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Seven Bidders Vying for New City-Subsidized Science Campus

By Jill Colvin | October 31, 2011 7:48pm
Cornell said its proposed building would create as much energy as it produced.
Cornell said its proposed building would create as much energy as it produced.
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MANHATTAN — Seven bids from 17 institutions tossed their hats into the ring to build the city’s next major engineering and applied campus, which comes with up to $100 million in public funds to kick start development, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.

Bidders range from engineering powerhouses like Carnegie Mellon and Stanford to dark horse candidates like India’s Amity University, which is eyeing Governor’s Island for its new home.

“All of the submissions were stronger than anything we possibly could have imagined,” the mayor told reporters at the Fifth Avenue headquarters of tech startup NextJump, the type of company the city is betting big the new campus will spawn.

While the Bloomberg administration has issued a gag order on all of the applicants as it considers its choices, the plans revealed before last Friday’s application deadline suggest New York is in store for more than just quadrangles and science labs.

Cornell University, which has teamed up with the Israeli heavyweight Technion, is proposing to erect the east coast's largest net-zero energy building — one that creates as much energy as it consumes — on Roosevelt Island.

Stanford, which submitted a joint proposal with the City University of New York (CUNY), would  up the green ante by creating a $2.5 billion Roosevelt Island campus that would use 50 percent less energy than a level that is already considered efficient, complete with a marsh to filter water runoff and facilities to recycle water from sinks.

Father south, Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon is eyeing the abandoned Navy Hospital at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where it reportedly wants to create a new entertainment technology center in partnership with with current tenant, Steiner Studios.

While the city had originally identified Governor's Island, Roosevelt Island and the Brooklyn Navy Yard as potential sites, the final crop of applicants expanded the scope.

Columbia University submitted a bid to expand its footprint uptown with a new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering as part of its $6 billion Manhattanville expansion. NYU wants to build a new Center for Urban Science and Progress in Downtown Brooklyn’s One Metrotech Center, a 60,000 square foot space that would open as early as 2013. It would also expand by 2016 into 370 Jay St., a city-owned building presently leased to the MTA.

NYU’s program would focus on helping cities improve energy efficiency, reduce congestion and pollution, and would be a joint effort with Carnegie Mellon, CUNY, the University of Toronto, the University of Warwick and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, with corporate partners, including IBM, Cisco Systems, Siemens AG.

The New York Genome Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rockefeller University and SUNY Stony Brook are also eyeing a site in Midtown Manhattan for a new facility focusing on genome sequencing, officials said.

The proposed facilities range from just under 400,000 square feet to over 2 million square feet, and would require anywhere from an $800 million private investment in their first phases to more than $2.5 billion in the long term.

In addition to awarding the winning institution a plot of prime New York real estate on which to build, the city has promised to grant the winner up to $100 million in city funds to help finance the development's infrastructure.

The plan is part of a major push by the Bloomberg administration to brand the city as a high-tech hub to rival Sillicon Valley and attract new startups and engineering talent.

“When you look at America’s tech centers, you’ll find that one of the main reasons they can attract human capital is the strength of their research institutions,” Bloomberg said. “Clearly this has the potential to be a real game-changer for our city."

A study by the city’s Economic Development Corporation estimated the project would spur an estimated $6 billion in economic activity over the next 35 years, including creating hundreds of new jobs for faculty, support staff and construction workers.

Bloomberg insisted that, as on Monday, there were no clear front-runners in the race.

“Each of these applications is ambitious and comprehensive,” he said. “It’s obvious that these universities have put an enormous effort into understanding what New York is about and what New York’s objective is here.”

The also mayor refused to rule out the possibility that the city might consider choosing two winners instead of one.

“I think it would be great if all seven could come,” he said. “But the bottom line is even if we could find the space, the city doesn’t have that kind of capital. But we’ll see.”

It was still unclear how that money would be split if more than one school were selected.

An Applied Sciences NYC Advisory Committee, made up of academic and tech leaders, will help city officials grade the proposals based on their feasibility as well as their potential to create new jobs and boost the tech industry.

The city hopes to announce the winner as soon as January 1, said Seth Pinksy, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporations.

The full list of applicants are:

  • India's Amity University (Governor’s Island)
  • Carnegie Mellon University/Steiner Studios (Brooklyn Navy Yard)
  • Columbia University (Manhattanville)
  • Cornell University/Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (Roosevelt Island)
  • New York University/University of Toronto/University of Warwick (UK)/The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay/City University of New York and Carnegie Mellon (Downtown Brooklyn)
  •  New York Genome Center/Mount Sinai School of Medicine/Rockefeller University/SUNY Stony Brook (Midtown Manhattan)
  •  Stanford University/City College of New York (Roosevelt Island)