Dynamite! Governors Isle building demolished to make way for park

Governors Island imploding June 9. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Governors Island building imploding June 9. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER  | [Posted June 14, 2013] An 11-story building that once housed U.S. Coast Guard personnel and their families stood on Governors Island for 45 years. On the morning of June 9, it took approximately 10 seconds for it to be reduced to a pile of rubble.

It has been vacant since 1996 and stands on the site where the Trust for Governors Island plans to build a park with artwork, hammocks and lawns for play and relaxation.

The building was not landmarked and was constructed of obsolete materials that made it unsuitable for reuse.

It took more than six months to rid the structure of hazardous materials and to ready it for demolition. More than 200 pounds of dynamite were strategically placed in the building so that it would pancake on itself as it fell.

With one minute to go until the implosion, people raised their cameras to readiness. It looked as though they were saluting.

As the moment approached, someone shouted out, “One minute!” then “30 seconds!” Then the people who were watching began the countdown from 10 to one and the photographers stood poised, with their fingers on the shutter release of their cameras.

Though there was very little chance that a fire could erupt from the implosion, fireboats were stationed nearby “just in case.”

First there were a few pops, then a loud explosion. Dozens of startled seagulls took to the air as debris from the building tumbled around them.

As the thick cloud of dust cleared away, a plume of smoke and ash rose into the clear, blue morning sky. The spectators, including several firefighters, stared silently at the place where the building had been. Perhaps they had seen such a thing before, but not under such benign circumstances.

Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, said that construction of the new park will be finished by the end of the year, but then it will need time for plantings to take hold. She said that the park should open in 2014.

 

Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, in front of an island building demolished June 9. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, in front of an island building demolished June 9. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

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