Reenergized: A More Resilient Governors Island

Situated in the heart of the New York Harbor between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan lies Governors Island, a 172-acre historic island and the oldest European settlement in New York. It has been in continuous military use since the 18th-century, and has served as a base for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 and 1966, respectively.

Connections Governors Island Reengergized

For almost two centuries, the island was closed to the public; only in the late 1990s did the island begin welcoming non-military visitors.

Transitioning from a historic military base to one of New York City’s most unique public parks was not without its challenges. For years, the island dealt with an outdated electrical system; not only was it in poor condition, but its infrastructure was near the end of its life expectancy. Reliable, flexible electrical systems were required to create a successful and safe public space, and were also key for attracting developers that could expand the island’s programs and offerings. With students, employees and visitors to support year-round, a complete rehabilitation was long overdue.

To meet these goals, Syska Hennessy Group was commissioned to provide a complete upgrade and reconfiguration to the existing electrical infrastructure in 2012.

Routed via the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel from Brooklyn, the island’s electrical systems are housed in a historic building that cannot be modified or expanded. To upgrade these systems within the existing building, our engineers initiated a complex, phased removal and fully reinforced the interior to sustain floods from entering. The island-wide underground feeders were replaced and relocated, and island operations and maintenance procedures were established to accommodate future infrastructure upgrades.

Our designs rehabilitated and improved the overall condition of the island’s electrical framework, minimizing maintenance costs and providing a reliable and resilient power supply for the existing tenants, park facilities and anticipated future development–all while preserving the island’s historic infrastructure.

Because of the success of the initial upgrade, Syska was invited to continue working on Governors Island, developing an emergency backup plan and starting to replace many secondary feeds to the historic buildings on the island.

While the historic Fort Jay and Castle Williams still stand and park-goers still enjoy historic reenactments, the island no longer revolves around wartime activities. Today’s Governors Island revolves around the New York Harbor School, lush landscapes and hundreds of public events held throughout the summer season.