Council Members Ask Mayor To Include City College, Columbia in Engineering Plan


In December, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced his plans to partner with Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a two-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island.

The new campus is part of Bloomberg’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative aimed at making New York City globally competitive by expanding the city’s science and engineering efforts. (Innovation is the new hip thing in the Big Apple).

While the plan has been hailed as one that will bring jobs, development, and innovation to the city, today, a group of 21 City Council members sent a letter to the mayor calling on him to incorporate local engineering institutions into the project.

Cornell and Technion were chosen by the city after universities from across the country submitted design proposals for the engineering campus. The letter today calls on the city to incorporate Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the City University’s Grove School of Engineering at City College into the plan.

In the original competition, CUNY had in fact partnered with Stanford, until Stanford decided to drop out just before the city announced Cornell as the winner.

Runnin’ Scared chatted briefly this afternoon with Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of the Higher Education Committee, to discuss the letter, signed by him and 20 other council members.

“I hope that the conversation that the mayor is having…with other institutions should conclude in also including Columbia University…and CUNY as part of the whole comprehensive science and engineering project that we should build in the city of New York,” said Rodriguez, standing outside of City College’s Grove School, which he toured this afternoon. “I believe that by adding Columbia and CUNY, the city will gain a lot. Those are two local institutions…that have a track record already.” Because they both also already partner with city public schools, it would be wise to connect them to the Roosevelt project, Rodriguez said.

“I support [Bloomberg’s] initiative…It’s a good move, it’s a positive thing for the city, but I believe also that there’s still space…to grow…My vision is that New York City has to be the top on science and engineering, on doing research, on creating jobs,” he added.

When Runnin’ Scared asked him if he had any indication whether the mayor was open to including these institutions, he said, “In the past the mayor has expressed that he is still in conversation [with the schools]…I hope they are continuing the conversation.”

The mayor’s office said it is meeting somewhat regularly with schools that submitted proposals, and that the conversations are ongoing.

“As we’ve said a number of times, we are continuing to explore the possibility of additional partnerships as part of our Applied Sciences NYC initiative. In addition, we work closely with both Columbia and CUNY — two of our City’s great higher education institutions — on a regular basis,” a spokesperson for the mayor said in an email to Runnin’ Scared this afternoon.

The full letter signed by the supporting City Council members:

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

Thanks to your leadership, New York City is poised to lead the cities of the world in technological innovation. Through the work of the economic development corporation, companies from the information technology industry have been moving some or all of their operations to our city in increasing numbers, including Google’s largest engineering complex outside of their company headquarters. The city’s new emphasis on engineering will reach new heights with the Applied Sciences NYC project, which you have shepherded from a great idea to a shovel-ready reality. The campus will both continue to encourage companies to locate their headquarters here, as well as attract talented engineers hoping to work for those firms. Additionally, city agencies which have been forced in recent years to cut services could benefit from the potential additional tax revenue collected from these companies.

While there is no question that New York City will benefit greatly from Applied Sciences NYC, I would like to encourage you to incorporate some of the leading engineering institutions which are already located in our city. Both Columbia and the City University have for decades contributed enormously to the field: Columbia, with their Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the City University, with their Grove School of Engineering at City College.

Historically, both of these institutions have contributed greatly to the City of New York. Columbia’s engineering school has played a role for many years in designing and maintaining aspects of the city’s vast system of infrastructure, as well as many of the buildings across the city’s landscape. The Grove School has the distinction of being the first public school of engineering, giving entrance to the field to the city’s working and middle class, helping it to become the most diverse engineering school in the nation. Both of these schools have helped cultivate the homegrown talent which has come out of our public school system, providing a consistent labor pool for city firms.By including both Columbia and the City University into your plan for Applied Sciences NYC, you will be helping to continue their work in contributing to our city, both to its infrastructure and to the education of its residents. These schools would additionally bring their established partnerships with the public high schools, which could be expanded at the new campus, helping to educate the engineers of tomorrow.

I appreciate your consideration in this matter, and congratulate you making New York City the “Tech Capital of the World”.


Council Members:

Ydanis Rodriguez District 10
Peter Koo District 20
Rosie Mendez District 2
Melissa Mark-Viverito District 8
Inez E. Dickens District 9
G. Oliver Koppell District 11
Letitia James District 35
Daniel Dromm District 25
Deborah Rose District 49
James Vacca District 13
Robert Jackson District 7
Jumaane D. Williams District 45
Larry B. Seabrook District 12
Fernando Cabrera District 14
Stephen Levin District 33
Julissa Ferreras District 21
Helen Diane Foster District 16
Gale A. Brewer District 6
Mathieu Eugene District 40
Daniel R. Garodnick District 4
Sara M. Gonzalez District 38