Bloomberg Signs Lease for Tech Campus

December 20, 2013 Updated: December 20, 2013

NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just a few more days in office, but before he leaves, he is making sure his legacy is written in stone. 

On Thursday, Bloomberg signed a 99-year lease with Cornell University for a parcel of land on Roosevelt Island, where the school intends to build an applied sciences campus.

The new school will bring about 2 million square feet of building space to the island and house some 2,000 students and almost 280 faculty on 12 acres of land. 

The plan came about two years ago when Cornell University, which is partnered with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, won the 2011 Applied Sciences NYC competition held by the mayor. 

The competition was part of an effort to increase the number of science- and tech-related degrees the city offers and keep it competitive in the 21st century.

“When completed, the Roosevelt Island campus alone will nearly double the number of full-time masters and PhD engineering students in our city,” said Bloomberg at the signing ceremony.

The $2 billion building project will start next month and is projected to finish in 2017. But that hasn’t stopped Cornell Tech from starting classes already.

“At the Google building in Chelsea, Cornell Tech just completed our first full academic year and we actually have graduates,” announced Cornell University President David Skorton at the signing.

The model for the applied sciences campuses is to pair academic study with industry experience, a model Bloomberg hopes will expand the collaboration between technology, science, and all other sectors of New York City’s economy. 

“The new campus will have space for business incubators and accelerators to help new ideas being researched at the school take off and become companies. Cornell Tech will provide legal support for startups, research partnerships with existing companies, and a financing program to support research,” said Bloomberg. 

Part of the vision for the campus is to make it as sustainable and people-friendly as possible. One of the buildings will be designed to generate all it’s energy needs on campus. Bike and walking paths will connect the campus to the community.

Two milelong Roosevelt Island has an estimated 12,000 residents. With over 2,000 new students and faculty set to take up shop there, residents were obviously concerned about what this would mean for their community.

Their immediate concerns are about large construction equipment blocking their one road and the air pollution the construction will generate. Cornell came to an agreement with the residents to boat in at least 40 percent of the materials and set up air monitoring stations, according to one resident.

Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK