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June 19, 2007

Governors Island Project Needs to Gain Momentum

Public Forum Should be “Springboard” to Progress

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today called upon leadership at the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. (GIPEC) to build and sustain momentum on efforts to redevelop the historic New York Harbor island, which has seen minimal progress since the federal government transferred ownership to the city and state in early 2003.

“A legacy of stalled progress has kept the public from fully enjoying the educational, recreational, and cultural benefits promised by a redeveloped Governors Island,” DiNapoli said. “After more than four years and more than $40 million of taxpayer dollars with little to show in terms of progress, it’s hard to argue that the public has been getting its money’s worth. This public forum should be a springboard toward steady progress. It’s an opportunity for GIPEC to renew its focus on redeveloping Governors Island.”

The public will get a chance to hear the five competing open space redevelopment plans from their respective designers tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 20) at a public forum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The federal government, which had controlled the 172-acre island since 1800, transferred most of Governors Island to the city and state through GIPEC, which is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) While the National Park Service holds title to 22 acres on the northern end of the island, GIPEC is charged with the planning, redevelopment, and operations of the larger, 150-acre property.

With a dozen people on staff, a 12-member board appointed by the Governor and the New York City Mayor, and roughly $92 million of city and state taxpayer support through April 2009, GIPEC has been entrusted to deliver a master plan for redeveloping the island by December 31, 2007. An audit report DiNapoli’s office issued earlier this month questioned whether GIPEC will have a plan in place by the December deadline that was outlined in the 2003 agreements with the federal government. GIPEC has already missed an accelerated, February 2006 master plan deadline that the city and state adopted as a goal.

The June 5, 2007 audit report also determined that GIPEC would strengthen its finances if it took several steps, including: having ESDC management prepare complete financial statements for GIPEC; having ESDC management ensure that GIPEC managers have direct access to financial data and advance knowledge of payments made by ESDC on GIPEC’s behalf; making sure GIPEC officials reconcile payments to services provided; verifying that all GIPEC managers possess the necessary qualifications for their positions.

In addition to being the State Auditor, the Comptroller performs other constitutionally and statutorily mandated duties as New York State’s chief fiscal officer. These duties include operating the State’s accounting system, preparing the State’s financial statements, and approving State contracts, refunds, and payments.

Click here for a copy of the audit.



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