Forget Silicon Alley, Politicians Want Tech Campus in the Middle of the East River to Become ‘Silicon Island’

I am a rock, I am an island.

Thus far the anticipation index over Michael Bloomberg’s big plan to bring an engineering campus to New York has centered around which university will win the bid. (The mayor’s rather sweet on Stanford, but Cornell is doing a full court press.) While those two duke it out, jockeying for position has swung back over to where, exactly, this campus will be located. NYC EDC has offered up three city-owned plots of land: the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Governors Island, or the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island. And the latter has come out swinging.

At a press conference earlier this week, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) told reporters, “We want Roosevelt Island to be Silicon Island.” But as Capital writer Dan Rosenblum points out, the pitch wasn’t held on the would-be developer mecca, but rather a Manhattan plaza at the end of the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway, “the gondola that for many years was the only public transportation available to the island from Manhattan without going through Queens.” (You can now get there via the F train.) A spokeswoman for Ms. Lappin told Capital said they wanted to host the press conference “on the quieter island, but said that they also wanted to make sure reporters would come.”

Ultimately, the decision for where to host the campus looks like it will rest with the city, but the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the strip of land’s “own mini-government,” will give their two cents as the plan evolves. For island natives and their representatives, the campus looks like their ticket to relevance. Assembly member Micah Kellner said, “This is a way to integrate the island fully and completely” with that other island to their West.

Ms. Lappin and others think the city should raze Goldwater Memorial Hospital, which was built in the 1930s and is due to close in 2014, a year ahead of the campus opening. She also touted Roosevelt Island’s selling points:

“It’s an island that is a beautiful and very green place and we think students would enjoy that. We have an excellent school on the island. We just added gifted-and-talented classes to the school, PS 217. We have retail. We have Starbucks. Every student needs a Starbucks.”

Yeah, where else would they find one of those? Forget Silicon Alley, Politicians Want Tech Campus in the Middle of the East River to Become ‘Silicon Island’