In the two decades since the federal government handed control of Governors Island to New York City, city officials have been looking for innovative ways to use the 172-acre site with stunning views of lower Manhattan.
They finally gave an answer. On Monday, Mayor Eric Adams plans to announce a $700 million campus dedicated to finding solutions to the climate crisis.
The city selected a Stony Brook University-led consortium to transform one of the island’s last large swaths of developable land into a 400,000-square-foot hub called the New York Climate Exchange. The campus, which will focus on research on climate solutions and green job training, is expected to open in 2028.
The Climate Center will serve as a “living laboratory” with a resilient design, renderings show the gleaming leaning building covered in vegetation and designed to evoke the hills of Governors Island. It will include two new classroom and research buildings on three currently undeveloped acres and will also make use of a number of historic buildings on the island. Existing public facilities will be preserved.
“This will really be the first model of its kind to advance research to accelerate the deployment of climate solutions that will help us address what I believe to be the greatest threat of our time — the climate crisis,” said the city’s deputy mayor, Maria Torres — Springer’s mayor for economic and workforce development said in an interview.
The idea of a climate center on Governors Island has been floating around for years. Once a Dutch West India Company outpost and a Civil War prison for Confederate soldiers, the island is now one of the city’s marvels of public space, complete with hammocks, vegetable gardens, veggie food trucks and the city’s longest slide.
Not everyone supports the project. In December, a judge dismissed a legal challenge from a coalition that argued the new construction would disrupt the tranquility of the island. An appeal is possible, but officials say they believe the city will win the case.
The car-free island is only accessible by ferry, with leaders acknowledging transport is the project’s “elephant in the room”. The Governors Island Trust will provide ferry service every 15 minutes as part of the new scheme, with hybrid electric ferries expected to begin service next summer. The campus will also include student and staff housing and university hotel rooms.
The project takes a similar approach to Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island, a graduate school that opened in 2017 with the support of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But city officials have dubbed the Governors Island campus “Cornell Tech on steroids.”
City officials say the campus will create more than 2,200 jobs and eventually serve 600 college students, 6,000 job trainees and 250 faculty and researchers annually.
Last week, Mr. Adams announced his broader environmental plan for the city, calling for a range of policies, including allowing the city to buy out residents who own homes in areas particularly prone to flooding.
His plan aims to reduce emissions related to city food purchases by 33% by 2030; establish composting citywide by the end of 2024; Roofs; Enact a Summer Indoor Maximum Temperature Policy by 2030 to protect New Yorkers from extreme heat.
The city’s first environmental blueprint, released by Mr. Bloomberg in 2007, included plans for the nation’s first congestion charging scheme, which is still in progress, and the city’s completed plan to plant 1 million trees .
In 2003, the federal government transferred control of Governors Island to New York City on the condition that it would not be used for commercial housing development. The new Climate Center will require rezoning by the city council in 2021, and three finalists were named last year as part of a global competition to lead the project.
Construction is expected to begin in 2025. The winning consortium included IBM, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pace University, Pratt Institute and Boston Consulting Group, as well as Stony Brook University of the State University of New York system.
About $150 million in funding will come from previously allocated city capital funds, city officials said. Another $100 million will come from the Simons Foundation, founded by billionaire James H. Simons, and another $50 million will be created by Mr. Bloomberg, a longtime supporter of rebuilding the island. Donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The consortium will raise an additional $400 million and cover operating costs, with no additional cost to New Yorkers, city officials said.
Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis said the university has the “vision, expertise and commitment” to support the project. She praised the consortium model, which includes nonprofits and corporations.
“No single entity can address climate change alone and deliver the solutions we all need,” she said.