to the Nut Island:
Restoring the Ecological Heritage to Governors Island
Tree Species for Restoration (Table 1)…………………………………………….
6.1 Phase I: Seed source and
6.2 Phase II: Site demolition and soil
6.3 Phase III: Planting
6.4 Phase IV: Adaptive
6.5 Phase V: Restoring the Forest
6.6 Phase VI: Long term management and
Participation and Use……………………………………………...............
8.0 Timing and
Figure 1: Current
Site Layout and District Boundaries
Figure 2: Aerial
View, Governors Island, Lower Manhattan,
is an urban planner’s dream: essentially a blank slate
vacant island only one-quarter mile from the densest part of one of the
premier cities. Its potential is
limitless and the timing for redevelopment couldn’t be more perfect for
New York City. Our
population is booming, economy growing,
increasing, and our real estate values bound effortlessly higher. There is tangible excitement that we have the
opportunity to create something special here; something that will make
substantive change to New York’s
character. Just the sense planners felt
in 1853 when New York’s
legislature designated a patch of land between 59th
Street and 110th
Street for a sorely needed urban park.
Preservation and Education Corporation, now weaving together a master
the island, has incorporated some admirable
does seek a unique vision. The four
conceptual development scenarios that characterize the range of density
projections include: Minimum
(GIPEC 2006). Let us play a child’s
game: which of the
above four does not belong?
The Minimum Build scenario “illustrates the minimum investment
scenario,” or a situation in which no new
buildings are constructed, and a
basic park and open space are created. This
option would “likely create the lowest level of
visitation on the Island, and therefore there
little or no need to create additional access or transportation
to serve the needs of the Island adequately.” (GIPEC Minimum Build poster, 2006).
If that doesn’t qualify as a self-fulfilling
prophecy, I’m not sure what does.
Cut the qualifiers and
the bureau-speak, add some flourishes, and this might have been said
ago at the meeting that created Central Park. A minimum build does not equate to a lack of
vision nor does it consign the Island to a
life. Governors Island’s
most basic asset, other than its location - or rather because of its
is its history.
Here we have the
singular opportunity to recreate a different and complementary history
that long ago was wiped off the face metropolitan region.
This history goes back longer than the
historic forts and longer than the cannons – it is the natural New
York landscape. A
landscape that was distinctive in its own time and a
what New York City is: an
of diversity and places of linkages.
I say, to adopt the
Minimum Build scenario, in fact requires the most daring degree of
vision. If we adopt this plan, one century
road, our grandchildren will praise our foresight.
The aim of this
report is to describe and motivate the restoration of ecological
heritage to Governors Island (the Island). The reference year is1623, the year before
Dutch settlers sailed into New York
and landed on the Island. The
general goals are as follows:
- To restore a self-sustaining
native hickory, oak and chestnut forest on the southern 90 acres of Governors
Island, as it may have existed in 1623.
- To encourage a vital and diverse
understory plant and faunal community that reflects the historic native
diversity of the site.
- To restore the site to its
original gently sloping topography and to raise the overall elevation
to account for potential future sea level rise and minimize flood and
- To remove, once the forest is in place, much of the “man-made” coastline of
bulkheads and piers and restore beaches and marshes to the shore.
- To integrate the restored
ecological heritage of the South Island with
the historic heritage of the North
Island by creating
an integrated educational, museum, science center, and research
institution in the adaptive reuse historic district.
To encourage sustainable but
significant public involvement
and enjoyment of the forest, by paths, coastal walkways, beaches, and
The plan below
incorporates specific steps needed to achieve these goals.
Throughout the text, the steps are justified and
explained using a theoretical restoration ecology-based approach.
In the middle of New
800 yards from Lower Manhattan and half this to
Brooklyn, Governors Island
was where the Dutch first landed in New York. Then it
was called Pagganck, or Nut
Island, in the
language of the Lenape tribe (GIPEC 2006). The moniker fit because it described the nuts
hickory, oak, and
chestnut trees in abundance there (GIPEC 2006). The Lenape,
the Native American of Mannahatta, would
narrow channel to gather them in season (GIPEC 2006).
They used the island seasonally for fishing
and fur trapping as well (Request for Proposals, 2006).
In 1624, two hundred settlers of the Dutch
Company came into New York Harbor, and Governors Island was one of the
places they landed (Azoy 1951). A Dutch governor purchased the land for a
steal of two axe heads, a string of beads, and some nails in 1637; the
they only borrowed, calling it Nooten Eylandt (or Nutten
Dutch surveyors estimated the island’s size
at 80 Dutch morgens, which is equivalent
to about 160 acres (Azoy 1951). The
Dutch governor, Wounter Van Twiller,
who envisioned an idyllic place to build a home, saw this: a sandy
with a few rocks at the northern tip, a narrow sedge-filled creek
the Island from Brooklyn that could be crossed at low tide, and a
surface that came to a high point at the northeast corner – a place for
mansion (or as it later turned out, a fort) (Azoy
Governors Island was
one of the first
sites where Europeans landed in New York
- naturally, it was one of the first destroyed. The
first saw mill of the New World
been sited at a better place – trees and wind power in abundance and
around to float the logs (Azoy 1951). Nutten
Island was eventually
most of its namesake; the name itself did not persist too much longer.
The British took possession of Governors
in 1664 and soon it began to realize it military potential. Between the British and the Dutch, other uses
over the years included grazing ground for goat, sheep and cattle
game preserve for English pheasants (the flock eventually overpopulated
Island and spread to Long Island); a tobacco plantation; and a
quarantine for a
ship of new arrivals with a plague (Azoy
1951). The diseased were kept on the Island
– eventually 250 died there, but the plague never spread to the
mainland (Azoy 1951). This
highlights the benefit of the Island not only
diseases and invasive species; but to be isolated from these threats
mainland as well.
Centuries passed. Without
stabilizing tree roots, the Island
shrunk, eroded by the tides (Azoy 1951). In 1901, when a massive project to rebuild
the Island was begun, it was only 70 acres in
area. If the original Dutch survey is
correct, the Island
shrunk by about 110 acres in about 275 years. By
1901, a house built eleven years prior was sprayed by
whenever stormy weather hit. (Azoy 1951) The Army Corps of Engineers addressed this by
bulk and brute force - adding 103 acres of land to create South
Island, more than doubling its size (GIPEC 2006). Over 4.5 million cubic yards of soil and rock
dredged from channels and excavated from the trenches of the city’s
subway line (the 4th Avenue line) were dumped behind the
7,000-odd feet of bulkhead. Even the
fill is historic. The estimated cost of
reclaiming the submerged land was $10,000 per acre, and by 1912 the
completed (Azoy 1951).
4.1 Site Description
(“the Island”) consists of 172 acres
of above water land and thirty two submerged acres (Figure
1). The Northern
Island contains the
sixty two (of
225 buildings) on the Island that have historic
designation status. Of the “North
Island,” twenty two
acres is a
National Monument, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service,
other 50 acres contains the historic buildings in the Governors Island
Federal/City Historic District, under the control of Governors Island
Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC). Currently,
the entire site is vacant and the Island
is only publicly accessible by ferry, during limited hours over the
The original seventy-acre Island,
prior to the 1901-1912 Army Corps filling project, is now located on
the North Island,
while the southern 90-acres
is built on fill. The following
topographic and subsurface data is based on a review of the
Historic Data Report conducted by Langan
and Environmental Consulting Services. The
elevation of the original land area, ranges from 9 to
40 feet above
Governors Island Datum (referenced 1.7 feet above the National Geodetic
Vertical Datum or 1929 mean sea level), while the elevation of the
filled acres is relatively flat, from 9 to 15 feet.
A wide swath of Island
perimeter sits below the 100-year flood plain line (11.7 foot
elevation), and a
good majority of the Island’s area is below the
Within the historic shoreline, the immediate
consists of 5 to 10 feet of historic fill; mainly sand, silt, and
containing varying amounts of brick, wood, cinders and ash. The fill is underlain by glacial till,
weathered rock, then bedrock at a depth greater than 80 feet below
grade. Outside of the historic
shoreline, the miscellaneous fill is as deep as 40 feet and contains
obstructions such as metal, boulders, cobbles, and concrete. The fill is underlain by organic silt and
clay (this was once “off-shore”), glacial till, and finally bedrock at
below grade. Groundwater is encountered
at zero to six feet elevation (which varies on the site between three
feet below surface grade) and is affected by tidal fluctuations.
During site excavations, remnants of old
foundations, underground storage tanks, unexploded “ordnances,” (GIPEC
Proposal 2006) and subsurface contamination, including heavy metals,
pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), semivolatile
organic compounds, and petroleum-related compounds associated with 250
military and artillery usage on the site may be encountered. Also, typical urban fill containing ash
other debris is likely to contain elevated levels of semivolatile
organic compounds (SVOCs), including polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Framework and Context
In 2003, after the U.S. Coast Guard vacated,
government sold Governors Island back to New
price of $1.00, with the exception of the 22-acre historic monument
the auspices of the Empire State Development Corporation, created
Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC), a public state
corporation charged with planning, redeveloping and operating the
150-acres of the Island. The
Board of Directors is appointed equally by the
governor and the
mayor. GIPEC seeks to make Governors
Island a “destination with great public open space and
tourism attractions, as well as education, conference, and cultural
facilities.” (GIPEC 2006)
GIPEC intends to maintain ownership of the Island
and extend long-term leases to the developers of the site.
GIPEC will be responsible for overall Island
infrastructure and utilities. Its stated
goal is to create a suite of Island uses that
financially sustain the Island to eventually
money. This would only be accomplished
by an increase in public usage of the Island
Request for Proposals, 2006).
Currently, GIPEC is reviewing proposals for
redevelopment of the Island.
The proposals requested were to be highly
developed plans from qualified parties, but the range of possibilities
yet been constrained. Proposals could
stretch from a single building to a master plan for the entire 150-acre
site. In early 2008, GIPEC expects
to affirm a final
General Project Plan, at which point environmental review under the
Environmental Quality Review act guidelines will begin.
Public input will be sought throughout this
process, as is part of GIPEC’s goals and
Species for Restoration
The first goal to be implemented will be to
oak-hickory-chestnut forest to the Island. Although there is no exact record of the
species present in the reference year of 1623, it is easy to surmise
of native oaks, hickories, and chestnuts whose range extends into New
York City that were like present in the past.
Among the large selection of native oak and
the ones chosen for the restoration were selected based on predicted ecophysiological and genetic adaptation to the
of the site (ie: their likeliehood
of long term success and recruitment). Table 1 describes the
characteristics and limitations of restoring each chosen species of
tree. Also, to the extent it is feasible,
trees, including oak, sycamore, and maple, already existing on the site
the demolition and soil treatment phase should be preserved (Dunlap
In New York City, due to the urban heat
average temperatures (and especially nighttime low temperatures) are
degrees warmer than the surrounding rural region (Leber
unpublished, 2006). In addition, in
light of global warming, the climate of the New
region will continue to warm significantly over the next centuries. Since the restoration of the forest takes
time, fortitude and foresight, centuries is not an inappropriate
plan for. Therefore, all trees below
were chosen because their range extends significantly further south of
York, and therefore, these trees will be tolerant of the warmer
both now and in the future, that they will be exposed to.
To encourage a range of genetic diversity
that will be
necessary to avoid long term inbreeding depression on an Island,
it will be required that several different seed sources are used for
species. These should be a mix of local
source for specific local/urban adaptations, and regional seed sources
provide flexibly adapted plants tolerant of a wide range of conditions. In Table 1, several local seed sources are
proposed for each species. In addition,
regional native plant nurseries should be utilized as seed sources.
Table 1: Proposed
Trees Species for Restoration to Govenors Island
2006; Moore 2006; Barnard 2002; Burns 1990)
Potential locations on-site
Prodigious nut producers; highly edible nuts (food for
wildlife); tough resilient wood can withstand stress; tolerates wide
range of soil conditions
distributed throughout the Island;
seed sources: Pelham Bay Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
10 year height (Ohio Valley) = 7 feet (slow grower), do not plant
directly adjacent to fastest growing trees
abundant of hickories; Least edible nut –nuts are more likely to
survive to germination because herbivores don’t like them.
Grown fast for a hickory and grows well on poor
soils low in nutrients.
found on wet bottom lands, but grows on dry sites – plant on
topographic lows or coast for less drained soil.
seed sources: NY Botanic Gardens; Pelham Bay Park; Prospect Park; Inwood Hill Park
height (Ohio valley) = 10 feet; also relatively slow
grower; Mature height 60-80 feet.
nuts are too sour for people, hogs used to eat them (hence name). Tough, able to survive in poor soils and dry
locations; Resilient hearty wood – the heaviest of hickories; A soil
“improver” because leaves have high Ca content;
survive in deep shade, allowing tree to root in forests alongside oaks;
Plant alongside oaks and other fast growers.
seed sources: Pelham Bay Park; Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Prospect Park,
Central Park, Inwood Hill Park; Staten Island Greenbelt
height (Ohio valley) = 9 feet; 50-60
feet mature height
fast grower; Bitter kernal acorns. widely planted as an ornamental. Its brilliant red
autumn color, open crown texture, and rapid growth make it a desirable
tree for yard, street, and park.
found on gravelly or sand soils near shore; Occurs alongside stands of
post oaks, white oaks, and other broadleaf trees.
intolerant of shade – must plant near slow growing trees or give
seedlings more space to grow.
seed source: Prospect park, Central Park, Riverside Park, Connetquot
River State Preserve (Long
grow close to the surface (can plant near deeper rooting trees for a
range of soil use).
red oak (Quercus rubra)
growing than any other oak; withstands pollution well.
well on slopes and well drained soils.
plant next to shade sensitive oaks due to fast growth
become water stressed during drought.
Oak (Quercus stellata)
tree grows where many do not – poor, dry, gravelly or rocky soil on
sandy plains; Tolerates heat and drought and higher salinity of coastal
of shade and slow growth rate compared to most other oaks.
near hickories and other slow growers.
New York coastal region is the northern extent of
habitat. Found in: Pelham Bay Park, Central Park, Bloomingdale Woods (SI), Caumsett State Park near beach (LI), Sands Point Preserve on
bluffs overlooking LI Sound
most widely planted native oak in urban landscape and third most common
street tree in NYC; able to withstand occasional flooding and low O2
levels found in urban soils; tolerates drought and easy to plant due to
planted throughout island, but especially along shoreline.
intolerant; lightly spaced plantings
seed sources: Willamsbridge Oval, Saint
Nicholas Park (Bronx), Central Park West, Forest Park (Queens)
species, reaches maturity in 80-100 years.
the most valuable of native trees, this species has been essentially
eradicated in the United states when a fungal disease was brought to NY from
Asia in 1904. By
1930, most chestnuts in this country were dead. Some
chestnuts remain, however in New York City.
benefit to restoration is 1) Historic and nostalgic potential; 2) Opportunity to experiment with way to successfully
restore the American Chestnut
experts in American chestnut restoration for best planting methods and
trees should be spaced far apart (>50 m) to ensure the disease is
not easily spread if one is infected. Will
seed sources: Van Cortlandt Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Forest Park
(Q), High Rock Park (SI) west of Loosestrife Swamp, Totten Hill.* Priority
here is to obtain seeds from only healthy trees, rather than to use
American chestnut restoration is not successful, would consider using
the experimental Chinese chestnut/American chestnut hybrid; which has
enhanced immunity to disease.
6.0 Phased Plan
6.1 Phase I: Seed
source and off-site plantings
The conditions of a barren site fully
stripped of buildings
and pavement will be extremely harsh for the developing seedlings. Therefore, it is desirable to collect plant
and plant in a nursery so that seedlings can develop as much as
it is time to transplant them at the site. Ideally,
the trees will be at least two years old before
transplanted to the site; perhaps older given advance planning and time.
As mentioned above, an effort should be made
to obtain seeds
from a wide range of populations so that genetic diversity is
inbreeding depression is avoided. Trees
were chosen mainly for their adaptability and suitability to urban
therefore, outbreeding depression is less
concern because it is known they will be physiologically tolerant of
Appropriate procedures for transplanting
should be implemented. A seed propagation
program specifically designed for the Governors Island
should be set up begun once the initial cohorts are planted at the
provide a continual source of seeds and plant material that will be
in first stages of the program before trees begin to produce nuts.
6.2 Phase II: Site
demolition and soil preparation
All buildings on the southern 90 acres will
and all site paving will be stripped. During
the time of site preparation and demolition, stormwater
management and erosion controls should be implemented, both on the
prevent runoff into New York
and on areas of the site where earth is not actively being moved.
This soil treatment phase of the project
will be especially
important. The natural biogeochemical
cycle of the site has been for years shut down, as it has been covered
pavement, eroded, and literally recreated from nothing.
Therefore, a large component of the project’s
cost will be in restoring the abiotic and biotic cycling regimes that
to a forest ecosystem.
As mentioned above, fill is present on the
(outside of the historic shoreline) to a depth of 40 feet below grade,
likely to contain contaminants, both related to the presence of
ash-containing fill and to former site military uses.
Of the species presented in Table 1, some
are “street” trees in New York
and are likely to some extent tolerant of the presence of fill;
of such degraded quality is not suitable for restoring an entire
Removing the fill is not feasible due to its
spatial extent. Phytoremediation
is not feasible because it is a slow process, and cannot cover the
matrix through which contaminants are dispersed. Furthermore,
it is only appropriate to heavy
metal contamination (whereas other contaminants will exist at the site). Therefore, I propose to cap the fill with at
least 5 feet of clean top soil that will be appropriate for plant
growth. This will serve the multiple
acting as a buffer between the fill, providing suitable soil for tree
and raising the overall site elevation (see below).
Two considerations are important for
grading: raising the
entire coastal elevation of the site to one foot above the current
flood plain at 11.7 feet above Governors Island Datum and restoring
heterogeneity to the Island.
Currently, most of the shore sits below this
level. In future global warming
scenarios, New York Harbor
will be affected by sea level rise in the coming century.
Any investment in such a long term project
as Governors Island requires planning for these
changes. Likely, the elevation of the
100 year flood plain will increase in the future, so a buffer of 1 foot
the current flood plain line seems like a good investment.
The Island once had
and we would like to restore this historic landscape.
Hills provide additional benefits to the
trees being planted, because they will provide a gradient of well
flooded soils. The wide diversity of
trees being restored will thrive in the heterogeneous topography. For example, Pin Oak thrives in flooded soils
while Post Oak thrives under dry gravelly conditions (although both are
flexible). Sets of small hills should be
restored on a small scale and on the macroscale
the center of the Forest should be at a
compared with the coast, to create an overall site drainage gradient. However, soil erosion control should be
considered when planning the grading of the site, and slopes greater
should be avoided (Sauer 1998).
For disturbed sites, standard soil
specifications call for
routine topsoil stripping, fertilizing, and liming (even though many
or made soils are already less acidic than native because of concrete
and urban dust) (Sauer 1998). In general, soil ecosystems have a great
redundancy and a full soil structure is usually not required for most
soil functions (Sauer 1998). It will
take a long time to develop a full soil microbial community at the
the basic functions will be sufficient until that time.
The goal of a soil restoration needs to
fungi, and microfaunal communities. Most of work in forming humus is done by
plant roots and by animal life in soil. Ecosystem
function of soil is to cycle energy and
nutrients – nitrogen,
sulfur, and phosphorus – through the system and also to increase water
capacity. The soil microbial community also contributes to soil
(Sauer 1998). Fungi tend to dominate in forest soils, whereas bacteria
in agricultural soils. Roots of grasses
also exude carbon and amino acids directly into the soil to feed fungal
associations – it may be beneficial to allow some native grasses to
the cleared site initially to help restore soil functionality (Sauer
The reason fungi dominate in a woodland
is because only fungi can break down lignin in wood.
Simply covering the soil with raw wood chips
provides an ideal matrix for rapid development of dense fungal networks
provides surface stabilization. The
benefit of using woodchips over commercial fungal inoculums is that it
encourages the development of native local soil biota (Sauer 1998). In addition, the top soil can be inoculated
as necessary with mychorrhizal fungi
associations. Organic matter will also
need to be added to soil – this can be done through using a local
compost, such as the composting facility located in Central
Lastly the soil pH should be monitored and
fertilized with nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur as
necessary. With concrete rubble and dust
present from the remnants of demolition, it’s entirely possible for the
become extremely basic. If possible,
atmospheric fluxes and approximate dry deposition rates of nitrogen and
should be monitored to understand the “natural” inputs to the system. Because it is an Island
with a singular use, there will be few other nutrient inputs to the
first without human intervention.
6.3 Phase III:
Using the transplants grown off-site as the
of plant material, trees should be planted according to the
outlined in Table 1. In general, prior
to the planting phase, a specific tree density criteria should be
based on: the rooting depth and breadth of each species, the rate of
tolerance of light and shade, and the relative position of each tree. On a larger scope, the soil drainage
patterns and tolerance of trees to flooding and coastal environments
sea salt) should be specifically considered when deciding where to
trees. Tree seedlings, such as Quercus rubra,
sensitive to dry conditions, should be actively watered during dry
periods. In addition, if species are
sensitive to too much light, or heat (the microclimate at the soil
become very hot after clearing of the site), then structures can be
around specifically sensitive seedlings to shade them.
Planting in loose clumps or gaps, a
nucleation, is preferable to planting in rows (Sauer 1998). As an average (all this may vary
significantly by species), seedling spaced as close as three feet apart
far as 8 feet apart do well (Sauer 1998). The
mortality rate of plantings on restoration sites,
degraded sites, is especially high. Many
more seedlings than are expected to survive should be planted (perhaps
than double the number), so that the restoration is not set back when a
percentage do not survive. In addition,
this extra competition may help ensure that the best adapted, most fit
and phenotypically plastic seedlings are
the ones that survive
to further reproduce.
6.4 Phase IV: Adaptive
Active management of the nascent trees will
be necessary for
many years, as this plan is meant to be a preliminary guide. The first phase of adaptive management will
focus on monitoring the health of the growing trees, seeing that
controlled, and ensuring that the soil, light, nutrient, and water
are suitable for tree growth. It may be
necessary to actively water, shade, or enrich the soil until the
biogeochemical cycling ecosystem function emerges from the system.
It is quite possible that some of the
species suggested here
will fail to establish, and others will do quite well.
Since Governors Island
will be acting as a preserve of native biodiversity, a large diversity
native to the Island should be present, but the
trees should be altered from those listed here as necessary. The management strategy should be reevaluated
regularly to ensure that the management plan evolves along with the
and that the right decisions are made in its implementation.
Since this restoration of a forest is
skipping primary and
secondary successional processes, there will be a natural tendency
site is cleared for grasses, shrubs, weeds and invasive species to
establish themselves on the site. Some grasses may be allowed, especially if
nutrients, but any competition of seedlings with weeds, and especially
species, needs to be avoided. A
monitoring program to prevent the establishment of weed should be
Often the theory of island biogeography is
metaphorically to describe patches of perhaps fragmented landscape. Here, on Governors Island,
the Island nearly completely isolated from the
population, and is also isolated from the two nearest large islands (Long
Island and Manhattan)
with no land connections. Normally,
isolation of a population is seen as a difficulty because it may cause
extirpation of a species on the island and a lack of recolonization
(or “rescue effect”) from the mainland source. However,
in this managed and urban setting, the risks of
species and diseases to the Island may far
benefits of landscape connectivity (especially because, Island
restoration managers will artificially rescue any species that are in
and actively seek to maintain genetic population diversity). Therefore, the Island’s
isolation should be viewed as a key advantage to restoration in this
The only connections to the mainland, then,
are the risks of
invasive seeds or diseases transported by wind and birds, or by humans
over on the ferry. The risk of wind-born
seeds is relatively low, given that there are likely extremely few
transport in the immediate highly developed area of Lower
and Downtown Brooklyn. Since human
access to the Island will be controlled by
education program for awareness of invasive species should begin on
travel of visitors’ to the Island, so that they
what to watch for and what to avoid bringing to the Island. This combined with a proactive invasive
species early removal program should be highly effective in keeping the
for native trees and plants.
6.5 Phase V: Restoring
The first four phases
of restoration have focused on establishing trees.
However, once a first cohort of health
seedlings are established, it is possible to begin restoring the
community for the forest as well as a faunal community.
The understory should be established to
include native shrubs and herbaceous flowering and non-flowering
as grasses, sedges, rushes, ferns, and mosses (Sauer 1998). In addition a leaf and organic matter
layer should be allowed to develop. When
a litter layer accumulates and persists, it acts as a nursery for the
generation of forest and creates a thick
(organic soil horizon) to build topsoil (Sauer 1998).
Woody debris should also be left, as it can
serve as another source of small-scale heterogeneity where a diversity
and fauna can grow, and it will eventually decompose to further enrich
Many restoration ecologists
will take the “if we plant it, they will come” approach to restoring
communities, once the flora ecosystem is established.
This is more of a problem on an island, where
for some species, purposeful introductions should occur.
No purposeful introduction of significant
herbivore populations should occur until the forest is well established. The bottom-up approach to ecosystem control
is a key component of restoring this forest. If
herbivores populations become too high too quickly,
because there will be few to no predators, then the system risks
flipped and a top-down control will limit or perhaps destroy the
success of the
growing forest. Therefore, limited and
carefully applied use of non-toxic pesticides could be warranted if
The timing of the
development of the faunal community should be approximately timed to
after many of the trees have begun producing seeds.
Insects and small mammals will the aid in the
dispersal of seeds and pollination of the understory flowers. Ensuring
trees do produce fruit and that they are dispersed throughout the
island by a
health faunal community is important to the long-term sustainability of
Lastly, it will be
eventually important to introduce some native predators to the Island
and make it an attraction to migrating birds and marine life as well. This will help keep growing herbivore
populations under control. These last
steps of introductions will be the result of creating a healthy
ecosystem at the base.
6.6 Phase VI: Long term
management and goals for the future
reproduction, germination and recruitment of seeds and new trees will
important for sustaining the forest in the long term.
Continued management will likely always be
necessary, but there is a difference between management and futile
effort. The long term management will be
the reproductive health of the growing trees and encourage new trees to
establish naturally, rather than through direct seeding or
In addition, long
term thinking could involve the restoration of the other native
the Island, including salt marshes (British
Map 1782) and the sandy beaches of the shore (Azoy
1951). Ultimately, once the forest
been reestablished, a major biodiversity ecosystem function will be to
the erosion of the Island.
At this point, the man-made coastline that
includes retaining walls, bulkheads and piers can be removed in favor
reestablishing the rocky and sandy shorelines and salt marsh community.
7.0 Public Access
Access to the forest
restoration will by necessity need to be limited for a few years, in
the delicate plantings to establish themselves. Pathways,
however, should be cut through the forest so
that the public
can enjoy the benefits of learning first hand about the ecological
the Island, New York City,
and the Northeast. There will need to be
some limitations to how densely the pathways should be used and a
education program (beginning on the transportation over to the Island)
to ensure the public is aware of how to enjoy the forest, while doing
harm. In addition, a natural pathway
bordering the forest should encircle the Island
amazing views in all directions.
The most important
link between the North (historic) and South (ecological) Islands
will be in the middle-ground adaptive reuse historic district. These historic buildings and grounds should
be reused to create a vital education program for the public. This should not only involve the traditional
modes of ecological education, such as nature centers and natural
displays. There should be a center for
engaging talks, discussions; a center for the arts; a place to screen
and hear music; and a place to learn about our Native American, Dutch,
and American historic heritage. While
looking back at the past, however, a strong emphasis needs to be placed
about the future, including the ecological future of Governors
Island and New York.
education there should be a strong underpinning of real science learned. A research center for scientists who will
perform studies in restoration ecology and other fields on Governors
Island should be established, and a portion could be made
accessible to the public.
The transportation to
the Island should still be by ferry only, so
benefits of the Islands isolation are
access is through a controlled entry and exit point.
However, it is necessary to massively expand
the number of ferries that run and the locations they stop at. Right now, the ferries only depart from Lower
Manhattan. In the future
they should depart from various points from Staten Island, Manhattan
Brooklyn, and ferries should link the Statue of Liberty (symbol of
Ellis Island (symbol of diversity), and Governors Island (symbol of
and the memorial that will be built on the World Trade Center site
A last unique
transportation alternative that has already been proposed is creating a
of cable cars that transport between Manhattan
and Governors Island. This
would be a unique transportation system that adds
character to the site, and a good supplement to the ferries, while
maintaining controlled access.
8.0 Timing and
This is a conceptual
timeline and budget for the 90 acres of forest restoration and forest
management on the South Island.
This does not include transportation
infrastructure, the public use structures proposed in the historic
district, the costs (and labor) involved in maintaining public access
forest, nor other future restoration plans. GIPEC
is supposed to pay to install the utilities and
infrastructure to the Island (GIPEC Request for
2006). Since a minimum of utilities will
be necessary, this budget should initial go toward funding the first
the project. During this time, a
foundation should be established, with significant fundraising drives
conjunction with the historic portions of the site, to continually fund
restoration. Large individual
contributions should be solicited. It
is likely that additional city, state, and federal funding and in-kind
donations could be obtained.
Phase I: Seed
source and Off-site Plantings
Nursery, and 4 full-time decision-making employees
and additional labor staff (can use summer interns)
Budget: $1 million
Time: 2-3 years (to
coincide with planning efforts)
Phase II: Site
demolition and soil preparation
Costs: Demolish up
to 180 buildings and foundations; Soil quality
investigation and remediation; Water drainage and erosion study;
feet over 90 acres); Construction equipment; Grading; Heavy Union Labor
million (Most of this cost is being spent on Governors
Island no matter what development path is taken)**
Time: 2 years
Labor (not volunteer), planting and heavy
equipment; fertilizers; shading structures; surveyors; Establish
offices on Governors Island
Budget: $2 million
(for initial set of plantings and offices)
Time: 6 months
Phase IV: Adaptive
Costs: 10 full time
employees, and part time and summer work. Equipment for watering and
fertilizing and planting. Permanent offices on Governors Island.
Operations and Maintenance Budget/year
Time: 10 years
Phase V: Restoring
the Forest Ecosystem
studies; Procuring seedlings for
understory, as well
as a faunal community; Additional seasonal and part time labor for
of two years (after this, this segment of project is folded into either
adaptive management phase or long-term management phase)
Time: 2 years
(floating on timeline- can begin during adaptive management phase or
Phase VI: Long
Costs: 5 full time
employees; equipment operations and maintenance
Azoy, A. C. M. (Anastasio Carlos Mariano). Three Centuries Under
Three Flags : The Story of Governors
From 1637. Governors Island, N.Y. :
Headquarters First Army, 1951.
Barnard, Edward Sibley. New
York City Trees, A
Guide for the Metropolitan Area. Columbia
University Press: New
York, New York, 2002.
British Headquarter Map: 1782.
Available from Dr. Eric Sanderson, Wildlife Conservation
Society: Mannahatta project (Publication
Burns, RM and Honkala
of North America: Volume 2
(Handbook 654). USDA
Dunlap, David W. Islands
Lapped by Tides of Change. The New York
Times: November 12, 1995.
Glenn, Steven D. The
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2006. Accessed October 11, 2006.
Glenn Steven D. The New
Metropolitan Flora Database, Genus:
Botanic Gardens: Revised September
2006. Accessed on October 18, 2006.
Island Planning and Education
Corporation (GIPEC). On-line
resources available at: http://www.govisland.com/. Accessed on December 4, 2006.
Island Planning and Education
Corporation (GIPEC). Request for
Proposals for the Preservation and Redevelopment of Governors
Island. February 15, 2006.
Langan Engineering and Environmental Consulting Services.
Historic Data Report, Governors Island
Development, New York, NY:
and Growth of Xanthium strumarium
L. along an Urban to Rural Gradient. Course
term paper: Plant ecophysiology: December 5, 2006.
Moore, Gerry. The
Metropolitan Flora Database, Genus:
Botanic Gardens: Revised June 2006. Accessed October 18, 2006.
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Once and Future
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The Island Press, 1998.
Figure 1: Current Site
Layout and District Boundaries
(Source: GIPEC website, 2006)
Figure 2: Aerial View, Governors Island,
Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn:
Island on right. (Source: GIPEC website, 2006)