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Aerial Gondola, Take Two

Real Estate Developments

A new development may be on the horizon – an aerial gondola between Manhattan and Governors Island. The 800 meters between Governors Island in the New York harbor and Manhattan can currently be accessed by ferry during May 1 to October 31. According to Crain’s, the Economic Development Corp. has asked the engineering company AECOM to determine whether the mechanics of an aerial gondola from lower Manhattan to Governors Island is possible.[1] The idea was proposed in 2006 by Spanish architect and structural engineer, Santiago Calatrava, to attract visitors onto the island, but plans fell through. Now the proposal seems more likely to go ahead as Governors Island is undergoing a redevelopment process.

Michael Samuelian, the head of the Trust for Governors Island, is eager to revamp the island and bring it back to life. “Governors Island is unlike any other place in New York City. Its historic buildings and idyllic fields are accessible only by ferry, and its 172 acres are largely devoid of cars.”[2] Governors Island has been neglected for years, but its rich history includes the island functioning as a nut repository for the native Lenape tribe to a U.S. military base.

Talks of rezoning the military base have begun, which would permit 4.5 million square feet to undergo commercial development. The island would feature hotels, offices, academic institutions, and museums. However, the deed to the island requires that the Trust covers its own costs and expenses, which has made it difficult to obtain rezoning approval. Currently the land is zoned for residential instead of commercial space. Rezoning permission will allow developers to design different types of buildings that accommodate various needs.[3]

If rezoning plans are approved it could give the Trust the incentive to build the aerial gondola to attract New Yorkers and tourists. The planning and execution will be complex and expensive because it would be built above water. Despite its complications, other large cities such as Boston and Washington D.C. are also looking to build gondola transport systems.[4]

As the Trust awaits rezoning approval, it announced in late February that this year there will be zip-lining, camping retreats, and new sport fields. The will also be accepting proposals for food trucks, outdoor cafes and beer gardens for the island’s season.[5] The once neglected military base now has the opportunity to transform into a thriving island, perhaps with an aerial gondola as its main feature.


[1] Anuta, Joe. (March 30, 2018) “City Studying Governors Island Gondola – Again.” Crain’s New York Business. Available at: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180330/REAL_ESTATE/180339996. Accessed on April 4, 2018.

[2] Anuta, Joe. “24/7 Governors Island.” Crain’s New York Business. Available at: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/reports/governors-island-redevelopment/#!/. Accessed on April 4, 2018.

[3] Anuta, Joe. (Feb. 14, 2018) “Governors Island One Step Closer to Rezoning for Development.” Crain’s New York Business. Available at: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180214/REAL_ESTATE/180219948/governors-island-one-step-closer-to-rezoning-for-development. Accessed on April 4, 2018.

[4] Anuta, Joe. (March 30, 2018) “City Studying Governors Island Gondola – Again.” Crain’s New York Business. Available at: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180330/REAL_ESTATE/180339996. Accessed on April 4, 2018.

[5] Governors Island. Available at: https://govisland.com/. Accessed on April 4, 2018.

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