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Governors Island gets 4 'recycled hills'

Mayor MIcheal Bloomberg breaks ground on The Hills,

Mayor MIcheal Bloomberg breaks ground on The Hills, a new public park on Governors Island. (July 25, 2013) Credit: Mayor's Office

Four lush hills made of recycled remnants of an imploded building will anchor a Governors Island repurposed as a 21st century version of Central Park, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and parks officials.

At a groundbreaking ceremony on Governors Island Thursday, Bloomberg announced plans to build the hills 25 to 80 feet high, which he said will offer visitors a breathtaking, 360-degree view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, amid a lush landscape.

Bloomberg said, "The construction of these incredible hills will continue the transformation of Governors Island and will create a landmark that will be enjoyed for generations to come."

When he leaves his mayoral post, Bloomberg said, he sees himself visiting the newly landscaped, 172-acre island and "taking a blanket and laying down on it and falling asleep. That's my kind of relaxation."

The project is the result of a $15-million donation from Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and his wife, Wendy, who both attended the groundbreaking. Their donation is part of a $36-million private fund that will build the hills project. The Trust for Governors Island needs $70 million in private money to finish the job but has not announced when it will be completed.

"This island is a beautiful fortification that protects New York Harbor and will be a new vision for the new century," Wendy Schmidt said.

She said the project "is advancing the greening of New York," adding that she remembers being told, as a young girl from New Jersey, that New York City was a dirty city. "We have come so far since the 1970s. This place will become one of the best-loved places in New York City working in harmony with the natural world."

The four hills will be built with recycled crushed debris from a seven-story military building on the island that was imploded in June. The hills will be layered with topsoil for trees and green plantings.

For two centuries, Governors Island was used as a U.S. Army and Coast Guard base. The city took over the island in 2003 and created a trust to develop and maintain it as a park. The hill design replicates Frederick Law Olmsted's man-made topography plan for Central Park.

The construction of the hills will mimic the original lush, hilly landscapes of pre-Colonial Manhattan. The four hills will also protect the island from rising seawater and storms, officials said.

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