The Journal News from White Plains, New York on September 30, 1997 · Page 23
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The Journal News from White Plains, New York · Page 23

White Plains, New York
Issue Date:
Tuesday, September 30, 1997
Page 23
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" . if- : Gannett Newspapers - "'JNTuesday, September 30, 1997 3D 1 LJevjs in ,ccus News & views on today's top stories V D M.' clLfuiJ& LlsS: UUdJ VHUU : Governor's Island in N.Y. harbor goes begging for a new tenant By Richard Pyle The Associated Pres Imagine: 172 clean, green and serene acres in New York harbor, 360 years of history, a nine-hole golf course in the shadow of Wall Street's towers, postcard views of the Statue of Liberty framed in sunset gold. Governor's Island, the island nobody knows, has become the island nobody wants. ,;The U.S. Coast Guard phases out its 31-year tenancy on historic Governor's Island at the end of this month and the future of the "pristine island," as the outgoing commander, Capt. Hank Dresch, calls it, is in limbo. Even the mantra of the New York real estate market location, location, location hasn't helped the General Services Administration, the government's landlord, find a new tenant. In recent months, other federal agencies by law, given first crack at the island showed no interest, even with the possibility nf a heftv Hisrnnnt The ritv the state and certain nonprofit pub- L he service institutions are now eligible, and down the road some private developers might be interested, for the right price. But recent budget-balancing legislation in Congress has thrown the situation into confusion some say chaos by delaying any sale of the island until 2002, and eliminating $8.3 million earmarked for its upkeep in fiscal 1998. Unless that money is restored, say officials, a 60-member Coast Guard maintenance and security team will itself be forced to pull out, literally leaving the island to the elements and its resident flock of Canada geese. - While refusing comment, GSA officials are known to consider the situation dire, as do others interested in the island's future. . .The image of an abandoned Governor's Island quickly becomes nightmarish: weed-choked lawns, landmarked buildings at the mercy of graffiti vandals, arsonists or squatters; plaques commemorating everybody from John Peter Zenger to the Wright ;Brothers scavenged for scrap or souvenirs. mm . - , . - PhotosThe Associated Press Governor's Island boasts 172 clean, green and serene acres in New York Harbor, a nine-hole golf course in the shadow of Wall , Street's towers and postcard views of the Statue of Liberty framed in sunset gold. 4 The U.S. Coast Guard phases out its 31-year tenancy on the historic island in New York harbor at the end of this month, and the future of the island is in limbo. ISEven private developers and we've talked to all of them have shown zero interest S3 Deputy Mayor Randy Lvin "It's the specter of Ellis Island," said one official, referring to the historic immigration center across the harbor that nearly fell to ruin before it was rescued by the National Park Service and turned into a museum drawing a million visitors a year. Already, the Coast ' Guard's withdrawal has left an eerie silence. Handsome brick homes on Colonels' Row stand vacant. No cars or pedestrians move along "the shoreline road. On Buttermilk Channel, where orange-and-white Coast Guard cutters tied up until a few months ago, the only activity on a recent day was two maintenance workers fishing off Lima pier on their lunch hour. Despite the uncertainty, there has been no shortage of ideas. Proposals at recent hearings included using the land for a park, subsidized housing; a "living museum" similar to Williamsburg, Va.; a university campus, a prep school for bright students; a "water-oriented resort;" an Olympic Village for the 2008; games and a gambling casino. And it was clear that some New Yorkers cringe at the idea of a Trump Island for rich folks. "The creation of a private island developed exclusively for the wealthy was stressed as undesirable," says a GSA report. A Dutch official, Wouter Van Twiller, bought the island from the Manahatas Indians in 1637 for a few axe-heads, iron nails and beads. It has been a military base, off limits to civilians, for most of the past 200 years. In the early 1900s, its size was doubled with landfill from the city's new subways. The Coast Guard inherited it from the Army in 1966, built new housing and created a community of 5,000, accessible only by ferry from lower Manhattan. To many servicemen, it was an ideal assignment: no lonely boat station on a windy coast, but a self-contained suburb one motel, one Burger King, one gas station, one theater, one public school and five fire engines 10 minutes from Manhattan's towers. "You look around and see that anything that a small community has, is pretty much identical with what we have here," said Lt. Will Agen, who spent nine years at Governor's Island and was married in its chapel. But with the Coast Guard facing $1 billion worth of cost cutting and consolidation in the next four years, leaving Governor's Island was a no-brainer. "It required 500 people and $60 million a year before any Coast Guard work was done," Dresch said. Congress says the island is worth $500 million, a figure that Deputy Mayor Randy Levine, who heads a City Hall task force, calls "ridiculous." "Nobody is going to pay that much for it unless the federal government agrees to pay for maintaining it," Levine said. "Even private developers and we've talked to all of them have shown zero interest." But the price isn't cast in concrete. Congress has stipulated that when the island goes on the block in 2002, it will be at "fair market value," based on a current appraisal, GSA spokeswoman Renee Miscione said. At a July hearing, Levine said even $8.3 million was "barely enough to mothball" Governor's Island for a year. By comparison, the Presidio, a surplus Army base in San Francisco, eats up $80 million in capital funds and $25 million a year for upkeep. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has urged Congress to restore upkeep money. Who's who lists Smothers brothers The Associated Press In the 360 years since Wouter Van Twiller, an official of New Netherland, bought it from local Indians for two axe-heads and a few nails and beads, Governor's Island has made history the kind often overlooked, forgotten or ignored. Its oldest building, dating from 1708, was paid for "by taxing people who wore pearl rings and periwigs, slave owners and bachelors over 25," says a government brochure. The island's 20-acre, nine-hole golf course is the only one with a Manhattan zip code, and so compact that its fairways criss-cross each other. Originally 90 acres, the island nearly doubled to 172 acres in 1901-08, with some 4.8 million cubic yards of landfill from the excavation of the Lexington Avenue subway. In 1776, Continental troops were driven off the island by British guns, but bought time for Gen. George Washington to evac uate his beleaguered army from Brooklyn to Manhattan and save the American Revolution. Over two centuries, the island's guns never fired a shot in anger, but were credited with helping to discourage a British attack on New York during the War of 1812. Its stone fortress, which housed captured Confederate officers in the Civil War, was called Castle Williams and remained a military stockade for the next century. During World War I, Walt Disney was detained there for going AWOL; in World War II, it was boxer Rocky Graziano. One plaque identifies the building where an officer named Ulysses S. Grant lived in 1852. Another, listing commanders of the Army's 16th Regiment, reads like a Who's Who from Gettysburg to San Juan Hill. The Smothers brothers, Tom and Dick, were born in the base hospital in the late 1930s, during the tour of duty of their father, an Army major. In colonial times, the island served as a quarantine center for refugees from Europe. A group of Palatines fleeing Germany in 1710 included 13-year-old John; Peter Zenger, who became a printer and was acquitted in a landmark press freedom case decades before the First Amendment. In 1909, Wilbur Wright took off from Governor's Island for a spin around the Statue of Liberty. A bronze propeller, cast from the "Flyer" original, commemorates the event A large rock stands where President Reagan and French President Francois Mitterand re- ' lit the Statue of Liberty's torch by remo control during Miss Liberty's centennial celebration in 1986. . The 1988 summit between President Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev took place in the 1840-vintage Admiral's House, and in 1993, the South Battery was the site of talks to restore democracy in Haiti "If the island is neglected, past investments will be squandered and any potential future investments put at risk," he told lawmakers in a letter. While most New Yorkers presumably know Governor's Island exists, relatively few have visited it or know what's there. "Because of its isolation, the island is a mystery to most of us," says a Regional Plan Association report. "But its isolation has pre served its extraordinary heritage of 18th and 19th century architecture, historic fortifications, wooded lanes, open lawns and scenic views ... a magical place for the few who have had a chance to visit." J ilmfE.i J- M , r ...... i . j T2 Advertisement, fci aiMCiiuci. s diseased FORGETFULNESS CONFUSION INABILITY TO RECALL " RECENT EVENTS - REPETITIVENESS DISORIENTATION ; DIFFICULTY : FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS The Nathan S. Kline Institute is testing for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease in Orangeburg, -Rockland and Rye Brook, Westchester. If you qualify, you will receive a complete medical evaluation and laboratory tests. You may also have an opportunity to receive medication to treat your memory loss all paid for by the pharmaceutical sponsor. Jelf ifom lumd w Iced m& today,. For Information call: (914) 359-6330 Nunzlo Pomara, M.D. Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry Nathan S. 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This "electronic nerve block" can be used painlessly to provide fast relief for many conditions which tend to be too painful or don't respond to conservative therapies, such as low back and leg pain, neck and arm pain, herniated disc pain, and severe headaches. It can also be used for a variety of conditions which tend to recur chronically. Prior to the develop ment of this new procedure, a patient in severe pain may have had to receive special nerve block injections in a hospital setting to diminish pain. With this electronic nerve block, pain signals are blocked during a painless 20 - 30 minute procedure, after which, once pain is diminished, conservative therapy can be applied to help injured tissues normalize and become healthier. Many patients can experience significant relief immediately after treatment This procedure is now utilized by physicians on premises specializing in Pain Management, Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation Neurology, and Anaesthesiology for many painful musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. In addition, most insurances cover the procedure. Now, there's no rej-son why you, or someone you know should suffer any longer. If you would like to be evaluated to see if this breakthrough treatment can help you, the initial consultation and evaluation is being offerfid free as a public service 1. In 11 hi, jili 11 ffiiifi' iltri iT tin rtin- 1

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