The center was a product of an initiative by a policy center at the Partnership for New York City, a group of business leaders, to find economic-development opportunities. It found one in structural biology: the scientific investigation of molecular forms that can lead to pharmaceutical drugs and other types of therapies to fight disease.
The center, which has attracted $100 million in grants and has another $80 million in the pipeline, values terrestrial stability above all else, which is one reason why it jumped at CUNY’s offer, almost 10 years ago, to situate the center in a part of Manhattan where the bedrock almost reaches the surface.
But shortly afterward, CUNY embarked on an ambitious $2.6 billion capital campaign to improve its facilities and raise its profile. Among the goals are replacing City College’s decrepit Marshak Science Building and creating a research center for faculty from all of its campuses to congregate. The running track and playing field at the southern end of the Harlem campus turned out to be the perfect location.
That would put the new City College science building, according to current plans, 86 feet away from the biology center, which is close enough that the microscopes could not be used during excavation. By CUNY’s admission, the five weakest spectrometers may or may not be off-limits for two to three months. The center says that excavation would take much longer, and that even weaker construction vibrations would make the disruption last about a year, causing serious problems to the grant pipeline.
“It will have a devastating and long-term impact,” Ms. Appel said. “If grants are interrupted because people can’t conduct their research and can’t get their data, it means that they are not going to be producing the data on time. They are also not able to get their grant renewals.”