January 13th, 2008
Dutch developers return on New York’s shores for the first time since 1674, as a team lead by architects from Rotterdam based West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture win the competition for the redevelopment of Governors Island. The results of the competition were made public by New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York State governor Eliot Spitzer as representatives of the islands owners: ‘the people of New York’. The plan to develop the island that boasts Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as its neighbours, came from the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, who control the island since it was left by the Coast Guard in 1995. The $400 million plan should be completed in 2012. West 8 is represented by architects Adriaan Geuze and Jerry van Eyck. They will be appointed to develop a master-plan and a detailed design.
The winning bid was made in cooperation with New York based architects Rogers Marvel Architects and Diller Scofidio & Renfro (according to The New York Times in association with Quennell Rothschild & Partners and SMWM). It includes a 2 mile long promenade along the western waterfront, a new park including some artificial hills on the southern flat part of the island and an ‘improved’ park in the island’s northern historic district. The plan leaves room for future building activity in two development zones, where facilities for visitors may be built. 1)Source for the plan: Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation through the New York Times article. The jury stated in that respect that the winning design “was really the scheme that best addressed the issues of phasing.”
Governors Island was known to the native Indians as Pagganck (Nut Island) after the island’s plentiful hickory, oak and chestnut trees. The Dutch aptly named it ‘Noten Eylant’ from 1611 onwards while the island remained to be used by the native Indians. In 1637 the fifth director of Nieuw Nederland Wouter van Twiller bought the island from the Manahata Indians (other sources speak of “two Lenape, Cacapeteyno and Pewihas”) for two ax heads, a string of beads and a handful of nails. Van Twiller bought the island for private use, but one year later the Dutch West Indian Corporation (WIC) confiscated the island.
The English first took over the island in 1664, and after ten years they secured it’s possession for the next 100 years, “for the benefit and accommodation of His Majesty’s Governors”. American troops confiscated the island and officially named it Governors Island. Shortly after that the Americans built two fortifications: Fort Jay and Castle Williams. The island became a self providing community for the local army and facilities. In 1912 the island was enlarged extensively by the deposit of rocky material which was the result of excavations for the Lexington Avenue Subway.
A garden party (liberation day?) at Governors Island. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
From 1966 onwards the American Coast Guard took over the island from the army until they left in 1995. Four years ago, on 31 January 2004, the island was transferred to the people of New York, stipulating amongst others that building houses and casino’s was prohibited. Surprisingly they did not ask for the planting of trees that bear nuts, but the architects may be smart enough to think of that themselves…
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Source for the plan: Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation through the New York Times article.|