Volume 23, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 28 - August 3, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds
President of the Trust for Governor’s Island Leslie Koch pours over some of the Post-it notes left by visitors.
Public input on Gov Island in Post-it note form
BY Aline Reynolds
Next time you visit Governor’s Island, be sure to swing by the exhibit space to get a taste of the island’s past and a chance to influence its future.
“We wanted to find creative ways for people to give us their input,” said Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governor’s Island.
In the exhibit space’s main room, you come across a map of what the island will look like in the future. It’s the master design plan for the park and public space, which was heavily influenced by the community through an innovative public outreach strategy.
The planning group wanted to get the visitors actively involved in the design phase and go beyond the typical modes of outreach, such as workshops, surveys and public hearings.
“We really want those visitors to be part of the process, even more than the public at large,” Koch added, since they’re the ones using the island.
So Koch and her colleagues created an online blog and carved out a space in the exhibit room for arts and crafts. A long, narrow table in the middle of the exhibit room has two rows of rubber stamps in the shape of trees, bikes and ice cream. Visitors are encouraged to stamp the yellow Post-it notes and to add written comments above or underneath.
“The truth was, we actually thought at the time that the rubber stamps were more for kids. What we discovered is that adults can be really creative when you give them the opportunity,” she said.
The public caught on right away: about 1,500 Post-it notes have been amassed since Koch came up with the idea.
“[The visitors’ feedback on Post-it notes] really relates to their experience on the island,” Koch said. Examples of Post-it notes include “cruising around ice cream island” and “giving Downtown its very own Central Park.”
The exhibit space was previously used to showcase the prototypes of five design teams to compete for the commission of the parks and public space project.
“We hadn’t started the plan yet, and we thought it would be a really good question to ask people, ‘What would you like to see in a park and public space?’”
The winning team in December 2007 was West 8, which will begin with phase one of the refurbishing project — an overhaul of Soisson’s Landing, the ferry arrival point — in 2012.
The design team studied the graphic, along with blog posts and feedback from public workshops and Community Board 1 meetings, to come up with the master plan, which it presented to C.B. 1’s July 19 Waterfront Committee.
The refurbished island will have a wider promenade with new paving, lighting and guardrails; additional seating along the waterfront; sheltered waiting rooms for ferry users; and additional greenery, replacing barren asphalt, among other features.
The group compiled the data from the Post-it notes into “Wordle,” a software program, to generate a “word cloud” graphic, which displays recurring key words or phrases, according to their popularity.
Among the popular requests were additional resting places, ice cream vendors and more biking. “Ice cream island might sound silly, but it’s not,” she said. “The island is shaped like an ice cream cone.” The team responded quickly, placing red furniture and ice cream shops around the island.
The island, equipped with a recreational bike trail, doubled its bike supply from last summer due to high demand. The Trust also tacked on an organic farm to the Island, another popular wish among the Post-it notes.
The public also suggested that the Island be fun for adults as well as kids. “Rather than having a playground — one concentrated area, we thought, what about if we had play stations around the island,” Koch said. So the team installed hammocks and red swings overlooking the water.
The design team also interacts in person with visitors of the island, asking them about their experiences and what else they’d like to see there.
“We require the design team to be out here on public days and observe,” said Koch.
Log onto to www.govisland.com to learn more about the future Governors Island, and visit the Trust’s blog (http://govislandblog.com/) to post comments about the renovation projects.