NYU has turned its sights away from Governor’s Island and towards a hulking, vacant MTA office building in Downtown Brooklyn for its new urban planning campus, as the university enters the competition against Cornell and Stanford for city funding.
Bloomberg put out a call to institutions across the country last year, promising lots of land and $100 million in aid to whichever can come up with the best plan for a new applied sciences campus in the city. Cornell and Stanford have aggressively entered the race, and now, with the Request For Proposals (RFP) deadline today, NYU announced it would do the same. The proposed campus is called the Center for Urban Science & Progress, or CUSP, and would have master’s and PhD programs in all aspects of city-focused engineering, design and planning. It plans to ”set the research agenda on the science of cities,” of course.
As we suspected, this means NYU will abandon its elaborate plan for a one million-square-foot gleaming urban studies campus on Governor’s Island. The university needs city funding to build it, and that means adhering to the RFP’s wishes. “The applied science initiative is on a very rapid track, and that doesn’t fit with our Governor’s Island planning,” said John Beckman, NYU’s vice president for public affairs. Expansion on the island is not entirely out of the question, however, but won’t happen any time soon. “We’re confident we’ll be part of its future growth,” he said.
According to the Brooklyn Paper, if the city picks NYU, CUSP would move into a 60,000-square-foot space at the adjacent 1 Metrotech Center as soon as the fall semester of 2013. Once 370 Jay St. is renovated into the glassy monolith so familiar to NYU expansion renderings, it would open as a research lab and startup space by 2017.
The building on Jay Street lies right on top of Jay St-Metro Tech Station, which is 7 stops from campus on the R train at 8th St & Broadway. It has been called a “blight on Downtown Brooklyn,” and has been vacant and shrouded in scaffolding since 2002, so it is hard to imagine what form community push back against NYU’s renovation plans could possibly take.
The plan is to gut and refurbish the ugly MTA building, wrap it in a “high-tech, high-performance façade system using recycled materials,” and install a green roof. According to the CUSP website, it will aim to join Gallatin on the list of LEED Gold certified buildings.
About fifty faculty members and researchers would be brought to the Brooklyn space, and it would enroll about 400 master’s students and 100 PhD students. NYU is already looking for a director for CUSP, and NYU-Poly has been recruiting urban science professors, said Beckman. Both Poly and NYU will send faculty to the campus, and “industrial partners will be sending research scientists,” he said. Based on this list of institutions that have donated $1 million or more to NYU-Poly, those “industrial partners” include the likes of IBM and Con Edison.
Stanford and Cornell have each responded to the RFP, and are currently both vying to build their applied science campuses on Roosevelt Island. Bringing either of those schools to cultivate tech mindhives in NYC is probably a very appealing prospect for City Hall. Their proposals for engineering and tech programs sound much more in tune with what was meant by the RFP’s request for “those fields in the applied sciences that lend themselves to commercialization which will result in job growth in the City.” Plus, it would clean up that creepy, crumbling smallpox hospital.
If the city doesn’t choose NYU’s plan, Beckman said, the concept of CUSP would stay on the table but probably would not get built anytime soon, and not to the scale it is currently conceived.
However, Beckman said that “there seems to be growing tide of opinion that the City should use the opportunity of the many responses to its RFP to designate multiple centers of applied science excellence.” And Bloomberg said in a press conference yesterday, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could have more than one?” Campuses for everyone! If the city somehow does have the resources to funnel into new university projects, this would be very cool to see come to fruition.