N.Y. seeks to be high-tech hub
NEW YORK — Just as a trench dug in the 1800s created a shortcut to the nation's interior and helped make New York a global trading hub, the city is now hoping for another “Erie Canal moment” with a high-tech research complex to be built on an island in the East River.
The idea is to create an applied-sciences university where engineers also are trained as entrepreneurs from day one. Proponents say New York, home to powerful global companies and now exploding with technological startups, could shift this sector into top gear if the latest findings went straight into new businesses.
“Today we're second only to Silicon Valley as a tech center, and we don't like to be second to anybody,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The $2 billion, 10-acre campus planned for Roosevelt Island is being called CornellNYC Tech and is a partnership between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Cornell University, which has its main site in the upstate town of Ithaca but also has a major presence in New York City with its medical school.
CornellNYC Tech expects to generate $1 billion or more in tax revenue over several decades, plus tens of thousands of construction jobs.
Graduate students will start working in September, using 22,000 square feet of Manhattan space loaned free of charge by Google. The island campus is set to open in 2017, with construction beginning after a half-abandoned, rust-tinged hospital is demolished in early 2014 to make room for the gleaming new community.
Roosevelt Island, a relatively placid oasis facing the United Nations on the Manhattan side and Queens on the other, is home to high-rise residential buildings. The little automobile traffic is courtesy of one road connected to the mainland, and most residents get back and forth on the subway or on a sky tram over the river.
Patients are still getting care at a public hospital built in 1939 that includes a nursing home and long-term rehabilitation center. Plans are in the works to move the patients to facilities elsewhere in the city. Officials are reassuring residents that their lives won't be disrupted.
The land for the project belongs to the city, which also is providing $100 million in public money for infrastructure. Another $350 million comes from Cornell alumnus Charles F. Feeney, 81, who made his fortune from duty-free shops.