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Education Technology News: Cornell and Stanford Jockey for Elite New York City-Based Engineering Campus

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October 25, 2011

Cornell and Stanford Jockey for Elite New York City-Based Engineering Campus

By Cheryl Kaften, TMCnet Contributor

Cornell and Stanford, as well as 25 other universities and colleges, are among the U.S. engineering programs that are vying to build a world-class engineering and applied science campus on the former grounds of the Goldwater Hospital on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City.  The hospital is slated to close in 2014, leaving a vacant building and fewer local jobs.

At the end of July, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel and New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky announced that the city had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an initiative called Applied Sciences NYC . The program seeks a university, institution, or consortium to develop and operate a new or expanded campus in New York in exchange for access to City-owned land. The city also is prepared to make a significant investment in site infrastructure, offering up to $100 million in a competitive process designed to select the proposal that yields the most benefit to New York for the lowest commitment of city resources. The city expects that any public contribution will be matched several times over by resources raised by the winner or winners themselves.

Proposals will be accepted through the end of this month and a decision will be announced in December. The opening of the first phase of the project is anticipated for 2015. While some say that the plan shuns existing engineering schools in the city, the Mayor’s Office insists that current New York City-based schools are welcome to apply as well.

“New York City has a history of planning for and investing in its future to ensure it will be brighter than its past.…We are looking far into the future once again, and launching one of most promising economic development initiatives in the City’s long history,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “During the 1980s and 1990s, Silicon Valley — not New York —became the world capital of technology start-ups, and that is still true today.

“But if I am right – and if we succeed in this mission – it won’t be true forever.” Bloomberg declared. “The Applied Sciences NYC initiative will serve as a major catalyst for New York City’s local economy for decades—generating billions of dollars in economic activity through the creation of hundreds of new businesses and tens of thousands jobs for New Yorkers.”

The economic impact analysis completed by NYCEDC projects that New York City’s economy will dramatically benefit from a new or expanded engineering and applied sciences campus located in the City. Over the next 35 years, it will generate an estimated $6 billion in overall economic activity across the five boroughs, with hundreds of new companies spinning out of the school directly. And it will help create more than 22,000 permanent jobs for New Yorkers with a variety of skill levels, 7,700 construction jobs, and roughly $1.2 billion in direct and indirect taxes for the City of New York.

In seeking an institution for Applied Sciences NYC, the City will base its selection on a number of factors relating to the facility’s ability to improve New York City’s economic prospects and global competitiveness. Accordingly, the RFP focuses on proposals that prioritize fields in the applied sciences that lend themselves to commercialization, thereby resulting in significant job creation for City residents.  The winning project will:

  • Develop research that will lead to the formation and expansion of companies in, and attraction of companies to, New York City in industries that demonstrate the most potential for growth;
  • Create construction and permanent jobs, and generate tax revenue;
  • Develop a financially self-sustaining campus; and.
  •  Contribute to the diversification of New York City’s economyby expanding its applied sciences sector.

Cornell University based in Ithaca, New York, which is teaming up with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, proposes to erect the largest net-zero energy building in the eastern United States — one that creates as much energy as it consumes — on Roosevelt Island, school officials announced.

The Cornell/Technion proposal’s main 150,000-square-foot building would be oriented toward the sun’s arc to capture solar power to generate up to 1.8 megawatts a day— enough to supply 1,400 American homes. The school would also use thermal power, tapping into the earth’s heat with a four-acre geothermal field of 400 wells, for an additional energy source, officials explained.

The university partnered with Distributed Sun on the project, a Washington, D.C.-based solar energy development company founded by a Cornell alumnus. The campus also would feature rain gardens, community gardens, and green walls. Its faculty and students would be able to use the campus as part of its curriculum, doing research to integrate updated technology, officials said.

Cornell’s Dean of Architecture, Art and Planning, Kent Kleinman, called the college's plan more than a “game changer,” adding, “This proposed campus goes beyond buildings and reduced energy use — it's a living laboratory that brilliantly anticipates and integrates forward-thinking design and building technologies. It is the ideal plan for creating an educational environment to train future engineers and designers in the science of sustainabilityfor decades to come. And it will make New York City home to one of the nation’s premier green buildings.”

Palo Alto (News - Alert), California-based Stanford University, which recently announced it was partnering with the City University of New York (CUNY), also plans to up the green ante by creating a Roosevelt Island campus that would use 50 percent less energy than a level that is already considered efficient.

“Joining East and West Coast resources in an innovative new arrangement, Stanford@CCNYhas the potential to offer the students and faculties of both universities transformative opportunities to partner at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level—and would provide start-up space for Stanford's proposed applied science campus,” the university stated.

Stanford’s plans include creating a marsh to filter water runoff, as well as recycling water from sinks and perhaps toilets. Like Cornell, it would tap into the earth’s high temperatures by using ground-source heat pumps, a spokesman told the New YorkTimes.

Several other schools have been developing proposals under the radar for sites other than Roosevelt Island within the Big Apple (News - Alert), including New York University (NYU), Columbia University, and Carnegie Mellon.

Manhattan-centered NYU would build a Downtown Brooklyn campus focused on urban sciences and technology. The school would team up with the Canada-based University of Toronto, the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the Bombay-based  Indian Institute of Technology. It would also join forces with corporate partners, including IBM, Cisco Systems, Siemens AG (News - Alert), and Con Ed.

"We want to partner with city agencies, understand the problems of the city; and use the city as a laboratory, so we can prototype solutions," Paul Horn, NYU's senior vice provost for Research, told Crain’s.

Columbia University, located in upper Manhattan, would build its one million-square-foot Data Science Institute on the Manhattanville campus it is creating near West 130th Street and Broadway– and would ask for less than $100 million from the city, according to Crain’s. The center would focus on new media, smart cities, cyber security, health analytics and finance, the report said, drawing on expertise from the school’s business, journalism, engineering, international and business schools.

Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University is eyeing the abandoned Navy Hospital at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to partner with Steiner Studios, a tenant already there, in building an entertainment technology center.

Once selected, the partner institution or institutions will be expected to comply with a series of deadlines and requirements, including those relating to the construction timeline, the number of enrolled students, the number of dedicated hiring faculty members, and the launching of applicable academic and research programs.  The partner institution or institutions will also be expected to create links between industry and academia to ensure that research is applied or translated for use in various business sectors and/or the creation of new commercial ventures.

As part of the RFP process, Mayor Bloomberg also announced the formation of an Applied Sciences NYC Advisory Committee.  The committee comprises  leaders from both the public and private sectors, and will advise the city and NYCEDC throughout the selection process to ensure that the ultimate selection will have the greatest economic impact possible on the City. Committee members include: Mark Burstein, Executive Vice President, Princeton University; Paul Gray, Andrew S. Grove Chair in Electrical Engineering at UC Berkeley; Charlie Kim, Founder and CEO of Next Jump; Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President, Fordham University; Alan Patricof, Managing Director and Founder, Greycroft; Kevin Ryan (News - Alert), Founder and CEO, Gilt Groupe; Parag Saxena, CEO of Vedanta Capital and New Silk Route Partners; Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering, and President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City.

 “As we move into the 21st century, our success as a city and a region will be measured above all by our ability to attract and retain the talented men and women who can transform cutting edge ideas into the real world products and firms of tomorrow,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY).  “Adding a world-class engineering and applied sciences school will only strengthen the city’s position as a leader in high-tech, and a premier destination for the talented and ambitious young people looking to make their mark in the new global economy.  Applied Sciences NYC represents exactly the sort of bold thinking that has always propelled New York forward into the future. Mayor Bloomberg deserves great credit for leading the charge, and I will do everything in my power to assist him in making this vision a reality for the future of New York.”


Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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