Cornell Tech Anniversary: Ten Years Ago They Won the Right to Build on Roosevelt Island


On December 19, 2011, New York City awarded Cornell and Technion the right to build a high technology campus on Roosevelt Island. The campus was completed in September 2017 and has been growing since then.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Birth of Cornell Tech Tenth Aniversary

Above: The Cornell Tech Campus today. @David Stone for the Roosevelt Island Daily

The 10th anniversary of the Cornell Tech Campus marks a milestone for the city-university partnership that’s led to revolutionary changes. But for me, it goes back even further.

On a summer afternoon in 2011, my editor sent me to a press conference with City Council Member Jessica Lappin, held in the shade – fortunately – of the Roosevelt Island Tram Plaza on Second Avenue. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, during his last months in office, was looking for a major university interested in building a high-tech campus in the city.

As part of the deal, Bloomberg promised incentives for building in or on, among other places, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Governors Island and Roosevelt Island. Cornell joined forces with Technion University of Israel, envisioning a campus sparked by cooperation between postgraduate technology creators, businesses and government. Synergies, they proposed, would revolutionize how different interest groups worked together, empowering each other.

Cornell Tech: From 2011 to Today

The Cornell Tech Campus opened its doors on September 12, 2017. But the journey to get to that point was long and arduous. Here’s a look at the key moments…

2011: The City of New York announces Cornell Tech will build a high-tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

2013: Cornell Tech announces its inaugural class of students.

2014: First classes are held on Roosevelt Island.

2017: Campus opens with more than 2,000 graduate students, 125 faculty and staff, and 350 companies

Who helped develop excellence at Cornell Tech?

“As New York City looks to increase its technology sector to 1 million jobs over the next 10 years, [we] could not be more excited for what this means for our sector and future generations of New Yorkers.”

David Skorton, Cornell University President, in 2011.

David J. Skorton – President, Cornell University. Skorton committed the university to work cooperatively with the Roosevelt Island community. That benefits both parties and established a working relationship that continues today.

Michael Bloomberg – New York City Mayor who seeded the very idea and a major donor for campus construction.

Dan Huttenlocher – First Dean, Cornell Tech. Huttenlocher is a legendary visionary in technology. He’s moved on, but his footprint in launching Cornell Tech lingers large.

Above: Dean Dan Huttenlocher, Cornell Tech’s first leader welcoming the press to a campus pre-opening tour in September, 2017.

What the campus has accomplished in its first 10 years?

Cornell Tech has far exceeded the goals of the original vision. Those included: graduate student enrollment, faculty and staff employment, and corporate partnership development. The campus has since added its first Cornell Tech undergraduate students in 2018.

The current goals for 2030 include:

  • An annual gift of $200 million to support research and educational initiatives across New York-Cornell Tech’s impact on the city’s economy will total $23 billion
  • Cornell Tech will have graduated 15,000 students
  • 2 million square feet of new office and lab space will have been built in New York City as a result of Cornell Tech innovation
  • More than 50,000 jobs will be created in New York City

The future of Cornell Tech and Roosevelt Island

Now, with the completion and opening of the campus Graduate Hotel and the Verizon Conference Center, Phase One construction is complete. What will be added in Phases Two and Three as Cornell Tech swells south through what are now open, sloping meadows is not fully known.

But both phases were part of the original planning and include additional housing and expanded classroom space. As this milestone Cornell Tech Anniversary marks ten years of success. Roosevelt Island and New York City have good reasons for optimism.

A decade ago, we barely imagined what we have now. Expect similar breakthroughs in the next ten years. The momentum has never slowed.

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