Stanford submits final NYC proposal

Oct. 27, 2011, 3:05 a.m.

Stanford University submitted its proposal today to build a $2.5 billion, 1.9 million square-foot graduate school of applied sciences and engineering in New York City. If the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selects Stanford’s proposal, the city will grant the University land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million to develop its campus over the next 30 years.

Once completed, “StanfordNYC” is expected to be home to more than 200 faculty members and 2,000 graduate students studying engineering, applied sciences, technology and entrepreneurship. The University is committing an initial $200 million toward StanfordNYC to cover startup costs and an initial endowment for research. If the proposal is selected, Stanford will begin a $1.5 billion, 10-year fundraising campaign to finance the new campus and its endowment.

Stanford submits final NYC proposal
View from Manhattan of Stanford's proposed Roosevelt Island campus for graduate-level applied sciences and engineering (Courtesy of Stanford University and Ennead Architects).

StanfordNYC will bring Stanford’s unparalleled track record in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to New York City, the world’s capital of finance, arts and culture,” President John Hennessy wrote in the submission letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “StanfordNYC has the potential to help catapult New York City into a leadership position in technology, to enhance its entrepreneurial endeavors and outcomes, diversify its economic base, enhance its talent pool and help our nation maintain its global lead in science and technology.”

The school will have an emphasis on transferring discoveries to the marketplace, as it is expected to serve as a catalyst for new jobs in New York.

If StanfordNYC can produce just 50 percent of the Stanford startups in Silicon Valley, over 100,000 new jobs could be created in the first 20 to 30 years on Roosevelt Island, University officials said in a press release Wednesday. They also claimed that Silicon Valley venture capitalists have indicated they would follow Stanford to New York.

A faculty committee designed StanfordNYC’s academic program, which will focus heavily on programs in engineering, computer science, entrepreneurship, graduate business and technology management.

“We can create a community of scholars in an entirely new environment, generating the next wave of ideas and breakthroughs,” said Jim Plummer, dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering, in the press announcement. “Innovation happens when you are challenged by new problems and look at solutions from new perspectives. Our faculty is very excited about the possibilities of New York City.”

Hennessy noted that he sees the program expanding over the years to the undergraduate population.

“Over time, we can also develop programs for undergraduates in New York,” Hennessy said in a late September joint interview with the Stanford Report, Stanford magazine and The Daily. “I can imagine a program potentially larger than our Washington, D.C. program or any of our overseas programs–where students can spend a quarter or more in the city. The cultural richness of New York–in the visual arts, drama, music–offers benefits both to students and to the departments here on campus.”

This submission marks the beginning of the final stage of a yearlong process. Bloomberg and the NYCEDC launched Applied Sciences NYC last December with a request for proposals (RFP).

Hennessy discussed the idea with the Faculty Senate and led Stanford in submitting a formal “expression of interest” in March; a New York campus was also the center of focus in April’s Academic Council meeting.

In July, Bloomberg requested specific plans from the 27 institutions–and others that met certain criteria–that responded to the RFP. Since then, Stanford has been working on its formal submission: a 600-page proposal that includes detailed academic, financial, design and legal documents. The Board of Trustees approved the proposal in a meeting early this month.

Final proposals are due by Friday; after that point, NYC officials will begin the process of review.

Stanford officials are expecting to travel to New York City after Thanksgiving to discuss the proposal. The city plans to make a decision by the end of the year.

However, there has been speculation that Bloomberg may end up picking multiple winners. Columbia University and New York University have proposed increasing the size and scope of their existing programs in the city, while Carnegie Mellon University is proposing a school in Brooklyn. Since none of these proposals involve Roosevelt Island, there is the possibility that the city could award Roosevelt Island to one group and a second site to another group.

“I want a new player here,” said NYU President John Sexton to Crains New York. “I’ve been encouraging Stanford since February to come into this. I’m delighted Cornell is in this. We have different ideas that aren’t in competition with each other. They complement each other.”

One potential complication to awarding multiple schools the $100 million and land grant is Bloomberg’s term, which expires in 2013. Bloomberg’s administration has moved very quickly to select a school in just one year to break ground while Bloomberg is still in office. Accomplishing this with two different groups could prove difficult.

Many of the 27 institutions that expressed interest have dropped their bid for consideration; Purdue, a public university, decided to stop pursuing the applied sciences campus in late September, citing insufficient financial backing from New York.

Cornell continues to be Stanford’s main contender for the Roosevelt Island bid. The two universities are widely considered to be the favorites to be selected and have been making similar moves since the competition began.

Stanford submits final NYC proposal
Ariel view from the south of Stanford's proposed Roosevelt Island campus (Courtesy of Stanford University and Ennead Architects).

Cornell reportedly hired a lobbyist and a public relations firm for its pitch, and University President David Skorton made a pitch in a July 11 YouTube video. Stanford has hired public relations firm Edelman and political consulting firm Tusk and most recently had Google co-founders Larry Page M.S. ’98 and Sergey Brin M.S. ’95 expressing their support for Stanford’s bid on Stanford’s new Tumblr site.

Most importantly, both schools have gained partners in their bids since the initial proposals. Earlier this month, Cornell declared that it would partner with The Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. A week before Cornell announced the partnership, Stanford declared the creation of “Stanford@CCNY,” a collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY) and City College of New York (CCNY). If Stanford’s proposal is accepted, Stanford@CCNY will offer joint CCNY-Stanford B.A./M.S. and B.S./M.S. degree programs, giving City College students a unique opportunity to pursue an advanced degree at Stanford as undergraduates.

“One of the evaluation criteria is community engagement and community outreach,” said Stanford spokesperson Lisa Lapin. “Our partnership with CCNY is going to help us get a jumpstart on a campus there and give us an academic location while we build a new campus.”

Lapin noted that the collaboration with CCNY is “not directly related” to Stanford’s proposal, noting that New York’s criteria does not require a partnership with any in-city organization. Lapin said the collaboration would allow Stanford to have faculty and students in New York in 2013, before the permanent facilities would be completed on Roosevelt Island.

Hennessy sees the proposed campus as a great opportunity for not only Stanford and New York, but also the entire nation.

“We are an American university, founded to do things for the people and this country,” Hennessy said in his joint interview with Stanford new sources. “That’s certainly embedded in the Founding Grant language. I’m convinced that this country’s leadership position in science and technology will be jeopardized if we cannot grow more major institutions and produce more graduates in science and technology.”

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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