Santiago Calatrava is on a war path to take all of Manhattan Island and beyond. Today the architect unveiled a plan, accompanied by Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, to link lower Manhattan and Brooklyn with Governor's Island...by dangling air gondolas. Discussion | Bloomberg (of course) | Related: 'what do we do with the island itself??'
Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Governors Island in New York Harbor, now accessible only by ferry, may be linked to Manhattan and Brooklyn with aerial gondolas that would carry 3,000 people an hour as part of a development plan, officials said today.
The spider web-like spans, designed by internationally award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, would each extend about 3,000 feet and provide a four-minute trip from the 172-acre island, a former U.S. military installation of Revolutionary War vintage, to Manhattan or Brooklyn.
Riders could also choose to take an eight-minute ride directly from downtown Brooklyn to lower Manhattan on pod-like nine-passenger gondolas soaring as high as 165 feet above the harbor, offering views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan's skyline, Calatrava said.
"I would ask you to envision this island not as it is but as it could be, as part of the greatest harbor district in the world,'' said Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development, at a news conference in which he introduced Calatrava's idea and announced the city's search for private developers to create new uses for the island.
Doctoroff and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the island is a key part of plans to develop its 580 miles of waterfront.
"The more we thought about it, the more expansive our dreams would become,'' Bloomberg said.
The city and state of New York bought the island in 2002 from the U.S. government for $1. Until 2000, it had been the longest continuously used U.S. military facility, dating back more than 200 years.
Since the handover, the city and state have shared maintenance costs of about $12 million a year, and each government has invested about $30 million in capital expenses to maintain and improve the island's roads and infrastructure, Bloomberg said.
The island, most recently a U.S. Coast Guard base, lies about 800 yards off the southern tip of Manhattan and contains more than 200 buildings, acres of open space, centuries-old trees, piers and ball fields.
Access to the island remains a key question for future development. Calatrava, who designed a planned transit station at the World Trade Center site with soaring walls that evoke a bird's wings taking flight, said Doctoroff proposed the gondola about six months ago. Calatrava volunteered to design a model.
The proposed spans would cost about $125 million to build and could move about 3,000 people an hour, Calatrava said, adding that he hadn't calculated its ongoing operating costs.
"It's a very light system that doesn't use very much steel,'' the architect said. "It would permit continued shipping through the harbor and there would be no interference with the water.''
The mayor, while calling the proposal "magnificent,'' said it would be subject to months of review, community participation and study. The gondolas would be part of a waterfront transportation system that included expanded ferry service, he said.
Robert Pirani, the head of the a Governors Island task force at the Regional Plan Association, a non-profit organization that has influenced New York area land use and transportation policy for more than 80 years, said that while Calatrava's idea was "interesting, it isn't the most important thing about developing Governors Island.''
Pirani said city and state officials should "ensure that the island is developed as a great civic space with plenty of opportunities for recreation, education, and facilities that are open to all.''
Pirani said that deed restrictions on the grant from the U.S. government required much of the island to be used for public purposes such as education, recreation, research, and other non-profit purposes. Some of it could be developed for such profit making uses as a hotel spa, restaurant, or entertainment complex.
The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp., whose board has an equal number of appointees by Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, last year hired Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a Chicago-based real estate brokerage, to solicit ideas.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.