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Secretary Norton Praises White House Transfer of

Governors Island to the Citizens of New York

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today praised President Bush for his decision to transfer Governors Island to the citizens of New York. The transfer announced today in a ceremony at the White House fulfills the President's promise to convey the tiny island, once used as an army and U.S. Coast Guard base, to the city and state of New York.

"With President Bush's action today we combine the best of both worlds," Secretary Norton said. "The National Park Service will oversee the protection of the National Monument and maintain its historic preservation. New York will manage the remainder of the island for education and public purposes."

The transfer of the island to New York marks the end of 200 years of military use; and for the first time, all Americans will be able to enjoy this historic jewel. It also represents a symbol of hope for New York's economic, cultural and tourism recovery. The172-acre island's breathtaking views, historic structures and park-like setting, have captured the interest and stimulated excitement of all who have gazed across the harbor.

"The history of Governors Island belongs to the entire nation, but the land is an integral part of New York in its spectacular position in the heart of New York Harbor," Norton said. "This is a new symbol of rebirth and rebuilding for a city still living too close to the tragic events of Sept. 11th."

Under the transfer announced today, Governors Island National Monument will encompass approximately 22 acres, including historic Castle Williams and Fort Jay. The National Park Service will manage these areas. About 40 acres will be reserved as a state park. The city and state will administer the remainder, which will be used for educational and public purposes.

The State of New York donated the island to the United States Army on Feb. 15, 1800, on behalf of national defense. The U.S. Coast Guard took it over in 1966. In 1995, the Coast Guard announced that it would close the base. Jan.19, 2001, the island was designated a National Monument. On April 21, 2002, President Bush working with the state announced his intentions to transfer the island to New York. On Jan. 31, 2003, the transfer was completed.

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