News | Administration

Columbia plays up connections to city in bid for M'ville funding

In the face of strong competition from Cornell and Stanford, Columbia’s proposal for a data sciences and engineering institute emphasizes the school’s already-strong connections to New York City.

The proposal that best fulfills Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision for a 21st century applied science school will receive $100 million from the city. But University President Lee Bollinger acknowledged in a recent interview that Columbia is the underdog in the race, since its plans diverge significantly from the city’s ideas.

In the executive summary of its proposal, released Thursday, Columbia cites its plan to utilize the Manhattanville campus, not the land the city is offering, and touts its existing presence in New York as benefits unique to Columbia’s proposal.

The document claims that Columbia is at an advantage to encourage economic development in New York because researchers won’t need to build ties from scratch.

“Producing the engine of economic growth and job creation sought by the City will require a New York-based network of relationships with local entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and workforce development advocates—relationships Columbia possesses today and will further develop for this purpose,” the proposal says.

The 17-page document features a number of photos of successful campus–city collaborations, including one of a handicap-accessible swing set that engineering students built in Harlem, and another photo of high school students from the Bronx working in a Columbia engineering lab.

The Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering would occupy three buildings in Manhattanville, including two new buildings and the renovated Nash building at 133rd Street and Broadway. The first building will be complete by 2018, and the three buildings combined, when completed in 2032, will occupy 1.1 million square feet.

While the city is offering up land on Roosevelt and Governors Islands, Columbia is hoping to leverage its 17-acre planned campus in Manhattanville to its benefit. The proposal describes the Manhattanville site as “shovel-ready,” noting that construction on the engineering institute “will occur within an already active construction site for which all government approvals—including successful completion of New York City’s rigorous land use review process—now stand resolved.”

Earlier this month, Bollinger told Spectator that the “very, very difficult, long, time-consuming” city land use approval process, known as ULURP, will set competitors’ projects back.

That process took Columbia three-and-a-half years, from submitting rezoning plans in spring 2004, to final City Council and mayoral approval in December 2007.

“We are ready to build,” Bollinger said. “They have to go through a ULURP process. I’ve been through a ULURP process. Nobody in their right mind should go through a ULURP process more than once in their life.”

In addition to being ready for construction, the Manhattanville campus is walking distance from the Morningside campus, which means that the engineering-focused institute can concentrate on interdisciplinary collaboration with Columbia’s other graduate schools—an idea the proposal stresses.

For instance, the New Media Center would see SEAS faculty working with Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Business School, and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

The executive summary reveals more specifics areas of focus for the institute’s five centers, which will study new media, urban development, health records, Internet security, and financial data.

The proposal also prominently features the Northwest Corner Building and the Mind, Brain and Behavior Initiative as examples of Columbia’s recent successes in developing new science buildings, and makes note of famous inventions developed at Columbia—including FM radio and high-definition television technology—as indicative of the school’s past scientific innovation.

finn.vigeland@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia' s is by far the best proposal and the the most realistic and doable. Bloomberg has been trying to lure Stanford innovation and technology for years.  What he doesn't realize is that no one is going to leave Palo Alto to move to Roosevelt Island. 

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Anonymous posted on

Are you from Bloomberg's office or Stanford? If not, how do you know who has the best proposal, unless you have studied all of the submitted proposals.

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Anonymous posted on

You obviously have not been reading the New York Times the last few years.

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Anonymous posted on

If Bloomberg is that ambitious, he should get Stanford to move to New York city.

His plan has been almost a failure because he got a number of unknown
third class universities attending to his call for proposal, whereas
many good schools did not care about his love call.

Columbia should not have even cared about what he said.

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Anonymous posted on

It is looking like he is going to support two programs---one on Roosevelt Island and one more...very likely ours (though NYU is throwing a hail mary into the second program as well...)

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Anonymous posted on

The point of this was to lure a different school to New York to create jobs.  There is no reason to choose Columbia or NYU, or even Cornell, because they are already have a New York presence anyway. Columbia is building Manhattanville anyway. He wants to create Silicon Valley on a deserted island with no access, and its never going to happen.  He would better throwing money at Columbia and NYU to improve their campuses that are already here and established.

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Anonymous posted on

Bollinger does not have anything in hands to bargain with Bloomberg after putting all his eggs into one basket - Mahattanville. A political game would be to threaten Bloomberg about Columbia moving away from New York city. Columbia should also demand an apology from Bloomberg after he has made an insulting statement that there is no top engineering school in New York city.

How many jobs will be lost if Columbia moves away from New York city? That is not the price Bloomberg can afford to pay. Columbia can sell all the properties at Morningside Heights and acquire new land opposite the Morningside Height in New Jersey, or at least to have the expansion in northern NJ instead of at Manhattanville. It is far too expensive to expand in Manhattan. There is very little compromise about being in a strategic location if moving or expanding in northern NJ, just on the other side of Hudson River. In addition to having very nice New York city skyline view, Columbia can increase the size by multiple times. Unfortunately the New Jersey governors have been sleeping for generations because none of them ever tried to lure Columbia to the other side of Hudson River.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia has great geographic advantage over Stanford, a decent Engineering School to seed this project, great connections to the city, and all that.  If Columbia loses to Stanford, it would be because Bollinger is no Hennessy.  Hennessy is a former entrepreneur.  He understands tech start-ups and he LIKES them.  Bollinger embodies the very antithesis of a start-up.  He is a lawyer, for crying out loud.  Bollinger is all about negotiated power, about brokering fights among fiefdoms; he doesn't have that vision thing for high-tech startup.   Bloomberg was an entrepreneur as well, and probably feels a stronger kinship to Hennessy than Bollinger.

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Anonymous posted on

This is not entirely the fault of Bollinger. Since he is a lawyer, he hired Dean Galil, an engineer, to do the job.

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