$100M gift names Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech

Huttenlocher speaking
Robert Barker/University Photography
On stage, from left, are New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cornell Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Harrison '76, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Cornell Tech Dean Daniel Huttenlocher, Cornell President David Skorton, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Forest City Ratner Companies President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, and Hudson Companies Principal David Kramer.

On Roosevelt Island, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, Cornell Tech announced a $100 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fund construction of the campus. The announcement was made during a June 16 event marking the groundbreaking for the Cornell Tech campus.

The first academic building will be named The Bloomberg Center – in honor of Emma and Georgina Bloomberg, after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daughters. In 2011 Cornell and its academic partner, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, won the bid to build an applied sciences institution to foster high-tech entrepreneurship in the city.

“This is a tremendously meaningful day for New York City,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Bloomberg “believed in this vision for New York City, this possibility and largely due to his will and his sense of vision, we are here today,” he said. “And it is greatly intensified by the extraordinarily generous gift he has made to further this work.”

Planners project Cornell Tech and the city's applied sciences sector will generate 48,000 new jobs and $33 billion in economic impact and more than double the number of full-time graduate engineering students and faculty in New York in the next 30 years, de Blasio said.

“When we announced the applied sciences competition four years ago I mentioned that over the course of New York’s history many of the city government’s best decisions didn’t result from an immediate need but, in fact, from a long-term vision,” said Bloomberg. “New York became the greatest city in the world because we dared to dream bigger than anyone else, and this project I think is part of that tradition.”

Cornell President David J. Skorton said: “We’re creating … a larger and growing pipeline of tech talent here in New York City to help ensure that this city remains the world’s capital for ideas. With a total of $685 million raised philanthropically, plus the land, plus $100 million in city funds, Cornell Tech is off to a great start.”

Bloomberg speaking
Robert Barker/University Photography
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the groundbreaking celebration for Cornell Tech, June 16 on Roosevelt Island.

Included in that total was a gift of $350 million made by Cornell alumnus Charles Feeney ’56 and his Atlantic Philanthropies in 2011.

“This year is Cornell’s 150th anniversary,” said Robert Harrison ’76, chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees. “There have been only a few events in our history that have risen to a level that I would call truly transformative. The creation of this campus is one of them” and is a “digital expression of Cornell’s land-grant mission.”

When completed, the campus will span 12 acres on Roosevelt Island and house approximately 2,000 graduate students and hundreds of faculty and staff. Cornell Tech has been up and running since 2013 in temporary space provided by Google in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

“We graduated 75 students last month, including our first two Ph.D. students,” said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech. “And that brings our total number of alumni to just under 100, so as you can see, we are growing fast.”

About half of this year’s master’s graduates were in computer science – a degree that emphasizes tech entrepreneurship – and the other half received a Johnson Cornell Tech MBA. “About 30 percent of our graduates this year are creating new companies here in New York City, and overall well over half of our graduates will be working in New York City, helping drive creation of new jobs not just in the tech industry, but well beyond,” Huttenlocher added.

Tech rendering posters
Robert Barker/University Photography
Renderings of the Cornell Tech campus were on display at the June 16 groundbreaking ceremony.

Construction of phase one, slated for completion in 2017, includes some of the most sustainable buildings on the planet. The Bloomberg Center, which began construction in March, aspires to be one of the largest net-zero structures in the country by generating renewable energy through geothermal heat and solar panels.

The residential building will become the first high-rise residential building in the world built to passive house standards, a rigorous building standard for reducing energy consumption using a super-insulated building façade, an airtight building envelope and an energy recovery ventilation system.

Another building, The Bridge at Cornell Tech, is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. The first-of-its-kind building will house recent Cornell Tech graduate entrepreneurs with ideas for new companies, promising startups ready for major growth, and established companies seeking to test their next products. The collaborative space will create room for companies to engage with students, faculty and researchers.

Phase one also will include the Verizon Executive Education Center, aided by a $50 million gift from Verizon, to be completed by 2019 or 2020. The center will be a place for technology leaders and innovators to gather and an executive education center that aims to provide digital-age educational and collaborative programs.

Cornell Tech is home to the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, focused on technology innovation in interdisciplinary hub areas of Connective Media, Health Tech and the Built Environment. The Runway Postdoctoral Program at the Jacobs Institute offers a one-year program for recent Ph.D.s in tech interested in launching their own startups.

Other speakers at the groundbreaking event included New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. To commemorate the groundbreaking, Cornell Tech commissioned Cornell alumnus Peter Gerakaris, BFA ’03, to create an installation at the Gallery RIVAA on Roosevelt Island that foreshadows the compelling art programming to come on the future campus.

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Joe Schwartz