New York chases Silicon Valley with Roosevelt Island campus

Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island will be home to the new engineering and applied science graduate school.

New York City’s ambitions to challenge Silicon Valley as a technology center are taking root on a narrow isle in the East River, where Cornell University is building a $2 billion campus and startup incubator.

Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island will be home to a new engineering and applied science graduate school, part of a bet that the next Apple could be born in the Big Apple. West Coast companies are already helping lay the groundwork, with Google donating office space to the project and Facebook hosting a “hackathon” to build buzz with all-night programming binges.

“There is more interest in New York as a potential tech center than ever before,” said Greg Pass, a former Twitter executive who now works for the new Cornell campus. “As the world becomes more technological, the role of engineers will be become more substantial.”

The graduate school, known as CornellNYC Tech, is part of a broader push by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the city a global technology leader. In December, Cornell and the Technion- Israel Institute for Technology beat out six competing bids to build the campus, including one from Stanford University. A $350 million donation from Cornell graduate Charles Feeney helped seal the university’s victory.

The project is meant to bolster job creation in the city and generate 600 spinoff companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades. Until the Roosevelt Island campus opens in 2017, it will run in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, in space leased rent-free from Google.

The campus will offer pilot courses this year and begin conducting master’s classes in the latter part of 2013. Key to the effort is enlisting technology companies, which will give students a glimpse into their operations, Dan Huttenlocher, dean of the campus, said in an interview. Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon and Twitter said they intend to collaborate with the campus.“You can almost name a company, and they’re very excited,” Huttenlocher said.

The Cornell campus aims to almost double the number of engineering graduate students in “leading programs” in the city, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

The graduate engineering or applied science schools at Columbia University, City University in New York and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University had a total of about 2,800 students as of 2011, the mayor’s office said.


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