Universities Compete to Build New York City a Campus for Geeks


Mayor Bloomberg thinks he has a way to close New York City’s geek gap. Right now, the new tech economy has a wealth of start-ups with big ideas, but not enough brains to build them out. However, eighteen universities just expressed interest in Bloomberg’s offer to build a research campus for engineering and applied sciences in the five boroughs. It’s part of the city’s effort to diversify the economy beyond industries like finance and media and see if this whole tech bubble’s got legs. Stanford, which has a stellar reputation for churning out start-ups (hey-o, Larry and Sergey!), said it was interested. So did Cornell, the University of Chicago, and top universities from Finland, Korea, and Israel. In total, 27 schools responded. Some sent in joint submissions, like the combined proposal from New York University, Carnegie Mellon University, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, and I.B.M.

Stanford’s chances are great, if you ask Stanford: A university spokesman said that offering its first degree-granting satellite campus makes the school a front-runner. Its plan is to revive the Goldwater Hospital campus on Roosevelt Island, which could eventually hold as many as 2,200 students and a few hundred faculty and staff members. The city has also identified three other sites in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Staten Island, and Governors Island.

The idea is still in its preliminary stages. Proposals have not been submitted, and the city has not said how much it will be willing to spend. There’s also the matter of whether graduates of this campus would stick around the city and not fly out to Palo Alto with the big boys of tech as soon as they’ve matriculated. Just to be on the safe side, though, everyone should start boning up on casually referencing Ruby on Rails and machine learning just in case you’re at a bar stool next to the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Universities Will Compete to Build a Campus on City Land [NYT]

Related: The Geek Gap [NYM]