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Friday, May 3, 2013

Report From Cornell Vice President Cathy Dove, The Technion - Cornell Partnership At Roosevelt Island Cornell NYC Tech

Cornell NYC Tech Vice President Cathy Dove sends this report to the Roosevelt Island community.

The Technion-Cornell Partnership at Cornell Tech

Happy spring! I can’t imagine a place more beautiful than Roosevelt Island in April - everything from the blossoming cherry trees to the fuzzy goslings in Southpoint Park is spectacular. In addition to the weather transitioning, I am happy to report that plans for the Cornell Tech campus are coming together well. The City Planning Commission in March approved our project, and we are now in the midst of review by the City Council, the final stage in the land use review process.

I would like to thank the many Islanders who have taken the time to participate in each step of the process. Your input and dedication has been constructive and most helpful, and you have informed many important aspects of our planning. Thank you especially for understanding our approach to studying complex issues rather than always having immediate answers. In particular, we have been examining how construction can proceed with the least possible impact, ensuring that we are a good neighbor from the outset. I am pleased with what we have learned (more details to come in our next column) and hope that you will find our approach to be thoughtful and innovative, a standard we will aim for with every aspect of Cornell Tech.

The academic program for the campus is also moving forward quickly. Our “beta” class of masters students in computer science will finish its first semester in May. In this column, I want to provide more detail on another important part of the academic program – the partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Technion, it is one of the world’s leading research universities and a hub of innovation. In fact, the Technion has been a pioneer in training tech entrepreneurs and helping translate academic research into businesses. Amazingly, Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than all of Europe, and fully half of those companies are led by Technion graduates. Israel has become known as “start-up nation,” and the Technion may be the biggest catalyst.

The partnership between Cornell and the Technion is manifested in a key component of Cornell Tech, the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (JTCII). When the campus is fully up and running, about 1/3 of the students and faculty will be affiliated with the JTCII, while the rest of the campus will be taught exclusively by Cornell faculty and receive their degrees from Cornell (for example, the students who enrolled in January 2013 are in a one-year Cornell master degree program). In addition, Cornell alone is responsible for the development of the physical Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

However, the partnership between our two institutions is a centerpiece of the academic mission. The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute will launch its first formal program in the coming months – a novel program for Postdoctoral Innovation Fellows. The aim is to support researchers who seek to commercialize their research ideas in the stimulating environment at the JTCII while taking full advantage of the entrepreneurial network of Cornell Tech and the proximity to New York City-based markets.

Beginning in Fall 2014 the JTCII will offer an innovative two-year interdisciplinary program where students earn dual master degrees concurrently – one from Cornell and one from the Technion. This degree program will allow students to specialize in applied information-based sciences in one of three hubs focused around leading New York City industries – Connective Media, Healthier Living and The Built Environment – while honing their entrepreneurial skills. The first area of specialization will be in Connective Media. JTCII research will also be focused on the hub areas.

The Institute is named for Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Cornell alumni and long-time donors to both Cornell and the Technion, who recently announced a significant gift to support the Institute. Their gift will help support ongoing JTCII curriculum initiatives, faculty and graduate students, and industry interactions in the program. We are incredibly grateful for the Jacobses’ generosity, since as a non-profit we have to attract a great deal of philanthropy in support of the new campus and we have a long way still to go!

It is particularly appropriate that the JTCII is named for the Jacobses, because Irwin Jacobs embodies the type of tech leader we hope to produce at Cornell Tech. He is the founder of Qualcomm and a strong believer in the power of connecting academia and industry. For more than 20 years, Qualcomm has maintained a major research and development operation in Israel – not in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, but in Haifa, adjacent to the Technion’s campus. Not surprisingly the innovations that have come from this research campus have included major technological breakthroughs – in much the same way we believe will happen at Cornell Tech.

We could not be more excited about the Cornell-Technion academic partnership and believe that the Institute will be a significant contributor to the many innovative programs that Cornell Tech will bring to Roosevelt Island.
As previously reported, here's Mayor Bloomberg announcing



the $133 million gift to the Technion component of Cornell NYC Tech by the Jacobs Family.

21 comments :

deetelecare said...

Thank you Cathy for your appreciation of our spring peace, quiet and cherry trees. It'll be the last one we'll have before your trucks are here tearing up the helix and the roads, blocking our access to Southpoint Park, and generally polluting the Island. Shame on you for not supporting 95% barging of materials.

Westviewer said...

Was barging utilized for the Southtown buildings?

Frank Farance said...

RICC got played Cornell's strategy of Running Out The Clock.B arging makes sense for many reasons (more in this below). But inexperienced negotiators, such as Ellen Polivy and Jeff Escobar, kept this in the forefront when what they should have been doing is focusing on all the other needs. RICC was always Amateur Central with Jonathan Kalkin's name changes, his bow-in's and bow-out's, and whatever. Cornell knew they had an easy opponent.

Why? Because Cornell was always going to give in on the barging, but they kept dangling it as a distraction, and it worked perfectly. Even in the end, RICC people were unhappy with the surprise announcement ... the RICC people felt they should have been told in advance (Cornell didn't need RICC).


So why was barging inevitable? First, from a construction perspective, it lowers cost and risk. If you add in the possible cost of the bridge or helix replacement, including the substantial delays and penalties that Cornell would suffer (maybe $50-100 million?), then someone in Ithaca

Frank Farance said...

RICC got played Cornell's strategy of Running Out The Clock. Barging makes sense for many reasons (more below). But inexperienced negotiators, such as Ellen Polivy and Jeff Escobar, kept this in the forefront when what they should have been doing is focusing on all the other needs. RICC was always Amateur Central with Jonathan Kalkin's name changes, his bow-in's and bow-out's, and whatever. Cornell knew they had an easy opponent.

Why? Because Cornell was always going to give in on the barging, but they kept dangling it as a distraction, and it worked perfectly. Even in the end, RICC people were unhappy with the surprise announcement ... the RICC people felt they should have been told in advance (Cornell didn't need RICC). I met people on RICC who weren't aware that RIRA exists ("ya didn't notice the RIRA Column in the WIRE every issue?"), they had little understanding of the Island.

So why was barging inevitable? First, from a construction perspective, it lowers cost and risk. If you add in the possible cost of the bridge or helix replacement, including the substantial delays and penalties that Cornell would suffer (maybe $50-100 million?), and the impact on the Island of a sudden stoppage with a broken helix or bridge, then someone in Ithaca might say: who's running this project? In other words, from a risk management perspective, there's a very big downside to a a non-barging approach. So barging makes sense from a construction perspective.

Second, there was always the additional cost and potential enforcement by RIOC. Just as RIOC asserts its State government right over local (City) government by requiring additional permitting for food trucks on Roosevelt Island, RIOC could assert itself and require (say) $1000/day per truck permitting to cover wear and tear on its infrastructure. (Might also be true Cornell's carting trucks if they don't want to use our AVAC, and so on.) So from a regulatory perspective, RIOC can do a lot ... even without a ground lease with Cornell. My sense is Cornell understands this, but no need to reveal this to RICC.

Moving forward, RIOC should make it abundantly clear how they will recover costs on the Cornell construction, and the natural flow will move many of the trucks to barges.

YetAnotherRIer said...

We should put you in charge. Seems you have solutions for everything and everything you can think up would be easily implementable.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"First, from a construction perspective, it lowers cost and risk. If you add in the possible cost of the bridge or helix replacement, including the substantial delays and penalties..."


Westviewer makes a good point. This is just another construction project and not much larger than say Riverwalk. Was barging used then? Why all of the sudden the idea that the new project will put so much tear and wear on our infrastructure?

Mark Lyon said...

It's actually a significantly larger project - in terms of both demolition and construction. It's going to consist of two academic buildings, a large dorm, a hotel/conference center, three office buildings, two mixed use buildings that combine residences with educational and commercial space, plus retail and utility buildings. In total, a bit more than 2.1M square feet.


The largest issue, though, is that Cornell will cross over RIOC's leasehold without any cost or requirement to offset their impact. Riverwalk doesn't get that benefit, they're contributing to the costs they create through the fees and rents they pay. Cornell isn't going to be required to do that, but will be bringing a rather large population of workers, students, professors, hotel guests and convention-goers on a regular basis.


Barging is a responsible solution to minimize the impact on RIOC-controlled portions of the island. Assuming the additional Riverwalk construction coincides with the construction work at Cornell, the two parties might also be able to find additional cost savings by working together to barge both projects.

Frank Farance said...

The Southtown construction did not involve significant demolition (nurse's residence, a single building, a third as high, and similar footprint to 455 Main), but the Goldwater site is about the same footprint as 54-59 Street and Sutton Place to 1 Ave. On top of that, Cornell plans on raising the elevation 19-21 feet to reduce potential flooding (see "http://cornellsun.com/node/54518"). That's a lot of outgoing debris, and a lot of incoming dirt.

Frank Farance said...

deetelecare: Putting a stop on the 53 Street E+M lines doesn't make sense because they are saturated. A better option is to put a stop on the 60 Street line where there is spare capacity (in several ways). I've mentioned this suggestion several times over the years. No one has a hard estimate for hollowing out the station on the line, but guestimates range from $500 million to $1 billion.

CheshireKitty said...

Yet - Frank never said it would be easily implementable. New subway lines or stations never are. How long did it take to build the 63rd St connector? 20 years. And how much did it cost? Almost a billion dollars. And the 2nd Avenue line - it's been in the works for almost 100 years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Avenue_Subway#History.


There will be an added burden on RI F train once Cornell-Tech is built and an additional subway station for RI would help. The construction could proceed jointly with that of Cornell-Tech. The City gave Cornell equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars when it donated the land for the project to Cornell. It isn't that much of a stretch that the City could also make it possible financially to hollow out a station on RI on the N/R line to further "assist" Cornell.

deetelecare said...

Would/could 53rd Street be less expensive, if doable?

deetelecare said...

At least I have some ideas. Do you? Or are you content with accepting yet another shove-down-the-throats of the locals? Haven't you noticed that our opinions are invited, but never listened to? Maybe the only way we get some action is to gate off Main Street--or be like the Hasidim in Brooklyn who move bus stops, and make up our own signs forbidding truck traffic.

Frank Farance said...

deetelecare: I don't know if the guestimate of cost would be the same for 53 st. Even so, if they are about the same, then having an extra stop on the 53 st line doesn't help the E-M passengers, nor the RI passengers because the trains (in terms of capacity), tunnels (in terms of trains that run on their tracks), and endpoints (e.g., trains in/out of Rock Center) are at capacity. So it doesn't seem like as wise an investment as 60 Street. In either case, the subway entrance would be about 1-2 blocks away from the campus, so in terms of student convenience, there seems to be parity.

mjmnyc said...

The M is definitely not saturated, although the E is.

Mark Lyon said...

Also, was any provision made for a LIRR platform under our F station? Once East Side Access is up and running, that could also be used to offload some of our traffic.

Frank Farance said...

mjmnyc + Mr. Lyon: Yes, the M is not saturated, but when we discussed this with the MTA a couple years ago (when the tram was shutdown), the MTA was pretty firm about not switching the F back to the 53 Street (and not giving us the M train, which was less crowded). They thought the M train on 53 Street was an experiment (and we responded The Experiment Is Over).


I agree with both of you that the M train would be a much better choice for the 63 St tunnel ... and it would give us much better access to Queens: Northern Blvd, Steinway, and Broadway ... certainly would be handy for Cornell, too.

Let's just say that the MTA was firm about keeping the M line As-Is (and avoiding a slew a complaints from Queens like they did last time they changed the lines/letters).

Meanwhile, although the M train isn't completely crowded, they really can't put more trains through, whereas 60 Street has room for trains.


I did ask the MTA rep about the LIRR stopping here. Aside from there being no LIRR station below us, there is the issue of passenger flow with two separate fare systems ... not sure how that would work optimally.

mjmnyc said...

Maybe the MTA will be more concerned with Cornell here.

CheshireKitty said...

Mark: Exactly. That was the error the MTA made from the outset. The M is the local, the E isn't as heavily used as the F. The F is perhaps the most heavily used train in the City (that or the Lex line) and is an express. Nobody considered that riders from Queens taking the F, in order to switch to the Lex line, have to walk several blocks to 59th St to do so, whereas previously they could quickly switch from one line to the other @ Lex Ave. Why turn the F into a non-direct way into midtown by having it go through 63rd St connector? You can say, well those riders can simply switch along the way to the E or M (or was it the V at some point). Fine - of course they can switch. That defeats the whole point of running the F express into midtown and shaving some time off lengthy commutes from E. Queens. I understand the reasoning of building the connector - now they have two tunnels for the 6th Ave line going into Queens whereas previously there was only one. So they can double the number of trains (potentially). The problem is - they put the wrong trains on those tracks, as you correctly note. The local train (M - along with E) should have been put through the 63rd St connector; the express train F - funneling crowds into midtown (and downtown/Lower Manhattan via the Lex) should have stayed at 53rd St.

CheshireKitty said...

Maybe. And with the new construction it would be the perfect time to hollow out a stop for the N/R on RI. You would then double the train capacity for RI riders - plus bring train service to Cornell's doorstep. Imagine what a boon that would be for the guests at the hotel Cornell is planning to build, and even for faculty/students that may not live on-campus. The City is already giving Cornell the equivalent of $300,000,000 in donating the land to Cornell - why not make the package extra-special by pledging to make this new subway stop happen? Of course money is involved in creating this new subway stop - it's simply a matter of allocating resources that the City has toward this project. Maybe the State could also kick in money, or even float bonds if needed to help.

Jesse Webster said...

Both E and F trains are express on Queens Blvd. during weekday rush hours. The E makes just 8 stops in Queens during the weekday rush, while the F makes 10 (11 if you count Roosevelt Island). Once in Manhattan, both trains go local.

CheshireKitty said...

Jesse: Thanks - I stand corrected on the E. For some reason it is usually emptier, maybe because it runs along 8th Ave in the City, which is not considered the heart of the business district. Thus, riders might prefer the F if they need to get to offices in Midtown (which often may not be on the West side).


I always figured the E was a local but the E actually only reflects the defacto "divide" in Queens itself: The E leads to Jamaica, an extremely run-down neighborhood. The F leads to Jamaica Estates, a plush area. These trains reflect the stubborn racial and class divisions in Queens. That borough continues to be "sorted out" by area according to wealth/race/class.

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