By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a rare joint appearance at Tuesday’s ground-breaking ceremony for Cornell University’s technology campus expansion on Roosevelt Island. The two chatted amicably and traded compliments during their speeches, their differences overshadowed by Cornell Tech’s arrival that will mean so much to the city’s economy.
“Today, the city’s thriving tech ecosystem opens a new chapter,” de Blasio said. “Cornell Tech comes to Roosevelt Island with a laudable mission to utilize technology and innovation to solve real-world problems and drive smart, powerful and equitable growth in New York City.”
Bloomberg, an engineering student in college, made a gift of $100 million from Bloomberg Industries to fund construction of the campus Tuesday.
“New York became the greatest city in the world because we dared to dream bigger than anyone else, and this project – and the challenge it represents to Silicon Valley – are part of that tradition,” Bloomberg said. “After talking with leaders from every industry, we launched a competition to bring an applied science campus here, to help lay an economic foundation for the next century – creating jobs and opportunity for New Yorkers on every rung of the economic ladder.”
The first academic building on the campus will be named The Bloomberg Center, in honor of his daughters Emma and Georgina. Construction is underway at the campus, with a first phase due to open in 2017.
When fully completed, the campus will include 2 million square feet of state-of-the-art buildings, more than two acres of open space, and will be home to more than 2,000 graduate students and hundreds of faculty and staff.
“Cornell Tech isn’t just one of the world’s leading research institutions – it’s an economic game-changer that will drive smart, powerful, and equitable growth in New York City for generations,” de Blasio said. “The new Roosevelt Island campus will bring together academia and industry in the service of invention and innovation – and the result will be hundreds of homegrown companies that provide a pathway to opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz attended the ground-breaking. While the Roosevelt Island campus is technically part of Manhattan, it’s expected to be an economic engine for the borough.
“In western Queens, we’re building the city’s leading tech ecosystem, encouraging access, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Katz said. “It’s proximity to the Cornell Tech Campus will steer our borough into the competitive lane of the digital age.”
Cornell Tech’s temporary campus has been up and running at Google’s Chelsea building in Manhattan since 2012, with a growing world-class faculty, and about 150 master’s and Ph.D. students who collaborate extensively with tech-oriented companies and organizations and pursue their own startups.
The $2 billion campus will be part of U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s district.
“I am thrilled the project is officially on the ground,” the Astoria Democrat said, “a project that will create tens of thousands of jobs, both during construction and as students start creating new startups.”