Downtown Express file photo by Jefferson Siegel
Cycling visitors to Governors Island last fall.
Silver puts mayor’s Governors Isle idea on hold
By Josh Rogers
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Downtown Express last week he is against the mayor’s plan to take over Governors Island now, but Silver is open to the idea for next year.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Silver have been lobbying Gov. David Paterson to include about $6 million in the state budget to free up city matching funds and reopen the island to the public this summer. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. only has about $500,000 left in reserve funds and will have to cease all maintenance and planning operations shortly without a new allocation.
Bloomberg said last week that he wants to take control and responsibility of the island and of the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park in exchange for giving the state full control of the Javits Center project.
Silver said he wants to focus on getting the island money in the budget now, and discuss changing the structure later.
“Right now, in the short term, my purpose is to make sure the state budget we adopt in the next couple of weeks has a state commitment to Governors Island,” he said Friday during a brief interview in his Lower Manhattan office.
“Changing the government structure may be a good idea, but I think it’s going to take some time and some input from — I’d like to hear from people who use Governors Island, from the residents down here, as to what their thoughts are,” Silver added. About 130,000 people visited the island last year and GIPEC is hoping to push that number to 200,000 in 2009 with more park space and programs, and a new restaurant/bar with a beach volleyball court open until the wee hours.
The mayor said on his weekly radio show that the city will take on full funding responsibility, but with that comes full control.
“Somebody in the state suggested we pay all the bills and they would still run it, and I said, ‘Oh no…I don’t think that’s going to fly,’” Bloomberg said last Friday.
“We’re just not going to put our money into something where it’s fundamentally — there’s so many cooks, you’re really spoiling the broth and we’ve said to the governor, ‘Let us do that and we’ll manage it… We aren’t going to walk away from Javits, but we’ve got money over there which nobody’s going to use for a long time. That will give us, even in these tough times, the money to really change the whole landscape for Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan,” the mayor said on “The John Gambling Show with Mayor Mike.”
The state and city currently share control of GIPEC and have funded the island’s capital and operating costs equally. Last year the city set aside $8.1 million for the island but never released the funds because the state did not match it. GIPEC has been using previously allocated money to keep the island going.
A city source said the administration approached the governor about the island idea about a month ago and the Paterson people never followed up. If Paterson accepted the Bloomberg idea, the city would add about $4 million in island money this year to its unused island money to fund the $12 million budget.
Marissa Shorenstein, a Paterson spokesperson, said the governor did not view the mayor’s idea favorably or unfavorably.
“We are working with the city to resolve the issues connected to the funding of Governors Island,” she added.
Bloomberg also brought up his failed effort to build a Jets/Olympics stadium next to Javits — a plan that had strong opposition on Manhattan’s West Side and was blocked by Silver.
“Javits Center, if you remember, that was where the Jets were willing to pay for a new Javits Center; they just wanted to use it 13 Sundays a year,” Bloomberg said on the radio. “The state didn’t go along with it. I think it’s one of the great tragedies, but nevertheless we have to do something with the Javits Center and we have to do something with Governors Island.”
Downtown Express first reported Bloomberg’s idea of shifting state and city funding responsibilities to cover Governors Island Feb. 19. Bloomberg said then that Hudson River Park was one of the commitments on the table, but the city source said last week that it no longer is being considered for island funding.