City & State: Island in the Stream

Written by Andrew J. Hawkins on . Posted in Politics.


With flagging retail and limited transportation, Roosevelt Island has high hopes for coming tech campus

By the end of next year, the outlines for the city’s much-touted high-tech campus will begin to appear on Roosevelt Island, a two-mile-long spit of land in the middle of the East River.

But before that can happen, the two institutes building the school—Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology—will need to build a curriculum, hire faculty, begin classes in temporary locations elsewhere and, perhaps most important, attempt to establish a relationship with residents of the so-called “small town” of Roosevelt Island.

Toward that end, Cornell officials are planning an April town hall meeting to present local residents their vision for the future. That vision is filled with sloped, glittery buildings, thousands of friendly geek neighbors, maybe the occasional river ferry and a less isolated community better integrated into the rest of New York.

Cathy Dove, newly named vice president of the tech campus and current associate dean of Cornell’s College of Engineering, said there was no time like the present to begin that process.

“You’re talking to the newest community member,” said Dove, who just moved to the Riverwalk building at the island’s southern end—though at first she mistakenly referred to her new home as “Rivergate.”

Dan Huttenlocher, the tech school’s new dean, said community outreach was an essential piece of the entire $2 billion development.

“Community relations is extremely important to us,” Huttenlocher said. “It’s something we view as part of our institutional DNA.”

Like all development projects big and small, the tech campus will need to traverse the city’s land-use process, where community board members and local officials will vet the project and determine its environmental impact.

Residents say they have many questions for Cornell and Technion, such as how much money the institutes are willing to spend to upgrade infrastructure and what they will do to help revitalize the island’s flagging retail sector. Most residents are excited to welcome their new neighbors but are wary about how the campus will affect their self-described “small town” community.

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