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A Masterpiece on the Harbor: Plans to Create an Island Park Off Manhattan Move Forward

With $41.5 million already secured to build a park on Governors Island and $200 million more on the way, Michael Bloomberg aims to cap his legacy as the world's most design-friendly mayor. But what parts will actually be built?

Liberty Terrace

When New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, kicked in $50 million of city funds to create the High Line park, he was just getting started: Over the weekend, the City announced that it had secured go-ahead to develop Governors Island, a vacant, 172-acre island off the tip of southern Manhattan that used to be a military outpost. And today, following on that tantalizing news, the designs were released.

The most surprising thing is that Bloomberg isn't relying on the standard line-up of hacks to create the park—but rather some of the most avant-garde designers working today. The masterplan was led by Dutch landscape architecture firm West 8, with associate architects Diller Scofidio+Renfro (a 2010 Most Innovative Company) and Rogers Marvel. They've produced something that, as is, could rival Central Park in landscape-design brilliance.

The odds of something being built are actually quite high: The City has already committed $41.5 million for the first phase of re-development, and it is planning on providing another $200 million. And if it does get built, it won't be a stretch to call Bloomberg the most design-friendly mayor of all-time. (Other accomplishments? Click here and here and here.) Still, the plan is likely to change. So let's take some guesses at what it might look like, after the inevitable winnowing of municipal politics. To the crystal ball!

Up top, you can see a series of covered steps, designed by DS+R. They're beautiful, and they'd be a memorable addition to the park. But they'd also be fairly expensive, given that not many people can sit there. Still, DS+R, following the High Line and the Lincoln Center redesign, is a favorite of New York and Bloomberg. That counts for something. Odds of realizing something close to the present form? We're calling 10:1

Below, West 8's signature flourish: A manmade canyon that will create framed views of the Statue of Liberty. Thing is, even though this whole thing is West 8's baby, piles of dirt are actually quite expensive to build at anything near this sort of scale. But they get extra consideration because of the patriotic ring of the design feature—which should go well in City Hall. Odds: 2:1, at half the present size.

Governors Island

The new plan calls for lush ballfields, and these are cheap and straightforward to build. Who doesn't like baseball besides fascists and terrorists?! Odds: 1:1

Governors Island

Here you can see plans for some sort of bike-sharing program—featuring wooden bikes from THE FUTURE and park benches from THE FUTURE. Frankly, this stuff is the first to go when the local politcos start wearing down the design team. Odds: 20:1

Governors Island

One of the park's areas would be a grove of trees, etched with walking paths and hammocks. This one has mass appeal, and you can't beat the beautiful PR shots that would come from families lounging in these things. All for fairly cheap. Odds: 1:1

Governors Island

And here's what the island's waterfront paths would look like. Luckily, the island already has an excellent series of paths, which could be readily improved with a few additions, like those embankments and benches. Design wise, these would be a key to opening up the interior of the island, because right now, the path is blocked off with retaining walls. Expect West 8 to push hard for this feature. Odds: 2:1

Governors Island

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