Governors Island gondola a ‘go’

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The “Governors Island Gondola” is a go.

A once seemingly implausible method of transporting visitors from the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park to a someday-to-be-reopened Governors Island by gondola is officially part of the city and state plan for the mothballed former Coast Guard base.

To demonstrate its support for the Euro-flavored mode of transport, city and state officials trotted out architect Santiago Calatrava — best known for his soon-to-be-magnificent PATH train station at Ground Zero — at a press conference this week to show off his pod-like air train.

Access to the jewel of New York harbor, just a half-mile off the Brooklyn waterfront, has stymied planners for years. But six months ago, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff floated a plan for a network of gondolas linking recreation areas on the Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan waterfronts to the island.

Calatrava said he volunteered to design the model.

At Wednesday’s press conference, reporters were skeptical. When one asked about the effect of wind on cable cars dangling 200 feet over the water, Mayor Bloomberg gestured toward Calatrava and said, “That’s why he’s an architect.”

The mayor’s confidence in Calatrava was immediately slammed by his onetime mayoral rival, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Bensonhurst).

“I am concerned that the elevated gondola … would be an expensive and ugly diversion from the common sense travel option: the ferry,” he said.

Beyond Calatrava’s $125-million gondola, city and state officials called for “visionary ideas” to reconceive the entire island, a historic federal base that was ceded to New York more than a decade ago for $1 under the provision that it be developed for public use.

Doctoroff said the official “request for proposals,” which are due May 10, would put the island on “an aggressive timetable for 2008.”

The “winner” of the RFP process will assume the $12 million annual maintenance costs that are now split between the city and state, Doctoroff said.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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