Future CUNY Facility
on Governors Island
Jointly Announced by Governor and Mayor
|Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, left, with Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and several CUNY students at the Governors Island news conference on April 2.
The local Canarsee Indians called it
Pagganck. In 1637, when the Dutch governor general Wouter
van Twiller bought it for two axe heads, a string of beads,
and some iron nails, the name was changed to Nooten Eylandt.
The British later called it Nutten Island, eventually reserving
it for the "benefit and accommodation of His Majesty's governors."
Consistent with an announcement on April 1 by Governor George
E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, historic Governors
Island may also become known as CUNY Island. The Governor
and the Mayor informed happy New Yorkersand even more
enthusiastic New York City students and educatorsthat
President George W. Bush had embraced their proposal to turn
the 172-acre former military base into a major campus within
the City University consortium.
"This is a very big idea," Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said
later at a Governors Island press conference with the Governor
and the Mayor on April 2. "We will need a thoughtful, comprehensive
academic plan to help realize its potential."
According to the State and City executives,
the Islandwhich is a half-mile from Lower Manhattan
and a mere three-minute ferry ride from Brooklyn across Buttermilk
Channelwill be turned over to the City and State for
a nominal sum.
New York City Board of Education and CUNY leaders expressed
their delight at the opportunities afforded by the vast array
of capital facilities on Governors Island. Many of these officials,
several CUNY college presidents, and a contingent of CUNY
students were present at the press conference, at which the
Governor and Mayor offered a glimpse of a fantasy island for
teachers, and especially the teachers of future teachers.
Calling it "a great day for college kids, high school kids,
the future of our city," Pataki told his audience that Governors
Island has "the potential to be one of the great campuses
anywhere in America. It is an absolutely magnificent facility
that has classroom buildings already intact." The former military
buildings, he added, have the potential to house thousands
of students and hundreds of teachers. Mayor Bloomberg and
I are committed to making this one of the flagship entities
of the City University."
|Setting forth for a new academic world:
a contingent of Queens College students on the ferry across
Buttermilk Channel to Governors Island.
Agreeing with that optimism, Bloomberg
ventured, "I don't know of any Ivy League school that has
a nicer campus"a boast underscored by the Island's rich
history as a Revolution-ary War battlefield, its storied Fort
Jay and Castle Williams, and its service during the Civil
War as a recruiting depot and prison for Confederate captives.
Looking to the future, Bloomberg emphasized how the new campus
will "give us the ability to move programs here, to free up
space on City University campuses in all five boroughs."
Noting that CUNY already has 12 campuses with public high
schools on them, the Mayor also expressed his hope that a
CUNY-Governors Island would nurture even more extensive CUNY-Board
of Education collaboration. "This is do-able, this is something
affordable, this is something that absolutely needs to be
done. It addresses the number one problem we have in this
city, which is that not all of our kids are getting the good
education everybody wants."
Pataki agreed: "By moving some CUNY operations here, we will
be able to free up space on CUNY campuses across the city,
so that we can have those new high schools, new middle schools,
new elementary schools." He indicated that "all education
benefits" from the transfer of Governors Island.
Chancellor Goldstein made clear at the conference that planning
was already under way. "We have already started the process
of thinking of appropriate educators and staff to work with
the Governor and the Mayor to develop an academic plan...This
is on a very fast track for us, because I want our students
and our faculty to get here as quickly as possible." Calling
the Island a "bucolic place to study," Goldstein observed,
"We don't have anything like this in the CUNY system now."
The Chancellor expressed hope that Governors Island might
see students as early as this summer. "We have a big summer
school, and if we can get some of these facilities ready,
I would much rather our students come to an idyllic setting
Pataki also expressed his pleasure that "the buildings have
been so well maintained, and they are already facilities totally
appropriate for a campus." These include a mess hall that
could become, Pataki said, "a spectacular dining hall," a
"magnificent gymnasium," and military quarters that can be
converted to dorm space "at minimal cost." The Governor said
he also expected the State's $1 billion budget for upgrading
CUNY capital facilities would figure in the transformation.
Appreciation was enthusiastically expressed. Thanking President
Bush, the Governor promised, "we're going to make sure we
take this opportunity and do it right." Applauding "the vision
of the education president and the education governor," Bloomberg
also singled out former New York Senator Patrick Moynihan
for his early efforts to transfer the Island to public use.
At the press conference, Pataki told of
being shown around the island by the Mayor on a stealth visit
the week before: "Mike asked me, 'When you see this, what
do you think of?' We couldn't help but agree that this was
going to be one of the great college campuses in the country."
Governors Island could become that rarity, a campus of the
"Subway University" without a local stop. Still, there is
a major subway connection with the island: beginning in 1901,
it was enlarged with earth excavated during construction of
the 4th Avenue (now Lexington Avenue) subway line; half the
island's acres are subway and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel landfill.
For more information on Governors Island and plans for its
future, log on to the CUNY web site: