Long-time REVITALIZATION readers are no doubt aware of the inspiring environmental restoration, heritage renewal and economic revitalization taking place on the old military property of Governors Island, off the southern tip of Manhattan.
Now, on April 24, 2023, 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 the New York Climate Exchange.
It’s a revitalizing, transformative vision for 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.
“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,” he added.
A cross-sector consortium led by Stony Brook, the 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.
“It is a tremendous honor to design a new kind of campus: One that not only sets the stage for our post-carbon world but also centers a compelling new public realm for all New Yorkers,” said Colin Koop, designer partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). “Our design embodies this stewardship by weaving sinuous mass timber pavilions through the rolling landscape of the park and reusing the historic building fabric of Governors Island. Together, these spaces will cultivate advances in climate research and pilot new technologies that can be deployed across the city and eventually the world. We look forward to working with the Trust for Governors Island, Stony Brook University, and our team of design and engineering collaborators to bring this important project to life.”
As the lead architect on Stony Brook’s team, SOM spent several months developing designs for a new kind of campus: one that not only sets the stage for our post-carbon world, but also centers a compelling new public realm for all New Yorkers.
The design and operations of The Exchange–conceived by SOM in collaboration with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Buro Happold, and Langan Engineering–will serve as a model for sustainability, deploying energy-positive design strategies including mass timber construction, on-site solar power generation, and integration of existing buildings to achieve a net zero energy campus.
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 over 2,200 100-percent 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 percent 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 significant gifts of $100 million from the Simons Foundation and $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
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. High-resolution renderings of the Exchange campus are available to download online.
The New York Climate Exchange proposal presents a unique combination of scale, vision, and impact; a wide range of proposed educational activities for New Yorkers of all ages; a focus on developing, implementing, and scaling climate solutions; a broad coalition of partners with proven track records of delivering groundbreaking research; and a demonstrated capability to deliver the proposed project. In addition to Stony Brook, a flagship of the SUNY system, the consortium includes the following core partners:
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
- Pace University (New York, NY)
- Pratt Institute (New York, NY)
- University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
- Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (New York, NY)
- Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) (New York, NY)
- IBM (Armonk, NY)
The Exchange will offer an ambitious range of accessible and free educational and job training opportunities to prepare New Yorkers and students at every level for careers focused on developing solutions to climate change.
A new climate solutions semester abroad program will launch for undergraduate students enrolled at institutions represented in the Exchange consortium, featuring coursework in climate science, policy, and environmental justice; a graduate-level fellowship program offering training and research space to students; internship and fellowship programs; and continuing education.
The Exchange has also committed to expanding a New York State Pathways in Technology (NYS P-Tech) program with the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a public high school located on Governors Island, as well as SUNY Maritime College to offer skills-based job training in additional career pathways and through college-level coursework related to climate solutions. Expanded learning opportunities will be offered to children through field trip programs and a summer camp intensive program.
In collaboration with local partners, the Exchange will host a wide range of workforce development and training programs geared towards providing accessible opportunities for New Yorkers to gain skills in career fields related to New York City’s growing green jobs sector.
Training opportunities will be delivered in partnership with local organizations, including Green City Force, New York City Employment and Training Coalition, Nontraditional Employment for Women, and SolarOne, and will work with the New York State Building Trades and Construction Council to develop construction trade training programs focused on climate resilient and sustainable building technologies.
Research and educational opportunities at the Exchange will be organized around the themes of environmental justice and inclusion; the impacts of use of food, water, and energy on climate change; and sustainable and resilient cities.
The campus will host a Research and Technology Accelerator, which will competitively award laboratory and demonstration space to academic, community-based, and entrepreneurial teams working on research initiatives and climate solutions that deliver immediate support to impacted communities, along with a Climate Tech Incubator that will prioritize M/WBEs and draw upon the expertise of business partners, including IBM and Boston Consulting Group.
Additional research activities hosted through the Exchange will offer grant opportunities for community-based organizations, as well as free exhibits, activities, and hands-on learning opportunities for Governors Island visitors to engage with and provide input towards projects in development.
The Exchange is slated to begin construction in 2025 and open in 2028. As part of the historic partnership announced today, 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 summer 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 an unprecedented group of over 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 an 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 over 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 the 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.
The campus will serve as a living laboratory, showcasing innovative approaches to sustainable and resilient design, including:
- An all-electric campus with 100 percent of energy needs generated onsite;
- The first academic campus in New York City to meet Living Building Challenge standards, including renovated historic buildings and new construction within the campus;
- New York City’s first commercial buildings utilizing mass timber;
- One of the first campuses in New York City to receive True Zero Waste certification, with 95 percent of waste generated on campus diverted from landfill;
- Climate-resilient buildings achieving Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines certification;
- 100 percent of non-potable water demand met with rainwater or treated wastewater;
- A district geothermal and heat pump HVAC network serving the entire campus, producing an estimated 70-percent reduction in energy use compared to facilities of a similar size; and
- No red-list chemicals utilized during construction.
Prior to opening, the Exchange will launch advisory councils to guide the work of the institution; launch a new seed grant program to support the design of new workforce, educational, and cultural programming; and engage with community stakeholders to continue the design process for the campus.
The campus is expected to cost approximately $700 million in total, with $150 million coming in previously allocated city capital funding, $100 million from the Simons Foundation, and $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Exchange consortium will raise funds to support the remaining development and operational costs.
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.
Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has been a leader in severe storm research, weather prediction, climate change research and mitigation efforts, and educational and research efforts to restore and protect water quality, including in the Long Island Sound, Shinnecock Bay, and other bodies of water on Long Island.
The school SoMAS also houses broader sustainability-related and atmospheric research with the goal of improving predictability about weather-related risks and building resilience against severe storms, storm surge and coastal flooding, and erosion problems.
Public and private leaders praised the project:
“New York City still remains the global hub for innovation — and the investment in Governors Island is another example of the forward-thinking vision our city can deliver on,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright.
“From a state-of-the-art education hub to creating thousands of jobs across emerging sectors, the Adams administration is writing a new, exciting chapter in our city’s history. I applaud all of the partners, the cross-sector collaboration, and leadership across multiple mayors that made this announcement possible,” she continued.
“Today, New York City establishes itself as a pacesetter in the fight to combat the climate crisis. Through this transformational initiative, we will lead the way in climate research and education while creating a first-of-its kind jobs hub for New Yorkers to benefit from the new green economy,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.
“The Trust for Governors Island set an inspired process for bold, solutions-oriented responses to climate change, the greatest threat of our time, right in the middle of New York Harbor. I am excited to see the New York Climate Exchange led by Stony Brook execute upon this vision with a state-of-the-art, 400,000-square-foot campus open to the public, 7,000 permanent jobs on the island, 2,000 construction jobs in the coming years, and a curriculum that will make New York City the undisputed leader in addressing the crisis of our time,” she explained
“The future of climate jobs and leadership is bright,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “The New York Climate Exchange will provide transformational benefits for green job training and increased access and open space in one of New York’s most beloved parks. Together with the recently released PlaNYC, we have the blueprint and investment to execute on the climate action New Yorkers need.”
“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.”
“We are honored to partner with Stony Brook and the Exchange,” said David Spergel, president, Simons Foundation. “Our partnership with Stony Brook goes back many years, and together, we’ve made great progress in both basic and health sciences. This enduring relationship is a source of great pride for all of us at the Simons Foundation. Stony Brook has catapulted to the forefront of higher education through its remarkable strengths as a research institution and its unequaled focus on equity and access. I cannot think of a more qualified institution to lead this historic fight against climate change — a fight that must be met with innovation, intellect, and tenacity.”
“With an all-electric campus, a True Zero Waste certification, and a district heat pump network that will serve the entire campus, the New York Climate Exchange will simultaneously serve as a place of research and learning as well as a one-of-a-kind sustainability example for New York City and the world,” said Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “Further, because it is based on Governors Island, the Exchange will be able to utilize New York Harbor and its amazing comeback as a resource for demonstrating how our environment can recover if we make smart and sustained investments.”
“With the advancement of the Center for Climate Solutions, the world should take note of New York’s commitment to going green,” said New York City Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chair Dan Garodnick. “Governors Island is combining a spectacular new park, improved public access, and, in partnership with Stony Brook University, a cutting-edge research and educational facility. The Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island is a huge win and will help New York continue to be a global leader in combatting climate change.”
“I am thrilled to have been part of the selection committee for the anchor institution of the Center for Climate Solutions initiative,” said Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice Executive Director Kizzy Charles-Guzman. “The New York Climate Exchange will advance science, center environmental justice learning, create a new generation of innovators in sustainability and resilience, and expand New Yorkers’ already vibrant relationship with Governors Island. Our beloved island will be a climate hub for the world, and I can think of no better pairing of place and purpose.”
“The New York Climate Exchange will incubate the actionable, innovative research needed to address our global climate crisis,” said Mayor’s Office of Equity Commissioner Sideya Sherman. “With an incredible consortium of partners, the Exchange will create inclusive opportunities for New Yorkers to convene, learn, work, and grow their businesses while advancing crucial environmental and sustainability goals. We applaud the Trust and all partners who have come together to advance this ambitious plan, which will have a lasting impact on our city and global community.”
“The Center for Climate Solutions will move New York City towards a more sustainable future by training and educating the next generation of climate experts, sparking cutting-edge research and innovation that will accelerate the development of equitable climate solutions and high-caliber companies, and creating thousands of jobs,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “We congratulate Stony Brook University on being selected to lead the New York Climate Exchange. This state-of-the-art facility will make Governors Island a hub for climate science as we work to create a vibrant and inclusive economy in New York City.”
“The world’s greatest challenges require imagination, courage, and collaboration that breaks down silos, and today’s announcement of the New York Climate Exchange as the new anchor institution for the Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island answers that call,” said Alicia Glen, chair, board of directors, Trust for Governors Island. “Governors Island is one of New York City’s great transformation stories, and I’m immensely proud of nearly two decades of investment across the leadership of multiple mayoral administrations that have led to this historic moment. Leaders around the world will always look to New York City as a center of innovation and leadership, and I could not think of a better partner than Stony Brook University and its coalition of global leaders and advocates to steward this project.”
“Climate change represents an existential challenge, and SUNY is at the forefront of the sustainability, research, and workforce development solutions that will change the world for the better,” said SUNY Chancellor John B. King. Jr. “Under the leadership of President Maurie N. McInnis, Stony Brook University is the natural choice to lead the New York Climate Exchange and is perfectly positioned to seize this moment for New York and the nation. Our thanks to Mayor Eric Adams, the Trust for Governors Island, the Simons Foundation, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for supporting this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
“In the New York Climate Exchange, Stony Brook University will bring together academic, corporate, philanthropic, and community partners to pioneer an innovative, collaborative approach to devising actionable climate solutions,” said Kevin S. Law, chairman, Stony Brook University’s Stony Brook Council; and chair, board of directors, Empire State Development. “The Exchange will incorporate cutting-edge research, critical input from affected communities, and the practical experience of committed corporate partners to bring these solutions to market, demonstrating that addressing our energy and climate challenges can generate economic development opportunities.”
“The climate issues of today are urgent. And environmental justice and ecological sustainability necessitate action from leaders across the world,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research, Georgia Institute of Technology. “As a core partner of the Exchange, Georgia Tech will provide research expertise in the areas of energy, urban planning, biological ecosystems, public policy, and more, and we look forward to playing an instrumental role in bringing its mission to fruition.”
“At Pace University, our students, faculty, and staff walk the walk of sustainability every day, and we are thrilled to bring our expertise to the New York Climate Exchange,” said Marvin Krislov, president, Pace University. “As home to the nation’s number-one-ranked environmental law program — and our expertise in land use, climate justice, ESG, and regional clean water initiatives — we are eager to work collaboratively and bring an interdisciplinary approach to climate actions that forge a more resilient future for New York City and communities worldwide. Our expertise, vast student and alumni network, and location in Lower Manhattan provide the perfect springboard for creating opportunities in the green economy and engagement on Governors Island.”
“We are so excited to be part of the New York Climate Exchange, an initiative that resonates deeply with Pratt Institute and our longstanding partnering with local communities to address the critical issues facing us today and tomorrow,” said Frances Bronet, president, Pratt Institute. “Pratt is one of the premier schools of creative inquiry, art, architecture, planning, and design in the world. As a world-renowned academic and cultural institution committed to civic engagement and advancing environmental justice, we problem-solve through an inclusive design process that brings deep technical expertise together with the experiential expertise of community partners, which over time has built an extensive network of trusted community and industry partners. Pratt brings both this unique network plus research in critical areas, from developing green buildings, policy, products, and infrastructure to resilient streetscapes, environmental sensors, and sustainable materials. For years, we have been leading research on Governors Island and are looking forward to expanding our scope as part of the Exchange’s network of community and industry collaborators.”
“We are very proud to bring our university’s deep and diverse strengths in climate and clean energy research and innovation to the New York Climate Exchange,” said Ana Mari Cauce, president, University of Washington. “As the only core partner on the west coast, we are excited to leverage our regional and global relationships to accelerate efforts to address and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This work is vital and urgent for the health and survival of our people and our world.”
“GOLES is proud to be a part of this thoughtfully put-together initiative to address issues around climate justice and resiliency,” said Damaris Reyes, executive director, GOLES. “The Exchange is the result of intentionally built partnerships between community, academics, advocates, and other stakeholders, and we look forward to all that we can achieve together.”
“From our vantage as an advisor to a diverse set of clients in New York City and across the globe, we believe that the Exchange has a unique and vital role to play in accelerating and scaling sustainable climate solutions,” said Giovanni Fassio, principal, technology practice, BCG. “We are proud to support the New York Climate Exchange in building a ‘first-of-its-kind’ living laboratory and in incubating the most impactful climate solutions to save the planet and to join ranks with a group of partners united by a shared mission to advance climate solutions that make the world a better and safer place.”
“IBM is honored and looking forward to being part of this trailblazing initiative by collaborating on tech-driven social impact and innovation efforts with Stony Brook University and the City of New York,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, chief impact officer, IBM. “The New York Climate Exchange project will allow us to contribute technology, skills, and research capabilities needed to help find climate solutions that put justice and equity at the center.”
“CUNY is pleased to support and participate in the New York Climate Exchange, a cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary collaborative model that has the strength and flexibility to address the existential climate crisis,” said City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “This work on Governors Island in New York City will allow our researchers and students to address cutting-edge climate questions, build a more sustainable and equitable city, and provide a model for higher education institutions and climate-focused scholars everywhere to work together in pursuit of research solutions to environmental justice and related concerns.”
“Brookhaven Lab researchers have played key roles in designing and conducting landmark climate studies from the Arctic to the Amazon for the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Jack Anderson, interim director, Brookhaven National Laboratory. “We’re excited at the prospect of collaborating with other researchers through the New York Climate Exchange as part of this new, important initiative focused on developing the next generation of climate experts and creating equitable climate solutions.”
“The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School community is thrilled to welcome the New York Climate Exchange and ready to collaborate with the consortium of educational institutions in establishing New York City’s Climate Center on Governors Island,” said Jeffrey Chetirko, principal, Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. “This exciting announcement not only benefits all New York City public school students, but also promotes diversity in the maritime industry, marine fields, climate research, and sustainable development. By providing opportunities for all New York City students to engage within these fields, New York City is breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future.”
All images courtesy of SOM.