Cornell starts demolition for Roosevelt Isle campus

By Alex Robinson

Work on Cornell University’s new Roosevelt Island tech campus is underway.

Officials in charge of the development came to Queens Monday to update the Borough Board on the complex’s progress.

Cornell University and Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa won a bid to build a new tech school on the 12-acre site in 2011.

Workers have started demolishing the Coler Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility to make room for the first phase of the new campus, which is scheduled to be finished in summer 2017. The school is expected to open that fall.

Andrew Winters, who is leading the development, said the site’s demolition crew has removed all the debris via barge as was agreed on during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to cut down on truck traffic going through Queens.

“[That] translates into over 950 truck trips that have been eliminated from the streets of Roosevelt Island and Queens,” Winters said.

The campus will include an academic building, a residential building for students and faculty, a hotel, 7 acres of open space and a co-location building, which will have some academic space in addition to a section leased to tech-related businesses.

“Part of the idea of this campus is to bring together the academic world and the business world,” Winters said.

Borough Board members commended the project, but some took issue with the height of the residential building, which will have around 350 apartments.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the 285-foot tower will block Queens’ view of the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge, which connects Astoria to Roosevelt Island.

“I love the idea of the project and I know that you need to put residential space in it,” she said. “I just don’t know if that large tower is fair to the people in Queens.”

Winters said the tower is shorter than the bridge and is under the 320-foot maximum zoning regulations.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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