City chooses consortium to develop Governors Island climate research center

The mayor and the Trust for Governors Island announced yesterday that a consortium of institutions will develop a piece of the southeast corner of Governors Island as a research center for climate solutions called the “New York Climate Exchange.” The seven-acre, 400,000-square-foot campus will be led by SUNY’s Stony Brook University as a nonprofit organization that will address the global climate crisis.

This is just a fraction of the area of the island that was upzoned in 2021 — that was a 34-acre section that would allow for 4.2 million square feet of development.

The Simons Foundation, whose mission is to advance research in mathematics and the basic sciences (Jim Simons used to chair the math department at Stony Brook University, was a codebreaker for the U.S. during the Vietnam War and went on to be the billionaire founder of a quantitative trading hedge fund) will provide $100 million and Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide $50 million to help build the facility. The city has committed $150 million and the Exchange will fundraise the rest of what is expected to be $700 million to build the plan.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2025 and the center should open in 2028 with classrooms, laboratories, research labs, public exhibition space, student and faculty housing, university hotel rooms and an auditorium space in two newly constructed classroom and research buildings on three acres of the island’s eastern development zone, as well as the restoration of over 170,000 square feet of space within historic buildings, including Liggett Hall and the Fort Jay Theater.

Once fully operational, the campus is expected to serve 600 postsecondary students, 4,500 K-12 students, 6,000 workforce trainees and 250 faculty and researchers every year while supporting up to 30 businesses annually through its incubator program.

The Trust will step up ferry service to every 15 minutes as part of the project, with a new hybrid ferry starting in summer 2024.

The mayor’s office said the Exchange will create 7,000 permanent jobs and $1 billion in economic impact and add 4.5 acres of new open space to the island, in addition to the island’s current park land. The area was also upzoned to allow for 22-story buildings and the decision was then challenged in court on the argument that the new buildings would change the park nature of the island. The case was dismissed by a judge in December.

Core partners in the consortium include Pace, Pratt, IBM, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Washington, Boston Consulting Group and Good Old Lower East Side.

Affiliate partners include the City University of New York, Duke University, SUNY Maritime College, Moody’s, New York University, the University of Oxford and Rochester Institute of Technology. Advisory partners to the consortium include Brookhaven National Laboratory and urbs.

But wait, there’s more. Some environmental features include:

  • An all-electric campus with 100 percent of energy needs generated onsite;
  • New York City’s first commercial buildings utilizing mass timber;
  • One of the first campuses in New York City to receive True Zero Waste certification, with 95 percent of waste generated on campus diverted from landfill;
  • 100 percent of non-potable water demand met with rainwater or treated wastewater;
  • A district geothermal and heat pump HVAC network serving the entire campus, producing an estimated 70-percent reduction in energy use compared to facilities of a similar size; and
  • No red-list chemicals utilized during construction.

The Center for Climate Solutions proposal was first presented publicly in 2020. An initial request for expressions of interest for the center’s anchor institution was released in June 2021. Mayor Adams and the Trust announced the three finalist proposals in October 2022.


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1 Comment

  1. Oh dear! A billionaire code breaker during the Vietnam War. Hedging bets; a lot to think about while he develops a “small” part of Govs. Island.