by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
A tree planting ceremony commemorating the completion of 30 acres of new parkland on Governors Island brought a crowd of architects, landscape architects, environmentalists, and city officials out to the “Island at the Center of the World” last Thursday, 11.14.13. The tree, a southern gingko (Ginkgo biloba), was the 800,000th to be planted as part of MillionTreesNYC.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was accompanied by Ronay Menschel, chair of the Trust for Governors Island; Veronica White, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; State Senator Daniel Squadron; and Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island. The mayor’s remarks started by noting: “Governors Island is a spectacular one of a kind destination” that “is part of our effort to create a greater, greener, and more resilient New York.” He said that the tree represented the Bloomberg Administration being “more than 3/4 on our way to our goal of planting a million trees two years ahead of schedule.”
Adrian Geuze and the design team led by Rotterdam-based landscape architects West 8 were praised by the mayor for the park’s design, including, in particular, its 2,000 new trees and the 50 hammocks in Hammock Grove, just behind the lectern. Also praised were the park’s southern section known as “The Hills,” with what the mayor described as “great views of Governors Island and all the other places, including Staten Island and New Jersey across the Bay.” Koch got a laugh when she noted how glad everyone was, after Superstorm Sandy, that Governors Island had hired a Dutch landscape architect.
New cultural, creative, and educational purposes were announced, including an expanded art center and public day spa. These were said to have been made possible as a result of the administration’s $250 million investment in infrastructure, such as a new sea wall. Making Governors Island more resilient and seeing it come to life year-round were the stated goals. Last year there were 400,000 visitors to the island. The mayor’s prepared remarks concluded with an environmental credo: “Trees evoke something that makes people want to participate, to be part of something that is growing, and that helps clean the air.”
In answer to a question about the time remaining in his administration and what he thought were his greatest accomplishments, Mayor Bloomberg said: “We are going to work as hard as we can up until midnight on December 31st. Life expectancy is three years better than when we came into office. Part of it is the smoking ban. Part of it is the reduction in the murder rate. People forget how safe the city is now compared to what it used to be.”
And, responding to a follow-up question about Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and the transition underway, Bloomberg added, “He’ll put things together. We’ve got space for his transition team and gathered lots of information. We’re doing everything we can to make this the best transformation ever. The most important thing for him to do now is build a team.”