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Governors Island abuzz with plans

First phase of the development of new park

First phase of the development of new park space on Governors Island was completed. (June 16, 2013). Credit: Charles Eckert

Governors Island administrators said last week's implosion of one of its oldest building signifies the start of a new era for the island.

The 30-acre section of the island that was once off-limits to civilians will be transformed into a new, modern $250-million park that's set to open to the public next summer -- and there's more on the way.

"There were 14,000 people in one day who came to see that implosion," said Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island. "They are really excited about what's to come and can't wait to see it completed."

Citing the park's current diverse weekend event schedule, bike paths and ease of access, Koch said that "Governors Island expresses the best of New York City."

For years, the city mulled over what to do with the land after purchasing it in 2003. Should it be home to a new college, a new park or an event venue? In the end, green space won out.

There are already art installations, food spots and a bike path that are popular among New Yorkers.

Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg broke ground on the newest 30-acre spot on the southern section of the island, which will feature 1,700 new trees, water fountains and a hedge maze when the first phase opens next spring.

It will also include a small section called Hammock Grove, where visitors can enjoy a lazy afternoon on one of the hammocks, across 10 acres.

The trust issued a request for proposals in December on ideas for what to do with the 40 buildings on the site. Koch said they are mulling a hotel, school and art space. "We're excited about tenants who take advantage of the island," she said.

Regular visitors to island events such as last Sunday's Jazz Age Lawn Party have helped generate positive buzz. Brittany Crowell, 22, who attended the fest with two friends, said she always enjoys heading out to the island because it gives her a break from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

"When you go there, you go to a quiet place. There's no sirens, no traffic," she said.

The 172-acre island served as an Army and Coast Guard station until 1996, and seven years later the federal government sold 150 acres of the island to the city for a dollar. The remaining part of the island was declared part of the National Park Service.

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