$700-Million New York Climate Exchange Project Planned for Governor’s Island
Real Estate In-Depth | April 25, 2023
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Trust for Governors Island President and CEO Clare Newman, and State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis unveiled on April 24, the “New York Climate Exchange,” a first-in-the-nation climate research, education, and jobs hub on Governors Island that will create thousands of permanent jobs and $1 billion in economic impact for the city.
A cross-sector consortium led by Stony Brook was the winner of a Request for Proposals. The New York Climate Exchange will create a state-of-the-art, $700-million, 400,000-square-foot campus dedicated to researching and developing innovative climate solutions that will be scaled across New York City and the world and that will equip New Yorkers to hold the green jobs of the future.
“Today, here in the heart of New York Harbor, we are taking a giant leap toward a cleaner, greener, more prosperous future for every New Yorker with the ‘New York Climate Exchange,’” said Mayor Adams. “This first-of-its-kind project will make New York City a global leader in developing solutions for climate change while creating thousands of good-paying green jobs for New Yorkers and infusing $1 billion into our city’s economy. Where some people see challenges, New Yorkers see opportunities, and this team and this project are leading the charge.”
The culmination of a two-year, competitive request for proposal process, the selection of the New York Climate Exchange represents a major milestone in the city’s groundbreaking Center for Climate Solutions initiative—a key piece of Mayor Adams’ “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery”—which will create 7,000 permanent jobs and a billion dollars in economic impact, while expanding and enhancing public access to Governors Island.
The Exchange alone will create more than 2,200 100% union jobs, including for construction and building services, with a commitment to hire all construction and building service workers at prevailing wage and a goal of 35% minority- and women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) participation in construction.
Once fully operational, the campus is expected to serve 600 postsecondary students, 4,500 K-12 students, 6,000 workforce trainees, and 250 faculty and researchers every year while supporting up to 30 businesses annually through its incubator program. The campus will be funded in part with gifts of $100 million from the Simons Foundation and $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The campus will serve as a living laboratory, showcasing innovative approaches to sustainable and resilient design.
“With today’s announcement, Governors Island’s role as a historic gateway to New York City enters a new chapter, as a place where ideas come to life and hopeful solutions to the climate crisis become reality,” said Trust for Governors Island President and CEO Clare Newman. “We are honored to select Stony Brook University and the New York Climate Exchange to anchor the Center for Climate Solutions here on Governors Island, creating a global hub for education, research, job training, and public engagement on climate solutions for cities. Thank you to Mayor Adams, Deputy Mayor Torres-Springer, Mayor Bloomberg, and Mayor de Blasio for your commitment to the future of the Island, and thank you to President McInnis and the entire Exchange team for answering our call.”
“We are honored, excited, and proud to partner with the City of New York to build this historic center that will cement New York City as the world leader on climate change, the most pressing issue of our time,” said Maurie McInnis, president, Stony Brook University. “Up until now, the development of climate solutions has been siloed, with world leaders separate from expert scientists separate from the on-the-ground green workforce. As an international leader on climate and as the leading public research institution in New York, Stony Brook University will bring stakeholders together from the academic, government, and business communities to make the Climate Exchange the center of research, innovation, education, and collaboration to address this global crisis.”
The Exchange is slated to begin construction in 2025 and open in 2028. As part of the historic partnership, the Exchange will have the option to construct a second phase, including completing the renovation of Liggett Hall and developing additional facilities on three acres of the eastern development zone. Thanks to historic levels of investment in Governors Island generated from the project, the Trust will deliver ferry service every 15 minutes as part of the project, with a new, hybrid ferry set to begin transporting passengers in the summer of 2024.
Affiliate partners represented in the consortium include the City University of New York, Duke University, SUNY Maritime College, Moody’s, New York University, the University of Oxford, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Advisory partners to the consortium include Brookhaven National Laboratory and urbs.
The Exchange team also includes a group of more than 30 nonprofit and community partners with expertise in environmental justice, arts, workforce development, education, and labor. Partners include the American Museum of Natural History, Waterfront Alliance, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, and The Point Community Development Corporation.
The Exchange’s 400,000-square-foot campus will include classrooms, laboratories, research labs, public exhibition space, student and faculty housing, university hotel rooms, and auditorium space. The campus will include two newly constructed classroom and research buildings on three acres of the Island’s eastern development zone, as well as the restoration of more than 170,000 square feet of space within historic buildings, including Liggett Hall and the Fort Jay Theater.
In addition, the Exchange will deliver 4.5 acres of new open space in its Phase 1 plan, adding to Governor’s Island’s existing 120 acres of open space across the Historic District and South Island Park. Construction of the campus will expand and enhance access to the Island’s existing 43-acre park and its cultural and historic attractions.
“This great news is 22 years in the making,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, 108th mayor of New York City, and founder, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP. “As a candidate for mayor in 2001, I proposed transforming Governors Island into a park and university campus, and the next year, Governor Pataki and I worked with President Bush to return the island to the city and state for $1. Our administration opened a public school on the island and began building an extraordinary public park, but over time it became clear that the city needed greater control of its development.”
He related that in 2010, the city worked with Governor Paterson to cede the island to the city, which allowed it to lay the foundation for fulfilling the original vision of a year-round destination with a university presence that would bring new life and jobs. “Now, thanks to Mayor Adams’ leadership, that vision is being fulfilled through a groundbreaking partnership with Stony Brook University that holds so much potential, the Climate Exchange. Bloomberg Philanthropies is glad to join Jim and Marilyn Simons and others in supporting it, as part of our global efforts to help cities lead the way in tackling climate change. This is a great day for the island, for New York City’s future, and for the fight against climate change,” Bloomberg said.
Led by Stony Brook University, the New York Climate Exchange will be a first-of-its-kind, cross-sector nonprofit organization dedicated to climate research, solution development, education, workforce training, and public programs on Governors Island. The consortium will function as a hub for education and training to grow green jobs for New Yorkers and includes 15 members representing leading universities from around the world, as well as business and nonprofit organizations dedicated to developing and deploying solutions to the global climate crisis.
Proposals for the Center for Climate Solutions anchor institution were evaluated based on criteria developed by the Trust and the city, in collaboration with the Governors Island Community Advisory Council. The proposals were reviewed and scored by a selection committee made up of representatives from the Trust, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, the Mayor’s Office of Equity, and the New York City Department of City Planning. Additional input was provided to the selection committee by the city’s Climate Advisory Committee and through public input sessions attended by more than 200 participants held in October and November 2022.
The Center for Climate Solutions proposal was first presented publicly in 2020. An initial request for expressions of interest for the center’s anchor institution was released in June 2021. Following the release of Mayor Adams’ “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” economic recovery blueprint in March 2022, the city and the Trust for Governors Island identified four teams in April 2022 to respond to a targeted request for proposals. Mayor Adams and the Trust announced the three finalist proposals in October 2022.