Winning the city’s competition would only be the beginning of the process of building a new applied sciences campus at Columbia, administrators say.
On Thursday, the University submitted its proposal to the city, which is offering space on Roosevelt and Governors islands to bring an applied science campus to the city. The winner of the competition will also receive $100 million in funding, but University representatives say that’s a far cry from what Columbia would need to make those buildings a reality.
“A hundred million helps anything, but a hundred million is not going to pay 100 percent of the cost of these buildings,” Joe Ienuso, executive vice president for facilities, said, citing the many costs of taking on a project of this magnitude.
Ienuso was clear that this problem is not unique to Columbia but also affects the other eight competitors—among them Stanford, Cornell, and NYU.
“If the University is selected, whomever the selectee is now has to undertake not only the task of designing the buildings, but the task of raising funds to build their buildings,” Ienuso said. “You win, you start fundraising. That’s going to be the reality for everyone.”
The issue of funding could become even more complicated given Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent indications that the city may select multiple winners. The plans for Columbia’s campus—in Manhattanville, rather than on Roosevelt or Governors islands—also diverge from Bloomberg’s proposed vision, which Bollinger said made Columbia an “underdog” in the competition. Losing would make independent funding even more necessary.
But Columbia is no stranger to fundraising for new buildings. Since the Manhattanville campus was announced, the University has been working to find the funds to support new buildings for the School of International and Public Affairs, the School of the Arts, and a new Academic Conference Center. It has also raised the funds for the Jerome L. Greene Science Center for Mind, Brain, and Behavior studies.
University President Lee Bollinger said in a recent interview that these efforts show that such success is possible.
“For Mind, Brain, and Behavior, we started out with virtually no funding and no space. Mind, Brain, and Behavior will open in four years … and we raised 400 million dollars to support this,” Bollinger said. “It’s all a matter of having the vision and then trying to raise the funds to support it. And that’s what we’d have to do for this engineering interdisciplinary project.”
Bollinger emphasized, however, that this project will take time, especially without the city’s support.
“We can’t do them if we don’t win—it’s not as if well just go turn around and implement them. We still have to raise the money. We don’t have a billion dollars to invest in these plans,” Bollinger said. “My hope is [the] next decade.”