Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Roosevelt Island The Next Sand Hill Road For Venture Capitalists? Maybe, If Stanford Is Selected To Build New York City Applied Sciences & Engineering School - Cornell Better Do Its Homework Better If It Cares About Support Of Roosevelt Island Community

Have you heard of the legendary street in California's Silicon Valley called Sand Hill Road? According to Start Up Muse, Sand Hill Road is the Venture Capitalist's address of choice:

 ... The most active VCs in the world are located on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park....
and Business Insider adds:
... In the U.S. over the past half-century, our private capital markets have evolved from a group of renegade individuals and bankers to a multi-trillion dollar institutionalized "risk capital" business that almost every major pension fund and institutional investor has allocated money to.

And the crown jewel of that system, which for the past five decades has helped make the U.S. economy the most innovative and dynamic in the world, is the venture capital business.

Venture capital firms are spread out across the world, of course, but as with other industries, there's a physical place that represents the global geographic center of the business: California's Silicon Valley.

And within that center, there's an epicenter: A winding strip of pavement leading west from Palo Alto into the hills known as "Sand Hill Road."...
Well, as hard as it may be to comprehend, Roosevelt Island may soon become part of the East Coast version of Sand Hill Road if Stanford University is selected to build the New York City Applied Sciences and Engineering School proposed by Mayor Bloomberg.

During a meeting and tour of Roosevelt Island several weeks ago with Stanford's Director of Communications Lisa Lapin, I learned that a number of Silicon Valley Venture Capital Firms have indicated a strong interest in following Stanford to NYC should Stanford be chosen to build NYC's new world class graduate engineering school - which Stanford would locate on Roosevelt Island.

No VC names were provided nor was it stated that any VC firms would specifically locate to Roosevelt Island but close proximity to Stanford would be a priority of these firms and nothing else is closer to a Roosevelt Island Stanford campus than being on Roosevelt Island.

Ms. Lapin and I took the Tram over from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. It was Ms. Lapin's first time on the Tram. She was very impressed with the beautiful skyline and waterfront views from the Tram and received an excellent aerial view of Roosevelt Island as well as the proposed Stanford Campus footprint at the existing Goldwater Hospital.

We walked from the Tram through the Goldwater campus to Southpoint Park and other areas of Roosevelt Island. Ms. Lapin repeatedly emphasized Stanford's strong desire to integrate harmoniously with, and address the concerns of, the Roosevelt Island community regarding Stanford's proposed new campus. At the time of our meeting this was the publicly announced preliminary plan for the Stanford Campus on Roosevelt Island.

Image of Stanford's Proposed Roosevelt Island Site Plan From Presentation Below

Ms. Lapin later provided an updated version of Stanford's preliminary plans adding:
The design plans for Roosevelt Island are evolving somewhat, now that we have considerably more information about infrastructure needs. The original "massing" as architects call it, was two tall residential towers with the academic enterprise in between. That is what we depicted in our expression of interest in March. Now the direction is for something a bit different, with housing spread throughout, but there are not final plans.

I can say with certainty that the intention is to create a campus community, to integrate development into existing parkways, maximize public access to the waterfront, retain open space, minimize or eliminate vehicle traffic altogether in favor of bicycles and pedestrians, and aim for a sustainable campus in all respects.
Stanford officials requested and have met with a number of Roosevelt Island residents recently including Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Matt Katz, RIRA's Chair on what is now tentatively being called the Silicon Island Sub-Committee Denise Shull and former RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin.

Mr. Kalkin is leading an effort to organize all Roosevelt Island organizations to participate as stakeholders in an eventual Community Benefits Agreement with any University that develops a campus at the Goldwater Hospital site. The working title for this new coalition in formation is the Silicon Island Development Coalition and will ultimately include representation from each Roosevelt Island building, RIRA, Seniors and Disabled Association, businesses and groups on the east side of Manhattan and other Roosevelt Island stakeholders. I asked Mr. Kalkin to report on what occurred during the Stanford meeting he attended. According to Mr. Kalkin:
Stanford initiated the meeting to discuss their interest in Roosevelt Island. We discussed a range of topics, but the main theme was that we want a university to reach their goals in a way that is mutually beneficial for the university and the community.

It is clear in the RFP that any university that comes here will need some sort of energy plan and so we discussed how a renewable/cogeneration/tidal/fuel cell energy plan could benefit the entire Island and a university.

We also discussed possible transportation improvements including ferry service, the need for a new state of the art library, a possible shared work space/startup incubator space on the island, and some sort of program to enhance education on the island like

This was all very preliminary and isn't an exhaustive list of possible ideas that might help the community, but it was certainly exciting to think of all the possibilities.
By all accounts from those who have met with Stanford officials, Stanford is fully supportive of engaging with the Roosevelt Island community in a Community Benefit Agreement. According to Streetsblog:
... Community benefits agreements are private contracts between community organizations and developers, requiring that the developer take additional actions for public benefit. In theory, CBAs allow groups that are shut out of the normal planning process to make their voices heard. The first real CBA was tied to the construction of a basketball arena -- the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where a coalition of religious, social justice, environmental, health, immigrant and tenant organizations capitalized on public concerns over the project to win promises of living-wage jobs, affordable housing, and local hiring.

In some cases, locals have demanded the inclusion of transportation improvements in the benefits agreement. At the Staples Center, the CBA created a residential permit parking program for the arena's neighbors. Here in New York, the CBA Columbia University signed as part of its expansion into West Harlem required it to light the viaduct along Broadway and advocate for improvements to subway and bus stations....
Examples of Community Benefit Agreements in NYC include West Harlem and Brooklyn.

Cornell University has also publicly announced plans seeking to build the NYC Applied Sciences and Engineering school on Roosevelt Island.

Two Cornell representatives met last Friday, September 16 with the Child School Executive Director Sal Ferrera, who is also a newly appointed Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Director, RIRA's Denise Shull and Ilonka Salisbury as well as RIOC's Fernando Martinez and a RIOC research fellow. Also in attendance as an advisor to Mr. Ferrera was former NY State Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte and a political consultant to Cornell, Peter Krokondelas from the firm of Kasirer Consulting.

I asked Mr. Ferrera to comment on the substance of the meeting. Mr. Ferrera replied: 
we were asked to keep our discussion confidential. I can share with you that Cornell is focused on being involved with the community by providing educational programs ,job opportunities and much more.
The RIRA representatives at the September 16 Cornell meeting had a much different perspective than Mr. Ferrera and concluded that it was necessary to report back to the Roosevelt Island community the noticeable distinct difference in approach taken by the Cornell representatives and their political consultant than the one taken by Stanford, at least in this first meeting.

At a meeting last Tuesday September 20 (video of meeting below), the RIRA representatives present for the September 16 meeting with Cornell reported that the meeting was led by the political consultant, Mr. Krokondelas, and clearly focused on what Cornell could do for the Child School's K-12 program - nothing else.

Upon learning that community members were seeking a Community Benefits Agreement with the school selected by NYC, Mr. Krokondelas was taken aback by this and sought to hasten the end of the meeting. Mr. Aponte, Mr. Ferrera's advisor, also thought it important to explain to Ms Shull all the reasons the community should not seek a Community Benefit Agreement but rather work for a restricted declaration. After hearing Mr. Aponte's reasoning, Ms. Shull thought that the Community Benefit Agreement must be a really good idea. The Cornell representatives also seemed surprised to learn that only 12 Roosevelt Island children attend the Child School.

Summarizing the basic difference between Stanford and Cornell's approach to the Roosevelt Island community to date, Ms. Shull noted that Stanford's approach is to learn everything they can about the community needs and Cornell was only interested in the Child School and talking RIRA out of seeking a Community Benefit Agreement.

Here's video portions of the September 20 meeting in which Ms. Shull reports back to RIRA and answers questions regarding the September 16 Cornell meeting. It's fascinating. If you are interested in this process of selecting a school to build an Applied Sciences and Engineering School on Roosevelt Island watch all 52 minutes.

You Tube Video of RIRA Discussion On Meeting With Cornell

Assembly Member Micah Kellner is holding a meeting on September 27 with Cornell representatives and selected members of the Roosevelt Island community. I hope to be able to attend and to report on what transpires during this meeting.

Here's another video showing the September RIRA Common Council Meeting discussing the NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School regarding Roosevelt Island.

UPDATE 9/26 - The Stanford University News has an interview with Stanford University President John Hennessey on his vision for a New York City campus. An excerpt:
... What does the city of New York get that's tangible out of this?
I think the city has several goals in mind. First of all, New York sees technology playing an increasing role in its economy. If you look at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's address, he's pretty clear about the fact that technology will play a big role in the city's core businesses – finance and media. The mayor also clearly sees technology as a source of future business opportunities, which will help create jobs.
Technology is also a big part of how cities are going to survive – energy technology, thinking about water in a sustainable way, transportation. All these things are fundamentally technology challenges and are critical to the ability of large cites to thrive.

Is Roosevelt Island the definitive site?
For the purposes of the proposal, Roosevelt Island is definitely the site we are focusing on. We continue to consider other sites – not other city-controlled sites but privately owned sites. Whether or not any of those make sense, and whether or not you can make the finances work on them, is an open question still. We'll continue to do that until we have some certainty about where we want to end up....

... Would you comment on the news reports of a potential partnership between Stanford and local New York campuses?

We're still in a preliminary set of discussions with various universities, as well as industry partners that would want to be part of a collaboration. We're just not quite done in formulating these. We take the view that if we can form some academic partnerships, they will strengthen what we can offer to students, whether undergraduates or graduate students who are on the campus.

In a recent media report, you were quoted as saying Stanford is ready to move quickly, open a temporary site and begin offering classes in 2013. Is that accurate?

That's accurate. This is actually a recommendation which came from the faculty committee that has been reviewing the plan and interacting with their colleagues.

We established this faculty committee, which sent out requests to their colleagues asking for areas of interest, potential concerns, etc. One of the recommendations they came back with is to consider starting earlier to get momentum and to ensure that when you move into the Roosevelt Island facility you actually have a critical mass.

[School of Engineering] Dean Jim Plummer, [Graduate School of Business] Dean Garth Saloner and I found that recommendation compelling. We could begin the hiring process and begin offering admissions to graduate students for 2013....
The entire interview is here.

UPDATE 6:30 PM - Wall Street Journal is reporting that Purdue has dropped out of the running to be selected for the NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School. According to the WSJ:
... Purdue, which first signaled its interest in February, is the first school to formally announce that it won’t submit a response to the city’s call for proposals. Schools still in the running include Cornell University, Stanford University, New York University and Columbia University.

City officials said it was expected that some institutions would drop out of the process, and that more would be weeded out during the bidding process....


bartonfinck said...

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