- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

President Bush will transfer Governors Island to New York state for a nominal fee, preventing the historic island off the southern tip of Manhattan from being sold to the highest bidder.
"I looked at the law, looked at the circumstances, and decided this morning this is the right thing for the U.S. government and it's the right thing for the people of New York," Mr. Bush said in an Oval Office announcement, with New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg at his side.
"I think it's going to make the life of the city that has been tragically affected by killers and murderers better. And I think it will enhance the quality of education," Mr. Bush said.
The federal government will work with state and city officials as they determine what civic purposes the island is to be used for, administration officials said. The price tag will be determined in negotiations, the officials said, though it is expected to be minimal.
Mr. Bloomberg said the move will allow New York to move part of City University of New York to the island, where it will help train teachers and ultimately shrink class sizes.
"You could not make a bigger impact on America going forward than by this gesture," Mr. Bloomberg said.
"On behalf of the people of New York, thank you," said Mr. Pataki. "This is great news for New York."
The move caps years of confusion over the status of the 172-acre former military base.
In 1995, President Clinton was flying over New York Harbor when he made an offer to his seatmate, then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat. He would transfer the island to New York for $1 if state and city officials would come up with a plan that would include public access.
Otherwise the island was to be put on the auction block and sold at fair market value, now estimated at between $300 million and $500 million. But delays and squabbling prevented the deal from being completed.
With his wife newly elected as New York's junior senator, Mr. Clinton took one last stab at determining the island's fate when he granted two forts on it national monument status just before leaving office. Mr. Clinton said the forts played important roles in U.S. military history from the War of 1812.
The move made the island less desirable to developers, but after Mr. Bush took office, the General Services Administration said existing law stipulated that the island be sold at fair market value beginning in fiscal year 2002. The Justice Department said the statute overrode Mr. Clinton's monument declaration.
"Since there are no longer any military requirements, it is only fitting that Governors Island be returned to New York as we have requested for five years or so, and it can be put to wonderful public use," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, whose district includes the deserted island.
Situated in New York Harbor with a view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island served as a military base for 300 years until the Coast Guard decommissioned its base there in 1997. Since then, the prime real estate has been home to little more than migratory birds.
The island was purchased by the Dutch in 1637, then used by the British as a Colonial governor's residence. It was the site of a 1988 meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

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