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Two More Tech Campuses Planned for New York

By Amy Zimmer | January 10, 2012 7:29am
An aerial shot of the Navy Yard, which shows Steiner Studios in the lower right corner. Steiner hopes to expand to 60 acres at the 300-acre facility.
An aerial shot of the Navy Yard, which shows Steiner Studios in the lower right corner. Steiner hopes to expand to 60 acres at the 300-acre facility.
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Steiner Studios

MANHATTAN — Cornell University may have been crowned the winner of the city’s tech campus contest, but the Bloomberg administration is still in active negotiations with three other bidders.

The city may choose more than one runner-up, according to sources familiar with the process.

A city official said the Economic Development Corporation remains hopeful of creating another "partnership or partnerships" and is expected to make an announcement in "the coming weeks."  Regardless of what happens during talks with the city, at least two of the ambitious projects seem poised to move ahead, with the third bid a strong possibility, too.

Cornell won the contest last month, and will be receiving $100 million in city funding to help develop its $2 billion, 2.1 million-square-foot engineering and applied science school on Roosevelt Island

Even though city money has already allocated that money, it will likely find other ways to help the other proposals to come to fruition in some shape or form. They include:

Carnegie Mellon with Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon vision for a Brooklyn Navy Yard campus is in partnership with the television and movie production facility, Steiner Studios, which envisions the program as part of the company's master plan for a 60-acre center with 30 sound stages to be built over 10 to 12 years.

"We're determined to bring Carnegie Mellon to our studio lot," Doug Steiner, chairman of Steiner Studios, said. "Whether or not we proceed with the [Economic Development Corporation], we're determined. It may be outside of the EDC process."

Steiner said Carnegie Mellon's Disney Research Lab in Pittsburgh, where the school's computer science faculty and students team up with Disney researchers, has been a boon for that company's computer animation, robotics, virtual reality and entertainment technology.  He would like to have an outpost of the school focusing on digital media and entertainment technology in Brooklyn to help New York's growing production industry.

"What they bring to the table is something New York doesn't have right now — the high tech aspect of media and how it's distributed," said Steiner, whose facility has hosted "Boardwalk Empire," "Damages" and "Flight of the Concords," among others.

"We've been trying to boost post-production here in New York," he said, noting that work is now largely done in Los Angeles, London and New Zealand.

He envisions the Carnegie Mellon lab as a specialized program where students would get direct experience working on a studio lot. He said there's also been talk with Carnegie Mellon about bringing a drama school outpost to the Navy Yard.

"It's a way to help entertainment entrepreneurs flourish here by merging science with art and business," Steiner said.

Steiner Studios, which opened in 2004, is already on pace to roughly double in size to 600,000 square feet and include space for the Brooklyn College Graduate School of Cinema.  The facility wants to keep growing.

"What we represent as a business is manufacturing for the 21st century," Steiner added. "China is not going to be making film and television for the world, and this work doesn't lend itself to telecommuting. It has to be done in person and it's collaborative."

NYU's Plans for Downtown Brooklyn's 370 Jay St.

Downtown Brooklyn's business community and elected officials will continue pushing for NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress program to take over 370 Jay St. — a decrepit and mostly empty city owned building presently leased to the MTA.

"We welcome NYU's expansion in Brooklyn," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

"We're very hopeful as the mayor and his administration contemplate awarding a second group of institutions for the tech campus that NYU be given the nod. I'm hopeful that in the first quarter of the year, we'll have good news."

Markowitz said the city needs to invest in high-tech education or risk being "left behind."

He and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have been advocating for a new use at 370 Jay St. for years.

"Even if NYU isn't formally selected as part of the application process, our sense is this is still a valid discussion between the [Transportation Authority] and NYU," Brooklyn Downtown Partnership COO Michael Burke said.

"There is broad-based support from businesses, elected officials and other academic institutions in the area."

NYU's program would focus on how cities can improve energy efficiency, reduce congestion and pollution, use data to more effectively inform citizens, enhance security and ensure a high quality of life, school officials said. 

The center's team includes Carnegie Mellon, CUNY, the University of Toronto, the University of Warwick and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, as well as corporate partners including IBM, Cisco Systems, Siemens AG. It would serve 50 researchers and faculty and more than 500 graduate students.

Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Business Improvement District, said her area already has 100 tech-related companies that "range from two people who moved out of their living room or four people from an incubator to companies with 400 employees."  

But several of them are hitting a wall when it comes to expansion because they can’t find the qualified people they need.

"The NYU center would be a catalyst," she said, noting that "the biggest challenge they face is hiring talented people, particularly developers, engineers, user-experience folks. They're spending lots of resources recruiting all over the country."

A spokesman for NYU said the school believes its plan would be "transformative" for Brooklyn's tech sector. "We are pleased and enthusiastic about our continuing, positive conversations with the city, but given their ongoing nature, I am not going to get into specifics," he added.

Columbia Looks to Build Its Center at Its New Manhattanville Campus

Columbia is still hoping to build its Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at the same location where it is already building a $6 billion campus on 17 acres of Manhattanville.

A Columbia spokesman said the school submitted its proposal knowing the city's main focus was to attract a brand new campus on Roosevelt Island or elsewhere, but its proposal has helped bring engineering faculty and other schools at the university together in developing a plan for an interdisciplinary center.

The institute would occupy three buildings and, over 20 years, grow to more than 1.1 million square feet of laboratories, classrooms and facilities encouraging collaboration with entrepreneurs, investors, New York-based enterprises and other outside partners. 

"This collaborative effort remains a highly valuable contribution to Columbia’s future academic planning," he said.

"We look forward to continuing our conversations with New York City in the weeks ahead about how we can continue to work together to strengthen Columbia and our city’s economy."