Cornell Wins Tech Campus Competition

Updated: December 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM

A rendering of Cornell and Technion's plans for a campus on Roosevelt Island. On Dec. 19, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Cornell and Technion as the winner of the Applied Sciences competition. Image courtesy of Cornell University.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Cornell University as the winner of Applied Sciences NYC — a competition to build a massive new tech and engineering school — on Monday. Over the next few decades, Cornell, which has partnered with Israel’s Technion University, plans to build a 2.1-million-square-foot campus on Roosevelt Island at the estimated cost of $2 billion, thereby providing the bedrock for Bloomberg’s mayoral legacy.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Bloomberg said, “Today will be remembered as a defining moment in New York City history.”

Sources with inside knowledge of the Applied Sciences competition stated anonymously that Cornell had won the bid on Monday morning, two weeks before the announcement was expected, reported the New York Times.

Cornell President David J. Skorton told MetroFocus that he when heard the good news from Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation, he was elated. He immediately called Technion President Peretz Lavie.

“I was lying on the beach when I got a call from David,” Lavie said, laughing. “He said, ‘what are you doing at 2:30,’ and I put two and two together and told him ‘I’ll be in New York.'”

To those familiar with the competition, which Bloomberg announced in July, the news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Cornell and Stanford have long been considered the front-runners among a pack of seven competing universities, but Stanford dropped its bid three days ago, possibly due to failed negotiations with the city.

At Monday’s press conference, Bloomberg said that Cornell and Technion both have stellar records in technological innovation and experimentation. He added that the scholastic duo helped seal the deal with their, “incredibly aggressive schedule.”

They plan to begin offering classes at a yet undisclosed offsite location later next year. In the meantime, Cornell, Technion and the city plan to demolish the Coler Goldwater Hospital — scheduled for closure in 2014 — and build the first phase of the campus by 2017. By 2018, they expect to enroll 3,300 students and employ 70 full-time faculty members. Cornell and Technion have agreed to a 99-year lease.

As an added bonus, Cornell received a $350 million anonymous gift — the largest single donation in its history — on Dec. 16 to benefit the campus. On Dec. 19, it was revealed that the donor was Atlantic Philanthropies, founded by Cornell alumnus Charles F. Feeney, who made his fortune through the Duty Free Shoppers Group, the New York Times reported.

A rendering of the inside of Cornell and Technion's tech campus. Cornell president David J. Skorton said the first phase of the campus will be operational by 2017. Image courtesy of the Office of the Mayor.

Skorton said he believes the tech campus competition came at the right time, “as the 21st century technology sector is shifting from technology for its own sake to technology in the service of business and industry.”

Lavie said the campus will offer two degrees, a master’s of applied science and a dual degree PhD program in engineering. Instead of breaking the school into traditional departments, it will feature three academic hubs that will interact with one another, as well as private sector companies.

According to the conditions of the competition, the city will donate $100 million and land on Roosevelt Island to kick start development of the campus. Bloomberg hopes the school will connect the city’s venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and scientific research communities, resulting in the incubation of tech startups and engendering a sort of Silicon Valley on the Hudson.

In an interview with MetroFocus last week, New York Academy of Sciences Director of Innovation Karin Ezbiansky Pavese said that while there has been a lot of investment in New York City’s tech world, there hasn’t been a ton of returns on thoseĀ investments. “By having this engineering and applied science focus, I think there’s more of an opportunity to really bring that research out of the laboratory, out to the marketplace,” Pavese said.

But the impact on the marketplace may be slow in coming. The campus “will be very good for startups but it’s still five years out,” said Steve Rosenbaum, New York City’s recently named Entrepreneur At Large in an interview with MetroFocus.

The campus plans call for the construction of the largest net-zero building on the East Coast, meaning the campus will generate as much energy as it consumes. Adding to that commitment to sustainability, the campus will be decked out in four acres of solar panels. Academic classes will focus on information science in health care, social mobile networking and cloud computing, as well as information security and sustainability.

At the press conference, Bloomberg said that the city hopes to find ways to help the competition’s runners-up — Columbia, NYU and Carnegie Mellon — bring their smaller tech campus ideas to fruition.


Rafael Pi Roman joins Cornell President David J. Skorton and Technion President Peretz Lavie to discuss the announcement of Cornell University as the winner of the competition to build an applied sciences campus in New York City.


Rafael Pi Roman interviews New York Academy of Sciences Director of Innovation Karin Ezbiansky Pavese about the significance of Applied Sciences NYC.


Jane Pauley interviews Steve Rosenbaum, appointed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation as the city’s first Entrepreneur At Large. He speaks about his new role incubating startups and why he thinks New York’s tech sector will soon surpass Silicon Valley.

©2022 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489