After Cornell won the city’s competition last year with its bid to build an enormous applied science campus on Roosevelt Island, we’d been waiting to hear what would come of NYU’s own elaborate plan submission for an urban planning school in Downtown Brooklyn. Yesterday morning, with John Sexton at his side, Mayor Bloomberg announced that “there can be more than one winner and loser,” and NYU’s Center for Urban Science & Progress, or CUSP, is a go.
“You can always tell whether something is important by how many people want to participate in the announcement,” Bloomberg chuckled in the atrium of NYU-Poly, where Speaker (and potential next mayor) Christine Quinn, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and an assortment of other officials, CEOs and NYU trustees gathered for the announcement.
Right next door was 370 Jay Street, the future home of CUSP. The city-owned building has an fascinating past: Once the headquarters of the MTA, it has been called a “blight on Downtown Brooklyn,” and has been vacant and shrouded in scaffolding since 2002. But “seeing it leave the MTA family is bittersweet,” said MTA President Tom Prendergast, who was on hand to recount its glory days as the site of a subterranean “money train” platform. Gothamist has his full quote, for anyone who enjoys a good Bowery Boys episode now and again:
“Originally built in 1950 for the New York City Board of Transportation, the predecessor agency for New York City Transit, when NYCT was born in 1953 it became our longterm headquarters. Back then before Metrotech was around only the U.S. Treasury handled more cash than the NYCT did on a daily basis. And there was also a train platform right in the basement of 370 Jay Street where Money Trains rolled up and made deposits on a nightly basis for all the people who were buying tokens at that time,” Prendergast said.
NYU will pay the MTA $50 million to move out whatever they have left in the building, as well as $10 million to evacuate the NYPD, who keeps some space there. After that, NYU will pay $1 per year to lease the building, with the option to buy it after 99 years. The city will allot $15 million to CUSP, mostly in the form of energy expense savings.
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. It sits right on top of the Jay St-Metro Tech Station, which is 7 stops from campus on the R train at 8th St & Broadway.
CUSP begin classes off-site in fall of 2013, and the renovated building is planned to open in 2017. 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 has chosen former Chief Scientist of BP, Steve Koonin, to direct CUSP (we’ll have more on him later today), and NYU-Poly has been recruiting urban science professors. Both Poly and NYU will send faculty to the campus, and “industrial partners will be sending research scientists,” NYU’s vice president for public affairs John Beckman told us a while back. Those “industrial partners” include the likes of Con Edison and IBM, whose president was among the 14 speakers who joined the Mayor at yesterday’s announcement.
Ever-jovial Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was positively bubbling over yesterday. He exclaimed “Finally!” more than once and suggested that NYU move Tisch to Brooklyn next. Before leaving the podium, he turned to Sexton. “NYU BEGINS IN BROOKLYN!” Markowitz shouted a few inches from his face.
“CUSP will house laboratories, a startup incubator, and commercial space on campus, and hopes to offer internships to area high school students,” said Sexton. A memorandum of understanding between CUSP and the city will facilitate a partnership with city agencies, with whom students will “develop technologies and solutions to real world urban challenges.”
The mayor shouted out NYC startups Foursquare, Tumbr and Etsy, saying CUSP is expected to spin out 200 startups over the next thirty years.
The campus won’t change any of NYU’s 2031 expansion plans, since “outer-borough development was always part of the plan,” Sexton said. The next vote on NYU 2031 (this time from the City Planning Commission, the first binding vote in the process) is coming up soon, and we’ll keep you posted.
Photos by Julia Berke