Return to Case Digest Archives
skip general nav links ACHP home About ACHP


National Historic

Working with
Section 106

Federal, State, & Tribal Programs

Training & Education


 skip specific nav links
Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2002 arrow New York: Transfer of Ownership of Governors Island, New York
New York: Transfer of Ownership of Governors Island, New York

Agency: General Services Administration
For almost 200 years, Governors Island in New York harbor was used for military defense. The National Historic Landmark contains two 19th-century fortifications, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, and many other buildings that represent a broad range of architectural styles. Because the last Federal use of the property was in 1996, the property is slated for transfer out of Federal ownership, and the protection that Section 106 review affords the Governors Island Historic District would end.

Governors Island has a rich history. As a self-contained enclave in New York harbor, the National Historic Landmark was used for military defense from the 18th century through 1966. The historic district contains two important 19th-century fortifications, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, and more than 60 other buildings representing a broad range of architectural styles.

The tip of Governors Island, with Manhattan in the background


Governors Island with Manhattan in the background, New York harbor, NY (Robert Cameron, photographer; photo courtesy of



In 1966, the island was transferred to the Coast Guard, which used it until 1996. The island then became subject to transfer out of Federal ownership by the General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for disposal of surplus Government property. Among other participants, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation consulted on and signed a Programmatic Agreement that year to ensure interim maintenance of the historic district pending disposal and long-term protection of its resources.

The agreement calls for development of a Preservation and Design Manual tailored specifically for the district, and placement of protective covenants on the property to require future adherence to the manual. ACHP, GSA, the New York State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and the City of New York are consulting on the development of the manual and covenants.

After Governors Island became subject to transfer out of Federal ownership, GSA, New York State, the City of New York, and interested groups undertook various land use planning efforts. In April 2002, President Bush announced that the Federal Government would transfer Governors Island to the State and city for use as a campus for the City University of New York.

Some details remain uncertain, such as whether the State, the city, or both will own the island. There is also a question regarding the ownership of the island’s historic forts, which previously were declared a National Monument under National Park Service control by President Clinton. Also, as GSA completes consultation under the agreement and implementation of its terms prior to transfer, it must resolve issues regarding coordination of review of future projects by the city and SHPO.

Staff contact: Druscilla Null

Posted June 6, 2002

Return to Top