New York City Wants to Put a Climate Change ‘Laboratory’ on Governors Island

Governors Island, off the southern tip of Manhattan, has an unusual history and a supply of undeveloped real estate.

The project is also...

The project is also meant to pay for the island’s maintenance, Ms. Glen said, which is now funded from city coffers. “The reason why there are development opportunities on the island is to generate money that will allow it to be sustainable,” she said.

Turning the island into a center for climate-adaptation research could also tap into New York’s concentration of workers in design, engineering, architecture and other related areas, while engaging the public on those risks, according to Clare Newman, who succeeded Mr. Samuelian as the trust’s president. “It’s a potential opportunity here to bring those strands together,” she said.

The city’s vision for Governors Island echoes its technology-themed development of Roosevelt Island (which also abuts Manhattan), according to people familiar with the plan. In 2010, New York invited universities to compete for the chance to build a graduate center for applied sciences on Roosevelt Island; the winner was Cornell University, which in 2017 opened a campus there[1] in partnership with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

As for Governors Island, while a prudent approach might have been not to develop there at all, Mr. Samuelian said there is more value in making the island an example of how development can coexist with rising water. That could hypothetically involve buildings elevated on stilts, or structures that could easily be dismantled and moved.

“The city is a waterfront city, and our DNA is the water,” Mr. Samuelian said. “We can’t ignore it.”

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter[2].

Anne Barnard contributed reporting from New York.


  1. ^ opened a campus there (
  2. ^ follow @NYTClimate on Twitter (

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