When Thomas Edison established his legendary West Orange Labs, everything was focused around team-based solution of problems, and making the invention process easy and conducive, with plenty of intellectual and physical resources co-located for convenience. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a similar philosophy in mind, and just recently, September 13, 2017, a new high-tech birthing place was dedicated on Roosevelt Island.
To anticipate a future New York City where small, nimble, high tech companies would be based in the heart of the city, back in 2010 Bloomberg invited top-flight universities to compete to open an applied-science graduate center. Cornell University and its partner, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, were declared the winners and awarded $100 million along with a stretch of city-owned land on iconic and historic Roosevelt Island. Bloomberg’s business model for this was Silicon Valley where founders of great companies often did so in the shadow of the schools they attended. Today, the first residents of this vision have arrived on this unique campus.
The tech center campus is comprised of three buildings: the Academic Building–a contemporary office structure; the House, a high-rise that will be a mix of graduate student and faculty housing; and the Bridge, will host work spaces and classrooms for Cornell Tech in about 30 percent of the building, while the rest will be leased to companies by the building’s owner, Forest City New York. The buildings incorporate ample energy efficiency considerations and alternate energy technologies. Through his charitable organization, Bloomberg has given an additional $100 million to this project, re-naming the Academic Building the Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center, in honor of his daughters.
Daniel Huttenlocher, the dean and vice provost of Cornell Tech, described the Bridge as the physical embodiment of the institution’s goal of bringing together academia and industry. “Academic excellence here is necessary, but not sufficient,” Dr. Huttenlocher said. “You also need to be engaged with the commercial or societal aspect of your work.”
Though the campus is only about one-third built — two other major phases of construction are to follow by the year 2037, by agreement with the city — it has the nascent feel of its own little community, as well as a grassy green where students can sprawl, amid impressive views.