NYC Council Approves Cornell Tech Campus

May 8, 2013 Updated: May 8, 2013

NEW YORK—New York City Council approved the land use application for the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island today.

The Bloomberg administration issued a request for proposals in July 2011 for a campus on the island. The city received 17 qualifying proposals from universities worldwide and selected Cornell as the winner in December 2011. The city is providing free land and up to $100 million in improvements.

The project is expected to create 48,000 new jobs, 1,000 spin-off companies, and have a $33 billion impact over the next 30 years, according to a press release from Council member Jessica Lappin.

“Cornell NYC Tech is about the future of new New York—it will drive innovation and economic growth for generations to come,” said Lappin.

The new campus will be constructed on the site of the Goldwater hospital that is yet to be demolished. The last patients will be transferred from the hospital in October 2013.

The first phase of the construction will begin in early 2014 with the demolition of the hospital, according to the Cornell Tech website. Students are expected to move into the first buildings on campus in 2017. Cornell estimates that the entire project will be completed by 2037.

Concerns Remain

The Roosevelt Island community provided input during the land user review process, but Cornell did not comply with all of the requests. 

Residents asked Cornell to contribute to the island’s infrastructure costs, but the university contended that they “will be an island of their own,” said Ellen Polivy, president of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association.

Cornell also declined to negotiate with the community in regard to issuing a public purpose grant. Roosevelt Island is owned by the state and only a portion of its expenses, like the schools and the MTA buses, are covered by city funds, while residents shoulder the rest of the costs.

The university committed to creating educational programs in partnership with public schools on Roosevelt Island, and in Queens and Harlem. Polivy said that these programs would not start until the campus is completed and are of no benefit to the families that will live on the island during the construction.

“That is not going to be acceptable for us,” said Polivy.

The project will utilize barges to deliver materials to the construction site and reduce the number of trucks on the island. The initial proposal was to barge 25 percent of the materials, but after community pressure the number was revised to 50 percent.

“Many of our members wanted it to be 100 percent, but I’m impressed. It’s pretty remarkable,” said Polivy.

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