Roosevelt Island took its first step into a tech-infused future Tuesday with the groundbreaking of Cornell's highly anticipated campus.
Mayors Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg joined community members and school officials for a grand ceremony touting the transformative effects for NYC of the future Cornell Tech, which will teach 2,000 graduate engineering students. The school, which will open in 2017, is expected to provide a pipeline of fresh young talent into the booming local tech industry while simultaneously increasing the appeal of the island.
"It's providing CPR to Roosevelt Island," said James G. Clynes, the chair of Manhattan's Community Board 8, which oversees the neighborhood.
The 12-acre campus will be located on the southern portion of the island, under the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, and the three phases of construction will be done by 2037. The first phase includes The Bridge, a center where tech companies, students and school staff can meet and hold events such as hackathons, and a 26-story residential tower called the Passive House that will be one of the greenest buildings in the city.
"We created a space where different expertises come together," said Cornell President David J. Skorton.
Bloomberg announced Monday night that he donated $100 million to fund the construction of the main academic building, which will now be known as The Bloomberg Center. The former mayor created a competition that called on universities from around the world to create a tech campus in the city.
The start-up industry has been surging over the last decade, accounting for 300,000 city workers and recently beating California in terms of investments in tech companies.
Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the island and used to run a technology consulting firm, said the school's location makes sense because it easily connects to the headquarters of east side and Long Island City tech firms.
"It will make the tram, ferry service and F train a viable corridor," he said.
Clynes said Cornell has actively approached the community to hear them out on concerns about the construction, and so far they've been cooperative. The school will use barges to transport construction material and will add new green space to the southern part of the island.
"The project is respecting the Roosevelt Island way of life with a river to river experience," Clynes said.
Judith Berdy, the president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, said Cornell will be a respectful neighbor.
"We have a strong foundation for history and science already," she said. "We will balance the community's needs with the school's needs."