Governors Island American Symbol
Governors Island Lifeblood of American Liberty
Governors Island Preservation and Education Project
Governors Island is the historical locus of the dynamic principal of tolerance - a reciprocal dynamic and the foundation of American liberty. Tolerance is a vital subset in the conception of American freedom and a crucial pillar of democracy.
YouTube - Governors Island Tolerance Park - Video
The jurisprudence of religious tolerance as an individual right was placed first in the New World on Governors Island in New York State in the year 1624. That Tolerance is the thematic antecedent to Liberty whereas Liberty is the precursor to Welcome in America (Governors Island, Liberty Island and Ellis Island respectively.) Therefore, the yoke of oxen named Tolerance and Liberty—fraternal twins—pulls the cart of American Freedom to eternal unity.
The Governors Island Preservation and Education Project is a 50-acre living park-to-tolerance which will provide our children with an opportunity to understand the meaning of American freedom. It will afford them a deeper appreciation of tolerance and liberty as equal partners in a pluralist, democratic society, on the very place where these notions first took root in 1624. Indeed, Tolerance and Liberty are innate to American Freedom—they are its constituent parts.
In the way that a house of stone and brick is held together by cement, tolerance is the mortar that holds this world together—that enables mankind to prosper through social cohesion for successful ethnic diversity and cultural diversity. As a reciprocal dynamic, the precept of tolerance requires ongoing struggle grounded in "broad awareness and conscious vigilance" in order to cement what unites us in freedom and to surmount what divides us. When the cement fails, so will the house—as in intolerance.
It is a politician’s obligation to govern for the common good of a sovereignty. Therefore, it is a New York State politician’s public duty to recognize, restore and preserve the tangible birthplace of his/her sovereignty—Governors Island—which also is the origin of the nation’s fundamental virtue of tolerance as the dynamic source in American freedom. Therefore, as historic symbol of the State’s identity, the Island’s legacy with its intangible message must be safeguarded politically and made tangible for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
“I work for the people of the State of New York. That’s where I work for. I work for the people. I don’t work for the special interests. I don’t work for the lobbyists. I work for the people” (NY State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, January 1, 2011.)
“The strength of a democracy is based in part on how much its citizens know” (Oct. 29, 2009, Henry J. Stern, Director www.nycivic.org.)
“Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired” (Robert F. Kennedy.)
“This country, to my way of thinking, cannot be successful if it ever divides on sectarian lines...If there are any considerable number of our people that are going to listen to appeals to their passion and to their prejudice, if bigotry and intolerance and their sister vices are going to succeed, it is dangerous for the future life of the Republic. And the best way to kill anything un-American is to drag it out into the open, because anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight" (Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York State and Presidential nominee, Oklahoma City, September 20, 1928.) The opening sentence as the basis for Tolerance Park is amended by the editor as: "This country, to my way of thinking, cannot be successful if it ever divides on sectarian, ethnic or racial lines...."
“When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts" (First Inaugural Address of President Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801.)
"For in this most flourishing state and most splendid city, men of every nation and religion live together in the greatest harmony...his religion and sect is considered of no importance... In fact, the true aim of government is liberty." (Baruch de Spinoza, 1670.)
“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had an actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger
” (Niccolo Machiavelli, 1532.)
To officially consider and visually acknowledge the momentous message of elemental significance as placed in 1624 on Governors Island — New York State birthplace and oldest NY State landmark — is in the national interest as well as the interests of New York State and New York City.
Our Constitution confers various rights on United States citizens pertaining to individual liberty. The concepts of religious, ethnic and racial tolerance are indispensable ingredients in liberty-for-all.
The State of New York should recognize that it was founded on the jurisprudence of religious tolerance as the basis for ethnic and cultural diversity in 1624. This precept has been the driving force behind New York's dynamic political culture. The virtuous notion of toleration as an individual right was delivered by the first settlers to Governors Island as a legal-cultural condition in 1624.
This precept in the conception of American freedom is also the foundation for mutually beneficial trade which requires reciprocal respect for enduring success. Trade, therefore, is a pragmatic manifestation of tolerance because it transcends issues of religion, ethnicity and race. This is evidenced by the success of New York City, originally New Amsterdam, as its exponent since 1625.
Within the context of the three historic landings at Jamestown (1607), New Plymouth (1620) and Governors Island (1624), the latter signifies the culturally most important place because it symbolizes America’s earliest juridical contribution to liberty as we know it today.
Visualization of Senate Resolution No. 5476 and Assembly Resolution No. 2708 which recognize Governors Island as the origin of North American tolerance, therefore, would illuminate the island as a primary American symbol in New York Harbor next to Liberty Island — its thematic complement. When thus realized, this new icon would radiate the idealistic version of tolerance as a universal value and as the dynamic subset of American freedom through broad awareness and conscious vigilance.
Honoring Governors Island’s legacy is therefore in the national interest, in the public interest and for the national common good. The island is the locus of New York’s inclusive culture and the wellspring of a message reflective of New York’s historical and contemporary identity.
Dedicating 30% of the island for the organic growth of a not-for-profit, financially self-sustaining education and history project — the Tolerance Park with at its locus the Tolerance Monument — requires the active involvement of the State Legislature. A two-house bill only can restore, preserve and sustain the historic message of New York State’s birthplace for the benefit of future generations.
Already on February 7, 2000, Dr. Cynthia P. Schneider, American Ambassador to the Netherlands, wrote about this shared, mutual cultural heritage and the joint historic values of two nations to Governor Pataki and Senators Moynihan and Schumer in support of this plan. She declared that “naturally you also need an economic rationale to support such a large project”...as emissaries “of the state with the cultural capital of the world, I doubt you need persuading on the revenue value of cultural tourism. I am certain that you are aware that more people attend museums than professional sports...I hope you will take it.”
Legislative initiative is the only way to enable the portrayal of America’s ultimate virtue as a prerequisite to American liberty on Governors Island. It would accomplish a National Heritage Triangle of America’s primary values as an inspiration to humanity and composed by three island symbols in New York Harbor, each one reflecting its own unique facet of history.
Introduction of a "Unibill", however, requires sponsors and co-sponsors willing to act in the public interest and for the common good while aspiring to safeguard New York's identity and GovIsland's legacy in order to sustain a historic message of enduring value to New Yorkers and, in particular, future generations of Americans.
Lifeblood of American Liberty
The Tolerance Park restores Governors Island to its rightful historical, thematic importance and extols America’s vital role in advancing liberty in the world through the moral force of tolerance. It will be the place where 350 years of contrasts will visually dissolve harmoniously into a new and unique village, just as divergences and boundaries melt away through the ethical force of tolerance into common humanity.
The park will provide our children with an opportunity to understand the meaning of American freedom and afford them a deeper appreciation of tolerance and liberty as equal partners in a pluralist, democratic society, at the very place where these notions first took root in 1624.
As an ethical force, tolerance is central to the contemporary Western conception of personal freedom which can be defined in terms of the twin credos of tolerance and liberty. Tolerance builds liberty. Intolerance kills liberty – it impairs democracy and may even destroy it. By preserving Governors Island, the oldest NY State landmark, as symbol of Tolerance for America, the GovIsland Park-to-Tolerance – wherein situated the Tolerance Monument – could serve as an enduring beacon to humanity.
The reclamation of Governors Island as fundamental American history and as the origin of American toleration would reveal thus Governors Island American Symbol as a crucial pillar of democracy.
GovIsland’s legacy of Tolerance, together with the notion of liberty constitute the conception of American freedom. With the adjoining Liberty Island whereon the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island whereon the American Immigration Museum, Governors Island composes a National Heritage Triangle of New York Harbor symbols of quintessential American values.
The origin of tolerance as a legal and political imperative in the Western Hemisphere can be traced to the year 1624 in which it was delivered by the first settlers to Governors Island in New York Harbor. As the historical basis for New York State’s characteristic tradition and cultural diversity, tolerance is the State's birthright and became a primary subset of American freedom. It has been the lifeblood of American liberty ever since – America’s ultimate virtue.
Tolerance is an active dynamic entailing reciprocity and reciprocal respect. Always bilaterally demanding, it forges “American” freedom by relentlessly transforming plurality into constructive pluralism as a never-finished product of American culture.
the face of intolerance, tolerance is neither uncritical acceptance, appeasement or submission, nor laxity, sloth or indifference. Indeed, as a prerequisite for sustainable liberty, the limits of tolerance set the standards of liberty and societal freedom itself.
Tolerance defines and gives meaning to an otherwise undemanding “generic” or “static” freedom. Without conscious vigilance and broad awareness of that vital, fundamental notion of tolerance, there will be times when there will be no freedom or democracy in the sense that Americans recognize that term today.
Left unnurtured and unprotected, simple liberty invites and facilitates the "friends" of intolerance and extremism—complacency, carelessness, apathy, passivity and insipidness—opening the door to insidious assaults on civil liberties.
In his Inaugural Address of January 1, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo said: "There is no more time to waste. It is a time for deeds not words, and results, not rhetoric…There is no waiting for tomorrow, and there are no more baby steps, my friends...We need change and we need it now." In his Inaugural Address of March 17, 2008, Governor David A. Paterson proclaimed: "Let us put personal politics, party advantage and power struggles aside, in favor of service, in the interests of the people...Let me introduce myself...I am the governor of New York State." Earlier, at the January 1, 2007, Inaugural Address, Governor Spitzer declared : “New York created the model for the kind of society that would be duplicated throughout the country and around the globe: Our state was born as an island at the center of the world” (i.e., Governors Island, originally named Nooten Eyland and in pidgin language Nutten Island until 1784).
The reason for Governor Spitzer’s statement is that, with the arrival of New York’s (then named New Netherland) first settlers on Governors Island in 1624, the jurisprudence of the Dutch Republic, to include the basic human virtue of toleration (= religious tolerance) as the basis for ethnic diversity, was first implanted by law upon North American soil.
That 1624 landing transformed the territory from 38 to 42 degrees latitude to a province of the Dutch Republic (unlike the first English landings in New England and Virginia) wherein the laws and ordinances of the states of Holland rather than the law-of-the-ship applied. Prior to 1624, the region—named New Netherland first by Adriaen Block in 1614 (as in Block Island)—had been a place for private commercial interests through patents issued by the States General (as in Staten Island)—the Dutch Parliament. These laws and ordinances contained the legal-cultural code which lies at the root of New York's traditions and, ultimately, American pluralism and liberty.
The legal basis for the claim to transform the region to a North American province was the Law of Nations: (1) Discovery in 1609 (2) Surveying and Charting from 1611-1614 and (3) taking Possession through Settlement in 1624. Hence, some of the Governors Island settlers were geographically dispersed to the Delaware River, the Connecticut River and at the top of the Hudson River (now Albany) in order to legally delineate the claim to the “Province of New Netherland” (now the New York Tri-State region).
The settlers to Governors Island in 1624 had been instructed to attract only “through attitude and by example” the natives and non-believers to God’s word “without, on the other hand, to persecute someone by reason of his religion and to leave everyone the freedom of his conscience” (via “levenshouding en voorbeeld” moesten zij “de Indianen ende andere blinde menschen tot de kennisz Godes ende synes woort sien te trecken, sonder nochtans ijemant ter oorsaecke van syne religie te vervolgen, maer een yder de vrijch[eyt] van sijn consciencie te laten”).
That instruction was derived from the founding document of the Dutch Republic, the 1579 Union of Utrecht, stating “that everyone shall remain free in religion and that no one may be persecuted or investigated because of religion” (“dat een yder particulier in sijn religie vrij sal moegen blijven ende dat men nyemant ter cause van de religie sal moegen achterhaelen ofte ondersoucken”).
As a legal-political condition, this statement of religious tolerance was unique in the world at the time. Its introduction to the Western Hemisphere, first on Governors Island in 1624, became the legal-cultural underpinning for the residency of Ashkenazim upon their arrival in August 1654 and the granting of full residency of destitude Separdim refugees at New Amsterdam (now New York City) in January 1655. Further south, in Dutch Brazil, the expansion of this tradition of tolerance had been responsible for the issuance of a licence in 1638 to construct a synagogue in Recife resulting in the historic consecration of the first synagogue in the Western Hemisphere in 1642.
On Manhattan Island, therefore, not only were 18 languages spoken in 1643 but Manhattan’s plurality was also depicted, for instance, on a mapped survey of 1639 which shows a large farm owned by America’s first Muslim planter, Antoni du Turck, a Moroccan from Fez.
Religion tolerance and freedom of conscience as individual rights in only one geographical sector of North America, for that reason, had been the basis of pluralism and liberty (= personal freedom) since 1624. One hundred sixty seven years after that Governors Island landing, the conception of toleration became again a legal-political promise in the thirteen United States of America. It was not part of its founding document of 1776—the Declaration of Independence from England—or of the Constitution of the American Republic signed in 1787, but was adopted as an individual right in the First Amendment of 1791. It became a right of all U.S. citizens in 1868 upon ratification of the 14th Amendment.
American history, therefore, should accept the premise that of the three primary European landings/permanent settlements on the North-American East coast—Jamestown in Virginia, 1607; New Plymouth in New England, 1620; and Nooten Eyland in New Netherland, 1624 (now Governors Island in New York State)—the Governors Island settlement was by far the most important one because of the delivery of the jurisprudence of Tolerance as an enduring contribution to the conception of American freedom.
Its significance lies in the historical fact that America's ultimate virtue of tolerance, thus rooted in the State’s very birth and therefore oldest NY State landmark, is New York’s first and unique contribution to American culture. This precept has contemporary relevance as it helps our understanding of what defines American freedom.
GovIsland’s legacy of tolerance—which is also the foundation of New York’s identity—could make the island qualify as a potential World Heritage Site because it has outstanding universal value. When the island’s inherent contribution to American culture gets politically and popularly accepted, its restitution as important American history could make it serve as the primary American Symbol of tolerance thus—the nation’s oldest—next to the symbol of Liberty Island.