Governors Island is a 172-acre (70 ha) island in Upper New York Bay, approximately one-half mile (1 km) from the southern tip of Manhattan Island and separated from Brooklyn by Buttermilk Channel. It is legally part of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Physically, the island changed greatly during the early 20th century. Using material excavated from the Lexington Avenue subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic yards of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 103 acres (42 ha) of flat, treeless land by 1912 and bringing the total acreage of the island to 172.
The Native Americans of the Manhattan region referred to the island as "Paggank", meaning 'nut island', doubtless after the island's plentiful hickory, oak, and chestnut trees; the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block called it "Noten Eylant", a translation, and this was borrowed into English as "Nutten Island". The island's current name, made official in 1784, stems from British colonial times when the colonial assembly reserved the island for the exclusive use of New York's royal governors.
Redevelopment and Future Uses:
In a near last minute act while still in office, President Bill Clinton designated 22 acres of the island, including the two great forts, as the Governors Island National Monument on January 19, 2001. In the next year on April 1, 2002, President George W. Bush, Governor Pataki, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the federal government would sell Governors Island to the people of New York for a nominal cost, and that the island would be used for public benefit.
At the time of the transfer, deed restrictions were created that prohibit permanent housing and casinos on the island. On January 31, 2003, 150 acres of Governors Island were transferred to the people of New York, to be administered by a joint city-state agency, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC). The remaining 22 acres was legally reaffirmed by presidential proclamation on February 7, 2003 as the Governors Island National Monument, to be administered by the National Park Service.
On February 15, 2006, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for "visionary ideas to redevelop and preserve Governors Island" to be submitted to Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC). The announcement said proposals should "enhance New York's place as a center of culture, business, education and innovation," include public parkland, contribute to the harbor's vitality and stress "environmentally sustainable development."
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said whatever group or entity is selected to develop the island would assume the $12 million annual maintenance costs that are now split between the city and state. In early 2007, GIPEC paused in the search for developers, focusing on the development of a major park on the island as called for in the deed that conveyed the island from the federal government to the city and state of New York.