Park begins on the ferry ride to the island, stated Robert Rogers, FAIA, principal of Rogers Marvel Architects (which is also redeveloping Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building to deliver ferries to Governors Island in the future). The waterfront promenade features “signature” pavement patterns and encourages different speeds of movement — by foot or bike or electric vehicle. After entering through the archway of McKim, Mead, and White’s Liggett Hall, the park’s paths are organized in a pattern based on the scales of butterfly wings. There will be a wide variety of park types encouraging different kinds of play, including a seasonal botanic forest, recreational fields and meadows, and an amphitheater for concerts. The culmination of the park is at the southern tip, or “Prow,” where a salt marsh will allow visitors to observe and learn about fish and local marine life — they will be able to bend down and touch the water while experiencing an uninterrupted view of the harbor.

One of the main highlights, or “the signature piece” according to Jonathan Marvel, AIA, will be the “Hills.” Produced from the site’s demolition rubble folded into a geotech fabric, visitors will climb 30- to 40-degree slopes to 100-foot-high summits. Once above the tree line, they will have a 360-degree view of the harbor, Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

Since 2005, Governors Island is open to the public throughout the summer. Part of the phased master plan is to increase the number of events and amenities each year throughout construction. This year, the island will be open May 31-October 5. Among the many installations and productions, the New York Philharmonic will perform July 5, and one of Olafur Eliasson’s NYC Waterfalls will feature a 120-foot-tall waterfall off the island’s north shore. Also, in addition to the Governors Island ferry, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferries will also make stops at the island.