LoLo: Imagining New New York

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LoLo / Governors Island rendering by Muchan Park, Luc Wilson, Leigh D'ambra and Scott Hayner for Vishaan Chakrabarti, Ruchika Modi and Laurie Hawkinson's Speculation Studio (Columbia University Center for Urban Future)

The head of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia UniversityVishaan Chakrabarti, talks about their idea for connecting Lower Manhattan to Governor's Island, and other big ideas for NYC.


Vishaan Chakrabarti

Comments [61]

The land bridge would need to divert
11,375,177,142 gallons per hour from the shipping channel.
That's about 11.4 Billion Gallons per hour diverted to the already 3 knot buttermilk channel.
[Estimating 1/2 mile wide x 40 ft deep x 4 ft/sec]
All implemented by a planner who doesn't know what tidal current or a shipping channel is.

Dec. 15 2011 05:48 AM
Karen from Manhattan

I love Governors Island the way it is. I HATE this idea. What's so great about development? I can't wait until Bloomberg is gone. Maybe all those extra people who are supposed to come here in the future can go someplace else.

Dec. 14 2011 11:06 PM

The comments referring to Robert Moses and to cancer remind me of what my father pointed out as the eventual results of many of Robt. Moses' grand projects: URBAN METASTASIS.
That's exactly what this absurd "land bridge" to a real estate La-La land would be: yet another irreversible mutation resulting in further urban metastasis.
Yes, it's the Columbia University real estate people, their P.R. people and lawyers coming up with the seed $$$ for this stupid plan and unrealistic illustration. (I should know -- I've dealt with them and their ideas and greed over many decades -- there's a reason the '68 riots didn't end until dynamite blew the Alma Mater statue off her base in '71.)
Leave the "futuristic" spirit of Robert Moses in his grave; do not resurrect it. Instead, learn from the mistakes that already did so much irreversible damage to this city and its people. (Consider why the "Occupy" movement began here -- on Wall Street!)
Mr. Chakrabarti, as others have pointed out, needs to learn more NYC history, and more about the REAL environment we have here. His type should stop wrapping such ideas in the excuse he voiced that planners see things as they'll be many, many years down the road (when they, presumably, will be long dead and immune from the consequences our grandchildren will have to live with).

Dec. 14 2011 06:14 PM
Mike D

AWESOME IDEA!!!! Change is good

Dec. 14 2011 04:22 PM
Mike D

AWESOME IDEA!!!! change is good

Dec. 14 2011 04:19 PM
Nick Lento from NJ

No one can predict how bad the effects of climate change will be in 40 years...if protecting the low lying areas of Manhattan (for a few more years) is the issue, then the massive amounts of landfill resulting from the dredging referred to in the program could be used to create some kind of reef/buffer further out that would not impair the harbor and could become wild habitat for plants and animals.

As for "development", give it up. NYC is over developed already, it's becoming a refuge for the world's multimillionaires where they can buy a status pad and not even live in it....meanwhile we've got homeless in the streets and dirt poor illegals working off the books as quasi slaves.

This project exists for one purpose only....and that's to make billions in profits for the real estate industry, developers, investors and all the associated politically connected entities that will feed off of this like a swarming cloud of Pirañas on a fatted calf that fell into the river.

Is that all there is to life? The rich getting richer and everyone else becoming impoverished? That's not a sustainable modus vivendi for long term human occupation of this city or this planet.

Greed is inherently stupid....even when it "succeeds". Cancer "succeeds" too, eh>

Dec. 14 2011 03:52 PM
JP from Red Hook

Even if Manhattan & Govs Island are connected, that land will still be prone to any storm surge. "LoLo" will be flooded with just as much water as FiDi will be during a massive hurricane. The reason we are at high risk for storm surge flooding is the way NJ, NYC and LI are geographically shaped - its like a 90 degree angle; this type of land shape will always have a high risk of flood. Connecting Manhattan & Govs Island won't change that.

Dec. 14 2011 01:09 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

And HEY !

What is that new bridge that is built above the Brooklyn -Battery Tunnel?

Can we name it the "Vishaan Chakrabarti

Dec. 14 2011 12:55 PM
Randi from Brooklyn

"Maybe this is a little of the "road-diet" regime that is aimed at hogtying commerce and transport"

@mydianne - The river between Brooklyn and Govs Island is much smaller than the river betweem Govs Island and Manhattan. If the river were reduced to the space between Brooklyn & Govs Island, this would be a marine navigation nightmare. One of NYC's greatest assets are the rivers! Any plan impeding on commercial river traffic shouldn't NEVER be considered.

Dec. 14 2011 12:55 PM
Joep de Koning from NYC

This is all about real estate which also has been the reason for absolute political silence since 1998 with respect to the island's national symbolism as the birthplace of New York State and the place on which New York's oldest laws and ordinances were placed in 1624 including the jurisprudence of religious tolerance - a fundamental value in the conception of American freedom and also a universal value of 21st-century relevance. This can be seen on

Dec. 14 2011 12:53 PM

This seems to me to be a more illustrative rendition of Mr. Chakrabarti's intentions.

Why would WNYC present a north, East River picture of a south, East River project?
(Admittedly the blurry bucolic view is more attractive) Is "picture placement" a fund raising premium?

Dec. 14 2011 12:29 PM

As to the proposal (which you can see here after 18 seconds, it's as visionary as it is unlikely.

Millions of New Yorkers will profess to be environmentalists in order to protest such a plan, yet the plan itself intend to address global sea level rise and the risk of flooding by constructing barrier islands. The real estate angle provides the tax receipts to pay for such developments.

So also did this program at MoMa have the environment in mind:

And this, with regard to storm surges:

Some combination of projects like these will be necessary for the defense of the region against sea level rise and storm surges. But, political will might be too weak to overcome intransigence by the electorate.

Dec. 14 2011 12:19 PM
Captain Chris from East River

This land bridge would block a major shipping channel up the East River to Long Island Sound. The channel is 40 ft deep and millions of gallons of water flow at 1.9 knots through it.
This would not be this be a minor environmental and economic impact.
Where will that tide-driven water go? Buttermilk Channel? Where the current already runs 3 Knots?

Dec. 14 2011 12:18 PM
Marcos from the Bronx

The project is not "nuts" in the sense of unworkable. And it is true that in the global picture density is better for the environment. As a licensed NYC tour guide, I think it may be helpful to consider this project within a broad sweep of history. The audacity of the project evokes the Erie Canal, which added tremendous value to NYC's harbor, making it the "gateway to the midwest", whose tremendous agricultural, and natural resources were the most valuable "tradeable" asset for early 19th USA. With out the Erie Canal New Orleans, at the base of the Mississippi may have become the "natural" hub of North American commerce.

But, if "Lo-Lo" is undemocratically implemented it could bear more resemblance to the Cross Bronx Expressway, which led to the disintegration of the BX, and was unsuccessful as a piece of commuter infrastructure (one of the most congested slow moving roadways in USA, it would've been more constructive to let drivers take the streets, and build a new a rail line).

One possible unintended consequence of Lo-Lo landfill:

The natural resource that led to there being an economic hub at the base of Manhattan to begin with, was NY harbor. Can we really assume that this will not again be a leading economic asset to our area in the future? Do we dare enact a project that would reduce the size and utility of the Harbor for all future generations.

Dec. 14 2011 12:14 PM
Nick Lento from nj

Vishaan Chakrabarti gave himself away with his Freudian slip re how "if this was China it would be cleared in a week".

This is not about the environment, or about providing "affordable housing" etc etc etc. It's all about creating many billions of dollars worth of more Manhattan real estate.

The contractors and the developers are salivating over this prospect...and they also get to dump polluted landfill for profit!

If this gets built it will result in MORE pollution and MORE toxic cancerous "growth". This is all about greed...not need. This is a "project" that has Robert Moses smiling in his grave.

Better to spend the hundreds of billions this will cost on REAL ecological remediation and REAL low cost quality housing and REAL quality of life improvements for the REAL people who still live in NYC! (Not just a trillion dollar boondoggle for the 1%)

On the other hand......if the climatological crap hits the fan big time in the next 20 years the whole thing will have to be abandoned anyway........

No doubt that some highly well paid PR "consultants" will be pouring over these comments looking for ways to pre-empt and to deflect the kinds of criticisms/objections being raised here...and no doubt they'll come up with smooth well crafted cover stories and distractive rationales to sugar coat the commercial self serving reality.....and shame on them (that's you!) in advance.

Oh and by the way, getting congress to approve of this would require that the feds get a major "cut" for giving up the commercial rights to what is, in some sense, still their property........I wonder how much money will find it's way into the campaign coffers of the hundreds of legislators it will take to reverse the terms of the Governor's Island gift?

This is a boondoggle that can only move forward on the strength of sheer unmitigated greed and the legalized corruption of pay to play campaign "contributions".

Dec. 14 2011 12:12 PM

Luke, you've clearly never been there. Most weekends in warm weather, the island is already filling up. It doesn't need more access, nor more people, unless you want it overrun. Go before you type.

Dec. 14 2011 12:07 PM
Luke from Fort Greene

This is awesome! Lets do it.

Why is everyone so in love with the endless insipid sprawl in all directions.

Density can be creative and interesting. Right now no one uses Gov. Island except for rare concert, brewfest or bike ride.

Dec. 14 2011 12:04 PM

On second thought:

Maybe this is a problem for the "Developmental Justice" obsessives.
Why not recognize that the white 1% who live and work in lower Manhattan are always getting the high-end investments for development?

With that insight comes the realization that the only "fair" way to develop Governor's Island would be to build a foot-bridge in the center of the East River from the south Bronx to the island. (Of course, Mr. Chakrabarti's financial backers would have to relocate their real estate investment holdings.) :-)

Dec. 14 2011 12:04 PM
Alan Wright from NJ

I think the Lower-Lower Manhattan is an interesting idea, but it misses the point and doesn't go far enough in terms of "big ideas" because it hurdles over the big ideas which are more achievable provided there's political will to do so. For one, that requires a new look at the Compact Clause of the federal Constitution and the structure of the Port Authority.

For instance, the metro region must first incorporate mass transit options to stay relevant: it's absurd to see so much waste and duplication of services between the MTA, Metro North, LIRR, PATH, NJ Transit, and both the Newark and Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and other non-integrated mass transit options in the region.

It's a huge impediment to growth and an economic (and emotional) drain on the outer boroughs that people are not able to easily transfer (their bodies) or to make a transfer (technologically/ with a ticket) without an additional fee, time spent, or real inconvenience.

The other impediment to growth: rent control and rent stabilization, which trades the property rights of some (owners) for the benefit of some (rent-stabilized and rent-controlled tenants) to the exclusion of others (those who have no such benefit). Rent control and stabilization laws should be more aggressively phased out after 2025 (75 years after NYC took control). The current rate of attrition is a mere 2-3% every few years, and less than 38% of apartments are free of rent control at present. That reality severely increases real estate prices for the remaining properties while artificially suppressing the prices for those protected by rent control laws. The laws also keep some properties grossly underdeveloped.

Any "big ideas" for NYC have to be brave enough to go against rent control laws.

Dec. 14 2011 12:02 PM
Bill from New Rochelle


What are those new green islands SSW of Governor's Island, in the lower harbor.

Are you trying to sneak and graft Randall's Island down into your Dubhattan

Dec. 14 2011 12:00 PM
Cab Hatfield from NYC

NO! Hasn't this guy noticed that New York is a port with a harbor and waterways that are of immeasurable economic and environmental value. This "land bridge" would close off the East River leaving only Buttermilk Channel as the water route from NY Harbor to the East River and LI Sound and he's talking about bridging that as well. This is not only inadequate for the volume of shipping that use our waterways but it could turn the entire East River into another Gowanus Canal.

Dec. 14 2011 11:56 AM
Jim B

Having spent the better part of four years on Governor's Island in the Coast Guard during the 70's, a land bridge to the island would both force the busy river traffic to and from the East River into the relatively narrow Buttermilk Channel, and make the passage from the Hudson to the East River more difficult. Also, the current is quite swift in that area due to the confluence of both rivers, which may create problems with the local ecology. Another consideration is how such a bridge would affect the island's relatively low density, which is part of its charm and appeal.

Dec. 14 2011 11:55 AM
reoandbert from work

It's not a bad idea however it the wrong spot where it should start in Red Hook to Governs I sland that the shortest distance and plus it much shallower than the upper channels

Dec. 14 2011 11:54 AM
Michael Boonstra from East Village

This is a terrible idea. If you've ever been to GI you appreciate it as an oasis from cars and apartment buildings. The park that will be developed there is spectacular. A pedestrian bridge from Brooklyn is a much better idea.

Dec. 14 2011 11:54 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

For CMM:

We could build absurd and ugly super-high-rise condo buildings, sell them to filthy rich new-wealth Chinese and Saudis....get than money back where it belongs !

Dec. 14 2011 11:52 AM
Nick from UWS

Venal real estate operators are now attempting to steal Governors' Island right out from under the people of NYC. It's just astonishing how disgusting and despicable these people are, and this project must be stopped.

Dec. 14 2011 11:52 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

For: Randi from Brooklyn

So the Circle Line ride costs $10.00 more, you can afford it.

And who cares about all those little fishies?
They'll only swim up and get cooked at Indian Point anyhow.

This is actually funny sh*t.

Dec. 14 2011 11:49 AM

@Randi - it does not connect to Brooklyn so it does not cut off the east river, just extends it. Looks like it ruins the view from Brooklyn Heights!

Dec. 14 2011 11:49 AM

I notice large areas of green around the edges of the East "River", is that the build up of algae-like growth caused by restricting the flow of the "river"? But I guess that could be resolved in the same way that the Gowanus Canal problems have been dealt with.

Which reminds me, how navigable will the "river" be after these modifications? (Maybe this is a little of the "road-diet" regime that is aimed at hogtying commerce and transport?)

Dec. 14 2011 11:48 AM

The only way to protect what is left of our unspoiled environments is to stop urban sprawl. I agree with Vishaan that density is the way to go. Governor's Island is completely surrounded by existing density and seems worth analyzing as a possible development site.

Dec. 14 2011 11:46 AM
Kelly from Williamsburg, home of Shanty-Condos and Bloomberg-villes.

Yeay more ugly, poorly built, eyesores quickly thrown up by get-rich-quick-and get-out "architects" (see williamsburg lawsuits)!

The "mixed-income" he speaks of is Rich and Slightly-Less-Rich. Sorry, Mr. Landbridge, get out of your bubble. Go develop New Jersey.

Dec. 14 2011 11:46 AM
Randi from Brooklyn

Here's the problem: Doesn't connecting Manhattan & Governor's Island mean cutting off the East River from New York Harbor??? This would be a disaster for the marine shipping, public transportation (ferries) and tourism industries.

I can't believe they even thought about this.

Dec. 14 2011 11:45 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Could we re-create the great sand bars at the mouth of Ny harbor off Brooklyn, and extend them out into the Atlantic?

Could we wait untill all the sand migrates down from Montalk, and pile it up at Sheepshead Bay, and creat "Sheepbutt?"

Dec. 14 2011 11:44 AM
Nick from UWS

Since Brian won't do it, I will.

Hey Chakrabarti, go f)))k yourself.

Dec. 14 2011 11:44 AM

Building out like this is the exact opposite of what bike lanes are doing for Manhattan. This idea is so wrong and totally against the direction the City is going in reducing congestion. What a crappy idea!

Dec. 14 2011 11:44 AM
Roger Geier from midtown

I have made so many trips to the island as an artist involved there, and my grandfather was stationed there in '23 and '24. My own son has trod where his grandfather did, at the same age. It is so enjoyable as it is, and has a more promising future as a wild destination.
Alexandria in Egypt was created this way, but I cannot trust the commercial developers.

Dec. 14 2011 11:43 AM
mark from NYC

i seriously just had to check my calendar to see if this was april fool's day. this is crazy talk. please rip this man a new one brian, you're being too gentle to him

Dec. 14 2011 11:43 AM
Nick from UWS

Brian, how can you sit there a not challenge this used car salesman on his nonsense?

Dec. 14 2011 11:42 AM

"if this was china it could get done in a week", ha ha, but turning Manhattan into Bejing is not exactly progress...

Dec. 14 2011 11:42 AM
Tara from NYC

This guy thinks that cities are more sustainable long term that rural or suburban communities? I beg to differ, there may be more jobs here, but the quality of services, and infrastructure in general continues to decline. Overall it is a much less healthy, and more environmentally taxing way for humans to live, than smaller communities spread out over large areas.

Dec. 14 2011 11:41 AM
michael from brooklyn

this is the worst most insane idea i have ever heard. governor's island is a special place cause it's been isolated.

this needs to be stopped!

Dec. 14 2011 11:41 AM
Zaftig from BKLYN

Can Brian please push back on the guest who is acting like this is a done deal that is just a matter of time? I find his language very obnoxious. "Oh! We will push those annoying regulations aside because this is such a great idea!"

Dec. 14 2011 11:40 AM
antonio from bayside

Bring back the streetcars! Connecting areas like staten island, red hook, eastern brooklyn/queens to the major arteries!

Dec. 14 2011 11:40 AM
Nick from UWS

Listen to this guy...he's talking about the "hurdles" involved in this project. This is a megalomaniac who will try to get this done no matter what he destroys for other people.

Dec. 14 2011 11:39 AM
Sherry from LES

Your guest is scary. That is all.

Dec. 14 2011 11:39 AM

Wow, this guy is all about the money. So shameful.

"When you build more Manhattan people come." Do we really need more people in Manhattan???? There's already too many people. Why not use this to build up grow in Red Hook? Where growth is needed.

This is just a terrible idea!

Dec. 14 2011 11:39 AM
Janice from LES

This is just insanity, sorry Bryan. It's bad enough people are priced out of town but this would be luxury living and an environmental disaster.

Can you ask him how much money is being spent on this project already?

Dec. 14 2011 11:37 AM
ray from brookly

You mentioned that "there is a PHOTO, on our webpage where you can see the vision of this land bridge." As a professional photographer, I'd like to point out that this is an illustration and not a photograph. There is a big difference. Thanks.

Dec. 14 2011 11:37 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Cool, Vishaan . Dubai comes to NY harbor. Don't forget culverts for the swift currents. Make it a thrill ride, "Ride under the landbridge"

Can this be dne on David's Island in New Rochelle too?

Dec. 14 2011 11:36 AM
Laurence from Brooklyn/UES

Absurd! Let Gov Island remain as the jewel that it is today for all of NYC's residents.

How about more barrier islands to buffer the entire New York Harbor area beyond and around the Verrazano?!?

Dec. 14 2011 11:36 AM

Yes, and Pearl St. used to be on the shoreline of Manhattan. Why does this guy seem so new to Manhattan? He really needs to learn from our past mistakes. Yikes!!!

Dec. 14 2011 11:35 AM
Nick from UWS

A mouthpiece for Columbia University real estate operations. That says it all right there.

Dec. 14 2011 11:35 AM
cynthia from office

I don't know - no matter what is said about mixed use - mixed income these always turn out to be one more neighborhood that the average person can't afford. Sorry I just can't get excited about this.

Dec. 14 2011 11:34 AM
Fanny from Brooklyn

Uhhh what about global warming? We have WAY more important things to worry about here on the "mainland." Including feeding ourselves.

Dec. 14 2011 11:34 AM
Hal Feinstein from Brooklyn Heights

Re: LoLo. I would like to see Governor's Island made into a nightlife district with restaurants, clubs and bars, an amusement park and maybe even a casino. Imagine a roller coaster with that fabulous view of lower Manhattan. With a limited number of apartments, clubs could stay open all night and not disturb residents.

Dec. 14 2011 11:34 AM
RL from bowery

This man is sooooo wrong!

We learned from Robert Moses that bridges do NOT relieve congestion - they create it!

If you want to build something to the Island, then do it from Brooklyn. But doing it from Manhattan would just put more pressure on the most already overburdened infrastructure.

Oh, this guy is killing us.

Dec. 14 2011 11:34 AM

I'm thining "LOGO" would be a better name.

Dec. 14 2011 11:34 AM
Steve from Manhattan

Connecting Governor's Island to Manhattan is an awful idea. Why can't we just leave green space alone?

Dec. 14 2011 11:33 AM
Nick from UWS

Every beautiful thing on this planet is being destroyed by egomaniacs with "concepts".

Dec. 14 2011 11:33 AM
Paul Bevan from Midtown

If it's Lower Lower Manhattan, shouldn't it be shortened to LoLoMa?

Dec. 14 2011 11:33 AM
Nick from UWS

Jesus...more evidence of mankind's insatiable lust to destroy every peaceful open space with hideous suffocating crap and garbage. We don't deserve a beautiful planet. We have never learned the most valuable lesson....leave things alone.

Dec. 14 2011 11:32 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.