2003-2005: Where it all started

David Koren was the Marketing Director for architecture firm Gensler’s New York office and Northeast Region when he first became interested in Governors Island through tracking the early steps in the development process for the island after the city gained control in 2003. Through Robert Balder, former Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) and Gensler Urban Planner, David met Barbara Romer, who had been building a coalition to create a New Globe Theatre on the island (based on Shakespeare’s Globe in London). Governors Island was a frequent topic of conversation in the architecture and construction industries, as the island struggled through a public process to create a framework for future development based on its restrictive deed. It was a compelling challenge: what would New York City do with a new piece of real estate that couldn’t be turned into a new residential neighborhood or an exclusive destination for the wealthy?

The island was first opened to the public on a very limited basis in 2004. In early 2005, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC), the joint city-state agency established to run the island, released its Development Framework Report. A Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to generate ideas for what path the development might take followed. As part of this process, GIPEC hosted public meetings for people intending to submit Expressions of Interest. David first went with Robert Balder (who, as a former leader at the NYC EDC, knew the island well) on a tour of the island on May 3, 2005. David was amazed by the huge potential of the island, but more than this, the challenge of how to develop a place with so many constraints, and with such a high start-up cost to maintain historic buildings, rebuild infrastructure, and provide transportation.