Silicon Valley East


Aerial view of Roosevelt Island.
Courtesy EDC

New York is no longer content with just having a Silicon Alley in lower Manhattan. Last December, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) took the initial step in establishing a new “applied science and engineering research campus.” In an unprecedented move, it solicited expressions of interest (RFEI) from academic institutions around the world; and by its mid-March deadline, it had received 18 proposals from a combination of 27 organizations, including Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Israel’s Technion. “Many of the world’s leading tech companies grew out of top applied science programs, and we want the next generation of companies and jobs to start up here in New York,” said Robert Steel, deputy mayor for economic development, in a press statement.

Stanford’s massing model for a campus on Roosevelt Island in New York.

The idea first germinated after the meltdown of the financial-services sector at the end of 2008, when the EDC began investigating ways to diversify the city’s economic base. “We talked to a bunch of CEOs and business leaders, and we kept hearing that the city did not have enough engineers to support the growth in the tech sector,” said Julie Wood, a spokesperson for the EDC.

In the RFEI, the EDC identified four city-owned sites—Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, areas on Governor’s Island, and Farm Colony on Staten Island—as possible locations. Each of these parcels is between ten to 40 acres large; there is also the possibility of locating the university on private land. The EDC also indicated that the city would provide a significant amount of capital to a project that will probably run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stanford is an obvious frontrunner because of its experience in populating the real Silicon Valley’s startups and corporations, and the fact that it has one of the largest endowments among U.S. schools ($13.9 billion). The university has provided a few details of what it envisions: It would start construction in 2013 and open its doors to 400 masters and doctorate candidates in 2015. Constructed in phases over 25 years, there would be as many as 2,220 students and 100 faculty at its New York base. The university submitted a rendering showing building volumes on Roosevelt Island in its preliminary proposal, put together by its department of Land, Buildings and Real Estate.

Stanford’s curriculum would be centered on engineering, computer science, and business; other institutions have proposed more of a biotech focus. The EDC plans to release an RFP this summer, and announce the winner by the end of the year.

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