Featured Project: Governors Island Infrastructure Improvements

LiRo, in a Joint Venture, is providing design review and resident engineering inspection services for the redevelopment of Governors Island in New York Harbor. For almost two centuries, Governors Island was a military base, first for the US Army and later the Coast Guard, and closed to the public. In 2003 the federal government sold 150-acres of Island to the people of New York, with the Island's governance and funding jointly shared by the City of New York and State of New York. The remaining 22-acres of the Island, containing Fort Jay and Castle Williams, was declared the Governors Island National Monument and is overseen by the National Park Service.

The City of New York created the Trust for Governors Island to operate, plan, and redevelop 150-acres of the Island into a destination with great public open spaces, as well as educational, not-for-profit, and commercial facilities. The resulting five-year capital construction program, which began in 2010, will transform Governors Island into a unique New York City venue.

The first phase of construction was completed in November 2013, and was recognized by former Mayor Bloomberg in a ribbon cutting ceremony which included the planting of the 800,000th tree in the Million Trees NYC initiative, a program aiming to dot the city with a million trees by 2015. In his remarks, the Mayor observed that until recently, "Governors Island was 172-acres of underutilized space," adding that it is now "a spectacular, one-of-a-kind destination, a place to experience the beauty and history of New York harbor." The Island has become a popular public destination in recent years, with close to 400,000 visitors during the 2013 season, compared to a mere 26,000 visitors as recently as 2006. The Island's historic buildings and green spaces have hosted cultural events, food festivals, concerts, and performances. Public art is also an important facet of the park, with several outdoor installations currently on display.

The newly completed 30-acres of parkland include Liggett Terrace, a sunny, six-acre plaza with seasonal plantings, seating, water features and public art; Hammock Grove, a sunny 10-acre space that is home to 1,500 new trees, play areas and 50 hammocks; and the Play Lawn, 14-acres for play and relaxation that includes two natural turf ball fields sized for adult softball and Little League baseball. In addition, new welcome areas have been added at the Island's ferry landings, as have key visitor amenities, including lighting, seating and signage throughout the Historic District.

In July 2013, ground was broken on The Hills, an additional 10-acre site that will become the culminating feature of the new Governors Island. Paying homage to the hilly landscapes of pre-colonial Manhattan, the four Hills will be made of recycled construction and fill materials, and will strengthen the Island's resiliency in facing storm events. Grassy Hill will provide a 25 ft high gentle slope overlooking the Island's new and historic landscapes and the Manhattan skyline. Slide Hill, 40 ft high, will host four slides for children and families situated among shady trees. Discovery Hill, also 40 ft high, will display site-specific art along its pathways. Outlook Hill, rising 80 ft above the Island, will provide visitors with a 360-degree breathtaking panorama of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and the Lower Manhattan skyline. The Hills are currently under construction with a completion goal of 2015.

Critical infrastructure improvements included in the Capital Program include a 2.2-mile Great Promenade above a reconstructed seawall along the waterfront; renovated building envelopes for the Island's historic buildings; demolition of abandoned barracks, warehouses, and support buildings; upgraded lift bridges and approach platforms at the ferry docks; new potable water and electrical and telecommunication distribution systems; and redevelopment of the island's drainage system.

Performing construction work on an island accessible only by ferry has presented some daunting challenges to the LiRo team. The installation of The Hills will require delivery of 280,000 cy of fill material and another 40,000 cy of topsoil. This amount of fill and topsoil must be barged and unloaded utilizing a crane with clamshell. In the opposite direction, hazardous materials from demolished buildings and contaminated soils must be moved off the Island without endangering the surrounding waterway. Reconstruction of the Island's primary ferry bridges at the Soissons Dock and Battery Maritime Building has added to the challenge.

Governors Island Park will reopen on Memorial Day for the summer season. Although located only 800 yards from lower Manhattan, visitors will be able to enjoy a variety of activities removed from the fast pace of the city.

Services Provided

Design Review

Resident/ Construction Engineering & Inspection

Key Facts

New York Harbor

The Trust for Governors Island

Design Team
West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture
Rogers Marvel Architects
Diller + Renfro
Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects

2012 Honor Award, ASLA
2012 Award for Excellence in Design, NYC Public Design Commission
2011 Award of Merit, ASLA NY Chapter