Plan drawn for Governor's Island

Hotel conference center, stores, apartments, park, museum are included


ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. George Pataki and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have reached agreement on a plan to develop Governors Island with a hotel conference center, stores, apartments, public parkland and a branch of at least one major American museum, state officials have announced.

The agreement represents a major step forward in a campaign by the city and state to persuade the federal government to give New York exclusive rights to own and develop the island, a former Coast Guard base off Manhattan's southern tip.

The question of how to develop the 173-acre island has been a source of disagreement between the mayor and the governor since 1997, when President Clinton promised to sell it to New York for a dollar, provided that the city and the state could agree on a use for it that benefited the public.

The Giuliani administration had sought to include a casino in its plan for redeveloping the island, a proposal the governor strongly opposed.

The deal between Pataki and Giuliani would require the federal government to turn the island over to newly created state agency overseen by appointees of both the governor and the mayor. That agency would be responsible for inviting private companies to submit commercial, educational, recreational or entertainment proposals.

Approval required

The plan requires the approval of Congress, where there has been increasing talk of having the federal government sell the island to the highest bidder if the city and state fail to come up with an acceptable plan for developing it by 2002.

The deal calls for the state and the city to spend $30 million to make the island suitable for new development, officials familiar with the plan said.

Among other things, the money will be used to create a 50-acre public park in the southwest section of the island, connect new sewer and water lines to existing buildings and build a two-mile esplanade around the island.

The biggest commercial component of the plan calls for the construction of a hotel, spa and conference center. The project would be undertaken by private developers, who would be required to renovate and use a large building at the center of the island that was once a military garrison. The building, the largest ever constructed by the military to house its troops, is protected as a historic landmark.

The plan calls for other commercial development, as well including apartments, stores, restaurants and other small retail businesses.

These, too, are to be opened within existing buildings that have historic landmark status and are on the northern section of the island with broad views of lower Manhattan.

The plan also designates at least two sites to be used as branches of major American museums, both of them on the southern side of the island near where the new public park is to be built, officials familiar with the plan said.

No museum chosen

No museum has been chosen to open a branch on the island. But the Guggenheim Museum has expressed interest in installing a sculpture garden, and state and city planners have approached the Smithsonian Institution to gauge their interest in opening a branch on the island.

Planners for the city and state have also agreed to create an educational center on the island that is to feature, among other things, an aquarium showcasing marine life found in the Hudson River. The plan also includes a vast sports complex featuring football fields, baseball diamonds and soccer fields that will be leased to private universities.

The city and state intend to use any money raised from the hotel conference center, stores and the island's other retail establishments to pay for maintenance of the new park, as well as the island's historic 18th-century buildings. Any additional money raised by the city and state will be placed in their treasuries.

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