Cornell University and a science and technology university in Israel will partner to build an applied sciences campus in New York City that officials hope will transform the city into a center for entrepreneurship and technology innovation to rival California's Silicon Valley, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.
The plan "promises to create a beehive of innovation and discovery, attracting and nurturing the kind of technical talent that will spawn new companies, create new jobs and propel our city's economy to new frontiers," Bloomberg said.
Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, will spend more than $2 billion to build 2.1 million square feet of facility space on Roosevelt Island, a 2-mile-long stretch of land just east of Manhattan. Up to 2,500 students at a time are expected to enroll in masters and doctoral programs with a focus in areas including engineering and computer science.
Students will begin enrolling in the program and studying at pre-existing space in the city next year, although the permanent home of the campus is not expected to be finished until 2043.
Bloomberg said he hoped the new academic programs would help address what he has said is a major stumbling block in the city's effort to unseat Silicon Valley as the world capital of technology startups.
"No matter who I talk to, they can't find enough engineers," he said. "Particularly in New York."
The new campus will increase the number of full-time, graduate-level engineering students in the city by about 70 percent, and it will create a $150 million financing fund for New York City startups, the mayor's office said. Ultimately, officials say, the 600 spin-off companies expected to be generated by the school over the next 30 years could create 30,000 permanent jobs, and the new campus could generate more than $23 billion in economic activity over that time.
Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, equated the creation of the campus to the opening of the Erie Canal, a shift that helped make New York City a world financial capital. The technology revolution for which New York officials hope could similarly define the city for generations, he said.
"Technology is not only a growing field in of itself, but it's critical to all industries in which New York competes globally. And if we're not a world leader in technology, we're not going to be a world economic leader, it's that simple," Pinsky said.
Campus facilities, including startup incubator space, will be built on city-owned land that currently houses a hospital already slated for closure. The campus development will transform the tiny island sandwiched between Manhattan and Queens _ currently home to a single subway stop and a number of residential developments.
Officials hope that students and graduates who launch their own businesses will set up their offices just to the east in Queens' Long Island City neighborhood, possibly transforming that community as well.
The plan was one of seven proposals by institutions and consortiums vying for access to city-owned land and city infrastructure improvements worth up to $100 million. That $100 million has been committed to the project announced Monday, but officials said the city still hopes to reach agreement by next month with one or more of the other teams to launch at least one more, smaller campus.
Still in the running are projects proposed by Columbia University near its Morningside Heights campus, a campus proposed for downtown Brooklyn by an international consortium led by New York University, and a bid by Carnegie Mellon University and Steiner Studios, a Brooklyn film and television production complex, for a campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
California's Stanford University withdrew its proposal for a campus on Friday, saying it had failed to find a way to ensure the success of its proposed campus in its talks with the city.
The same day, Cornell announced it had received $350 million from an anonymous donor for its plan _ the largest gift in the university's history. On Monday, the donor was revealed to be Atlantic Philanthropies founder Charles F. Feeney, a Cornell alumnus who made his millions through the Duty Free Shopping Group.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity for Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, together with the City of New York, to create economic and educational opportunity on a transformational scale," Feeney said in a statement.
Samantha Gross can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/samanthagross