traveling show

Governors Ball in Bronx? Organizers Pitch Festival Move to Van Cortlandt Park

The crowd at Governors Ball on Randall's Island in 2014.
The crowd at Governors Ball on Randall’s Island in 2014. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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Governors Ball — the multi-day music festival held each summer at Randall’s Island — may be moving to The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park, THE CITY has learned.

Founders Entertainment, the company behind the event, shared its plan to relocate the revelry to the northwest Bronx park on Dec. 12, according to meeting minutes from Community Board 8, which includes Kingsbridge, Riverdale and Marble Hill.

“We are indeed exploring the idea of moving the festival to Van Cortlandt Park,” Founders Entertainment’s Tom Russell told THE CITY Wednesday.

“A ton of people are very interested and excited about the idea,” he added.

The company had already applied for — and been denied — a permit from the Parks Department that would allow them to host the 2020 festival at Van Cortlandt Park, Russell told board members at the meeting.

The festival, whose third day turned into a rainy nightmare earlier this year, has featured acts ranging from Kanye West, Nas and Outkast, to Florence and the Machine, Interpol and Björk.

Park Reservations

Russell said Parks officials told him the event could not be accommodated at the Bronx site, but the company is appealing the decision.

“The department has determined that the park is not a viable venue for an event of this size and duration,” Parks’ Bronx Borough Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa said in a Dec. 12 letter to Founders Entertainment, obtained by THE CITY. “Moreover, the park has not hosted events of this duration and size before.”

And while the park would offer attendees some key benefits, like proximity to a subway line and more space, some who attended the meeting had concerns.

“The scale of it hasn’t been done in Van Cortlandt Park,” Debra Travis, a board member, said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of moving pieces to it. It’s something that needs a lot of thought, and a lot of vetting, and a lot of input, before we can figure out if there is a viable path forward.”

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to attend each day of the festival, slated for June 5-7. Some suggested the crowd could overwhelm not only the Van Cortlandt’s parade grounds, but flood nearby parking and transit, too.

It’s also a larger event than those typically held at the park, according to the board. “For purposes of comparison to the expected 50,000 daily concertgoers, it was noted that the annual New York Philharmonic concert in the park draws between 2,000 and 3,000 people,” said notes from the meeting.

Governors Ball, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020, generates “substantial financial benefits,” Russell told the community board, according to the minutes. The Randall’s Island Conservancy was paid nearly $600,000 last year, according to the meeting notes.

The Randall’s Island Park Alliance did not return a request for comment.

While presale tickets for the event are now available, the 2020 lineup has not been announced — although some have speculated a Frank Sinatra hologram could make an appearance after the Gov Ball instagram account posted a “clue” featuring a PATH train from Hoboken.

The festival’s website also coyly neglects to include where it will specifically be held, just saying “New York City.” Three-day ticket packages range from $245 for general admission to $1,919 for VIP access.

And the festival has moved before: In its inaugural year, 2011, it was held on Governors Island, but has been on Randall’s since then.

Figuring Out Logistics

Some representing institutions based in the park, like the Van Cortlandt House Museum, said that, while they weren’t necessarily against the plan, more time was needed to figure out the festival’s logistics.

“I stand by my concern about public access to the park, to the museum, to the park rangers, to the athletic field, during the set-up, takedown and recovery from the Governors Ball,” Laura Carpenter, director of the museum, The Bronx’s oldest building, told THE CITY.

Carpenter said she hopes the company continues to engage the community despite the “compressed amount of time” before January, when Russell told board members that Founders Entertainment needs to secure the venue.

For the last six months the company has been engaging local stakeholders about the idea, Russell said. Many merchants along Broadway, near the park, have been supportive, he added.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to have this conversation,” said Russell. “We only would want to do this if the community is supportive and wants this.”

Storming the Show

The popular festival was battered by weather-related problems last spring. To the disappointment of thousands on the last day of performances, entry to the festival grounds was delayed for hours because of the threat of thunderstorms.

Once inside, festival goers quickly had to leave, as rain washed out much of the slate, headlined by The Strokes.

Refunds were eventually issued.

The Gov Ball team has announced a number of changes for next year’s event, which they said were a result of concerns raised by attendees. These included a new age policy, which will require ID for those over 18 who attend. Anyone younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 21.

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