Cornell’s the One When it Comes To New York’s Tech Campus

Mayor Bloomberg’s vision of creating a new engineering and applied science campus in New York has inspired no shortage of interest and exciting proposals from world-class universities across the nation and, indeed, the globe. It seems clear that this visionary plan will be shaping the city’s economy not just in the 21st century, but in the 22nd as well.

It’s not often that a city has the confidence and resources to plan so far ahead. But that’s New York for you.

Plans submitted by Stanford, Columbia and Rockefeller universities, along with a consortium led by N.Y.U., all have merit and wonderful possibilities. But the plan envisioned by Cornell University in partnership with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is, we think, the best. We urge the mayor to choose the Cornell-led plan when he announces his decision in January.

Cornell and Technion would base their campus on Roosevelt Island (a vision they share with several competitors). They hope to construct two million square feet of campus space, enough to serve nearly 2,000 students. The main building on Roosevelt Island would be 150,000 square feet, and would be heated and cooled from 400 geothermal wells. The facility would be the ultimate in green technology.

The Cornell plan has its neighbors in mind, too. The plan calls for creation of 500,000 square feet of green space on the island featuring great views of midtown and the Upper East Side.

While both N.Y.U. and Columbia obviously are hometown institutions, Cornell’s proposal is stronger, and let’s not forget, Cornell’s roots are in New York as well. The creative partnership with Technion is another strong selling point. Cornell president David Skorton noted that Technion has been “the driving force behind the miracle of Israel’s technology economy.”

That’s precisely the role that Mr. Bloomberg believes the new school will play in the city’s economy. The mayor has argued that the city needs a cutting-edge science and engineering campus to create the Silicon Valley of the future. He’s willing to invest $100 million in public funds for infrastructure improvements in and around the site of the new campus, in hopes that the project will create 400 new companies and more than 20,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

This is precisely the kind of bold, forward-looking thinking that vaulted New York over its competitors in the 19th century. Now, in the early years of the 21st century, Mr. Bloomberg is looking for people and innovators who can reimagine New York’s economy for the marketplace of the near and distant future.

The mayor discovered that there is no shortage of institutional talent eager to implement his vision. The Cornell-Technion proposal happens to be the strongest plan in a strong and exciting field.