Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Community Board 8 Cornell Technion Roosevelt Island Task Force Public Meeting Tonight - Why Does NYC Refuse To Allow Stanford University To Publicly Release Details Of Its Withdrawn Proposal For Roosevelt Island NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School?

Later today, Community Board 8's (CB 8) Cornell/Roosevelt Island Task Force will receive an:

Update by Cornell University on the Cornell Technion project on Roosevelt Island

Newsweek's The Daily Beast published an article yesterday on the Cornell NYC Tech Applied Sciences & Engineering School scheduled to open on Roosevelt Island in 2017. It's an excellent article though a bit harsh in its description of Roosevelt Island. According to The Daily Beast:
In a sliver of land in New York City’s East River, where a lunatic asylum and smallpox hospital once stood, banners proclaim with unabashed assurance (or chutzpah): “Roosevelt Island: A Fresh Look at the Big Apple.”

The bleak cityscape on the lower half of the island, accessible by cable car and occupied by a hospital for convalescents with battered bricks and rusting air conditioners, will soon be home to a complex of buildings intended to transform the island from an image of urban decay to a bold statement about 21st-century urban design—and transform New York City into an enduring 21st-century economic powerhouse.

In an unprecedented cooperative venture between City Hall, Cornell University, and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, ground is about to be broken for a top-flight technology campus that Mayor Michael Bloomberg promises will give other hubs of entrepreneurial science around the country, and indeed the world, “a run for their money.”...
The Daily Beast article also describes the competition between Stanford, which had been the presumed favorite to be awarded the right to build the NYC Tech Campus, and Cornell the eventual winner after Stanford dropped out of the competition in December 2011. From the Daily Beast:
... “It took Stanford aback, the way we were treated,” says the university’s communications director, Lisa Lapin. “We got a sense that it was more of an antagonistic relationship than a welcoming one.” Lapin forwarded to Newsweek a blistering statement from Stanford general counsel Debra Zumwalt saying many of the positions taken by the city “were not in good faith.” “In my decades of doing negotiations with both private parties and government agencies, I have never seen anything like it,” said Zumwalt. “It was clear from our negotiations ... that the city would not be working as a partner with Stanford and indeed would be making it more difficult and expensive than necessary to get this project done successfully,” said Zumwalt.

There were specific issues about hefty penalties that Stanford was expected to pay even if the city was responsible for delays or other difficulties. “Stanford wanted to work with New York City to implement the mayor’s bold vision for a transformative technology campus. We reluctantly came to the conclusion that the city could not deliver on that promise and decided to withdraw.”

Out in Palo Alto, Calif., some people feel Stanford was set up for a fall right from the beginning, suckered into giving the project the prestige of the Stanford name. City Hall maintains it was just driving a hard bargain, getting all the contenders to put as much as possible into the project, with as many protections as possible for the New York City taxpayer....
 Click here for the entire Daily Beast article.

I have been asking Stanford to publicly release its Roosevelt Island NYC Tech proposal ever since Cornell won the competition in order to compare the two proposals. Stanford has always indicated that it wanted to release its proposal but could not because NYC refused to allow it do so. Yesterday, I again asked if Stanford would release its NYC Tech Proposal. A Stanford representative responded:
NYC's last piece was supposedly the Columbia deal, so we should be able to release our proposal now. I've inquired.  The city has not been eager for us to share it, as that would reveal their missed opportunity.
The Columbia deal referred to was announcement yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg that NYC will provide $15 million to create an Institute For Date Sciences and Engineering at Columbia University.

According to the NY Times:
Columbia University will receive $15 million in financial help from New York City to significantly expand its engineering school, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Monday.

The money — a consolation prize of sorts — is related to a competition in which Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology were awarded $100 million from the city to build a new graduate school on Roosevelt Island....
Here's May 24th 2012 statement from Stanford General Counsel Debra Zumwalt regarding New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) negotiating process with Stanford and NYC's refusal to allow Stanford to publicly release details of its proposal.
NYCEDC still refuses to let Stanford provide the details of its proposal, claiming that it is remains confidential even though NYCEDC gave Cornell the award for Roosevelt Island after Stanford withdrew its proposal for a campus there over five months ago and the City released the details of Cornell's proposal then. Clearly, there is no longer any confidential competition for this project. In addition, there have been misstatements in the press about the process attributed to the City.

There are many examples of unreasonable conduct by NYCEDC during the negotiations, such as adding many millions of dollars in penalties that were not in the original proposal. The City has denied this, but it is true. We did not think it would be fair to penalize Stanford for failure to obtain approvals on a certain schedule if the delays were the fault of the City and not Stanford.

The changes in the important deal terms from what was proposed in the RFP, changes during the negotiations to make the provisions more negative for Stanford than what had previously been proposed and agreed to by the City, and the unreasonableness of a number of the positions taken by NYCEDC were not in good faith. In my decades of doing negotiations with both private parties and government agencies, I have never seen anything like it. The City on many occasions referred to this project as a partnership between the City and the selected university. It was clear from our negotiations that NYCEDC, which was the City agency that would be responsible not only for negotiating this project but for overseeing it, that the City would not be working as a partner with Stanford and indeed would be making it more difficult and expensive than necessary to get this project done successfully. Stanford wanted to work with New York City to implement the Mayor's bold vision for a transformative technology campus. We reluctantly came to the conclusion that the City could not deliver on that promise and decided to withdraw.
A Stanford representative adds that as of earlier this month, NYC still refused  to allow Stanford to release details of its proposal to the public.

Lost in all the excitement over the new Roosevelt Island Hi Tech school is where will the current patients at the soon to be demolished Goldwater Hospital be moved to make way for Cornell. Some will be moved to a new facility being built in East Harlem but that is not going over well with some in that community. According to the NY Daily News:
East Harlem community leaders are furious that Mayor Bloomberg is rushing to spend more than $300 million to develop three parcels of public land in their neighborhood — all part of what they say is a huge hidden subsidy to Cornell University’s new tech campus to be built on Roosevelt Island...
... To meet that deadline — and a possible ground-breaking for the new campus before Bloomberg leaves office — city officials are racing to erect several facilities in East Harlem that will house as many as 700 Coler-Goldwater patients.

They never bothered to ask locals what they wanted done with that land, according Community Board 11, which voted unanimously in mid June to oppose them....

“We’re not against the Cornell school,” said Matthew Washington, chairman of Community Board 11.

“We just believe there has to be more support from the city for our own residents” and a “recognition of the burden” the neighborhood will bear for these projects.”...
Click here for the entire NY Daily News article.


CheshireKitty said...

There were probably too many NY interests, maybe from the start, that wanted Cornell over Stanford - maybe Cuomo himself insisted it be Cornell, so as to knit Upstate and Downstate more.  Maybe the entire competition of application submissions was just a sham and Cornell was always going to be the one selected.  Maybe they only had the competition to whip up more interest/excitement about the new campus.  If so, then the universities that submitted applications - like Stanford - were set up and blew a lot of money and effort for nothing.  I doubt if any of the above can actually be proven, but if it could, it would be a terrible black eye for NYC - since you could say it perpetrated quite an expensive fraudulent competition.  Maybe it was originally a bona fide competition but then the pro-Cornell pressure from the Governor's office became too great and that was when the City negotiators began throwing expensive curveballs at Stanford, intentionally trying to discourage them or make them quit, which they did eventually.  It is terrible that E. Harlem is getting the shaft by not having any input on the new long-term care facility, but that sounds like pure Bloomberg again..  And the Community Boards --- shown to be as impotent as ever.  So much for grass-roots democracy in the City.   I guess this is Bloomberg's big chance at a big splashy "legacy" project since the West Side football stadium didn't work out, and what else does he have to show for his 12 years in office?  A city filled with luxury condos or luxury hotels?  I guess even Bloomberg didn't want to only be remembered as the Mayor who made the City a city only for the  upper-class.  The chance to donate City land for a new university campus - that has a rather better ring to it for posterity. 

bakgwailo said...

 Well, from what the papers seemed to imply it was due to the hidden remediation costs associated with the hospital if I recall. As for legacy, I would say very low crime, keeping the city prosperous, thriving and funded during one of our greatest recessions in the history of our country (not to mention constructing large capital works projects like the 2nd avenue subway during this period) are all pretty good. In fact, if anything, his legacy will be known for his (admittedly misguided) attempts to better the quality of living of people and public health of the city. This includes aggressive smoking bans/taxes, posted restaurant grades, attempts at reducing/removing unhealthy foods, bike lanes, replacing and modernizing the entire public health disease tracking registries, etc. He also has tried to focus and improve public education along with a huge expanse of parks across the city.

Not saying I really agree or even really like him, but I think his legacy is a lot more than simply luxury condos and hotels. BTW, those existed (in droves) before he became mayor, and, honestly, it is NYC, which is historically known as one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Furthermore, if someone has the (enormous amount) of cash to buy land in Manhattan then they have the right to build whatever they want on it as long as it zoned properly, just a simple case of capitalism - if there is a demand of that level and price of housing then someone will be happy to supply it. On that note, I think Boston (in Downtown/Backbay/Copley/Etc) actually has higher average rents, and I don't think anyone would make the argument that Mayor Menino's legacy is catering to the rich.

Westviewer said...

The unspoken reason Stanford pulled out:  They got a taste of dealing with the professional Roosevelt Islanders.

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