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December 30, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe


 
Crazy. They've been "building" on that part of Roosevelt Island for years. Had no idea what it was for until this. Looks like they're leaving the skeleton of the old smallpox hospital intact, too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:28 AM on December 30, 2011


Or maybe not. The video doesn't have it in it. Sad.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:29 AM on December 30, 2011


Being a creative technologist (I know, but it's the only term I've heard that covers all the things I can kind of do) living in NYC, this makes me really excited. On the other hand, it's hard enough to find a decent apartment and good jobs here...
posted by Brainy at 8:39 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Silicon Alley
posted by eddydamascene at 8:53 AM on December 30, 2011


I was just looking around the internet the other day for pictures/plans that would show where exactly they were building this on the island, because everything I read said "the southern end" and I was all "what about all the park space and paths they have been working on for the last year+ on the southern tip??". It appears they plan to tear down the Goldwater Hospital, and the park (and old hospital remains) will be left intact. But if you compare the google map view of the southern end and the plans for construction you'll see there is going to be a whole lot of demolition!
posted by ericost at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2011


The competition to become the next silicon valley is fierce:
Bangalore
Chile
Detroit
Nairobi
Guatemala City
Buenos Aires
New Delhi
Washington, D.C.
Malaysia
Israel
Ireland
Bulgaria
Brunei

[I stopped after the first Google SERPs.]
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But then if you look at that Campus Aerial View video, the area south of the new buildings just shows as a big green space and not the paths and the old hospital at all. So WTF?
posted by ericost at 9:07 AM on December 30, 2011


This is pretty crazy and should be exciting for New York long term. I have to wonder if all the hot start ups will actually be coming out of Queens. It's a bitch to get to R.I. from anywhere other than Manhattan and Queens and Manhattan is just too expensive. Plus Astoria and Long Island City actually have the proverbial garages.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's astonishing that Columbia and NYU aren't considered enough. I think bringing in Cornell + Technion (or Stanford) is a good idea, but growing one of the existing New York universities out would also be amazing.

I love the idea of the Roosevelt Island development, it's such an interesting part of New York. Here's a still from the video ericost linked. I was assuming the new park + old hospital weren't in the render because the architect didn't bother. But what's that platform on the island tip?!
posted by Nelson at 9:18 AM on December 30, 2011


Yeah I can see L.I.C becoming some sort of startup haven. A long time ago someone tried to drag me into a timeshare office business for tech startups in garage space owned by a small beer distributor who had moved his operation to jersey.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:20 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn that shit is futuristic.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2011


That hospital has been sitting vacant for generations. If it has to go to make that place live again, then I'm happy to not look at it from the FDR any more. We can keep the pox hospital on the upper harbor islands if we must preserve something of that era.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2011


The thing on the southern tip of the island is the currently-under-construction "Four Freedoms Park", an FDR memorial. Just above that is the brand new Southpoint Park, which contains the ruins of the old hospital. I for one would be very sad to see those ruins taken down. They are kind of magical.

It doesn't seem like Southpoint Park should be threatened by the Cornell buildings.
posted by ericost at 9:45 AM on December 30, 2011


Former Roosevelt Islander here. I really loved living there, and if you don't mind being tied to the F subway line and the aerial tram going across the river, it is super convenient for getting into much of Manhattan. It's the only place I've lived in NYC with friendly neighbors reminiscent of small town America, and you could feel the stress leaving you as you walked up the quiet river path that had gorgeous views of the city skyline. I realized how infrequently I saw (normal) kids in Manhattan, but if I ever reproduce in the city, the island with all the free-range kids swarming around in packs would be a top choice for raising the progeny. As a bonus, the tram is like an amusement park ride that only costs a free subway transfer, and the view at night left this jaded New Yorker awestruck no matter how many times I rode it.

We moved there, and stayed for years because it is cheap, relative to comparable apartments with similar commute times. Few people know much about it, leaving the rents low. As a scientist and former Islander, I'm excited to see how the center helps the community develop, but I hope it doesn't drive up apartment prices.

(Especially since my current Chinatown residence is infested with bedbugs and has no trash service or hot water. I also miss being able to tell people I live in the middle of the East River.)
posted by bergeycm at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2011


Won't they have to kill the first Silicon Valley before they can be the next?
posted by srboisvert at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2011


There's a lot of urbanist critique going around about this plan, especially of its "towers-in-the-park" urbanism and low-density use of a really high value location.
posted by parudox at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it's astonishing that Columbia and NYU aren't considered enough. I think bringing in Cornell + Technion (or Stanford) is a good idea, but growing one of the existing New York universities out would also be amazing.


Well Cornell's engineering/science programs have a much better reputation than Columbia or NYU, so that might've been a big consideration.
posted by gyc at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2011




Cornell's medical school is in NYC, so while they're not a local university, they do have a presence here.

As a software developer, I am happy to see efforts like this, though I'm not particularly optimistic it will cause a sea change that will suddenly create a new technology hub here.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 10:02 AM on December 30, 2011


Cornell's medical college is right there, which is closely allied with Memorial-Sloan Kettering and Rockefeller University.

Cornell is a great choice, especially when allied with Technion. It is outside money, but still close. Sure, Columbia, NYU, CUNY, Rockefeller, etc are all there, but you really want to bring in new development with this; the current NYC schools will have to compete and invest anyways now to maintain competitiveness. And Cornell has a great history of running collaborative satellite campuses, with the Weill Medical School in NYC and Qatar.

They simultaneously brought in outside money but still can say they chose a local partner. Very slick.
posted by roquetuen at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2011


I haven't been following this project closely, so I apologize if this is a stale question, but I'm curious. When and why was it decided that the competition was for an "applied sciences" school in the first place? As our era witnesses the almost complete destruction of public higher education and the administrative reconstruction of most existing universities into corporate R&D labs with merely vestigial commitments to knowledge for its own sake, it would've been great to see New York — the city of the printed word, the city of the arts — commit itself to building a real new university rather than just another tech center. Apart from El Bloombito's own technocratic bent, why was this project planned this way?
posted by RogerB at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Will it make NYC the next Silicon Valley?

A crumbling shell of dried investment dollars like the high-water marks after a flood? A mecca for carpetbaggers? A cultural wasteland? One of those places Americans point to when they want to say We Were Really Good At Something Once?

I watched several generations of rise and fall down in the Valley and its attendant hipper hubs up in SF and the east bay and can report its kind of like drug addiction: great at first but quickly becomes destructive and unsustainable. I don't know that the Valley isn't a beneficiary of moments in history that can't be manufactured but sort of come along. We can all dry hump what's out there only so long before the world will get bored. We don't need the next exemplar of what's out there, we need the exemplar of what's never been done.

There's money to be made in speculative rushes, both by the players and their attendant sycophants. There's enough examples on both coasts of industries that formed a monoculture in a hot industry and died when it went south, figuratively or literally, that it speaks wickedly of our elected culture that their preferred ticket is the hottest one. Millions will be wasted on furniture, consultants and outsourcing. The efficient modern tech shop largely manages cheaper resources elsewhere: I don't know that the sort of everything-here hub exists any longer in US tech (does it? Biotech maybe?) Jobs are great, of course, but that's not Valley great where it'll suck in everyone and everything and even the checkers at the local market are smarter than the next three quarters of the population on the subject.

I'm looking for a mayor with stones enough to say "I'm not looking for hot or next or now but twenty years from now I still want people to say that we're a center of excellence in whatever we do" The branding possibilities alone: that can of tuna -- it ain't shit if it ain't from Baltimore, and neither is anything else you didn't buy from us. Buy Baltimore and Buy Confidence. Built in Baltimore by Master Craftsman Because We Have No Other Type. This city: we fuck shit up for generations. Etc.

That kind sentiment is seen as kind of corny in the United States but is truly held by a lunatic few on the fringe -- not necessarily in a unified direction but at least in a direction that isn't the television set. Bringing those together (go Detroit, go) will be what determines our next great city.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:22 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know about turning NYC into Silicon Valley, but that looks like it will be a nice place to teach or go to school.
posted by caddis at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"why was this project planned this way?"

If you scroll down on the NYCEDC link ("bring applied sciences to NYC"), it goes into most of the reasons. It is sort of press-releasy though.

The short answer is that NYC really does lag when it comes to engineering and the hard-sciences. NYC, as someone alluded to above, is traditionally strong in art and design, finance, and publishing. I don't have any hard data, but many claim there is a shortage of engineers and scientists available for work in NYC. Some companies avoid NYC for this very reason.

Building additional applied science schools anywhere makes sense on its own (imho), but considering the possibly synergies with the other industries in NYC, NYC popularity as a destination, and lots capital (both human and other), I think its a good fit.

And, disagreeing with Ogre-Lawless' poo-poo'ing, I think the USA in general should be building more of these schools across the country.
posted by rosswald at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Columbia is not going anywhere so from the city's point of view, better to have some new blood and competition for them. Also, \they (er, "we" as I am attending now) have a reputation of being lousy neighbors - I have not been following the story close enough to know if that was a factor in going with Cornell
posted by shothotbot at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2011


A crumbling shell of dried investment dollars like the high-water marks after a flood?

A constant incubator of real and valuable startups now that the 90's silliness is over, and home to AMD, Apple, Google, Cisco, Intel, eBay, and just about ever other tech company that has radically changed and is constantly pushing forward the world you live in?

A mecca for carpetbaggers?

The world's center for computer and software engineers, importing the best and brightest from every country in the world?

A cultural wasteland?

Yeah, okay. That one is true.

One of those places Americans point to when they want to say We Were Really Good At Something Once?

The place that Americans point to when they think of AMD, Apple, Google, Cisco, Intel, and eBay and say "Fuck, we completely *own* the internet and basically every computer that ships in the this world?"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:26 PM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man I was privy to some of the spec designs for this facility, some of the concepts where insane, like crazy glass spider future insane.
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2011


Ridiculous, but the sort of thing one expects from politicians and educational administrators (who are also politicians) to puff themselves up. Actually, Stanford was really smart to bail on this project.

This is a perfect example of what the late Jane Jacobs talked about when she claimed that once institutions start prettying up their digs, and/or building new "palaces" to impress others, they are already on the way down.

This will make some developers rich; it will give more power to some educational administrators, and it will spit out some science and engineering graduates. So?

There is *already* sufficient capacity to do that within existing education NYC infrastructure.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:48 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The elephant in this room is the incredibly high price of living in NYC. The gravitational well caused by wall street salaries has made living within any kind of reasonable commute to Roosevelt Island for a scientist (who needs to be able to come in and nurse-maid something at 3 am on a Saturday relatively frequently) unaffordable on a postdoctoral salary, and postdocs and postdoc-like scientists drive start-ups.

This isn't a problem with the art and publishing community because there's not much else in the country if you're at the beginning of your career, so people just absorb the long commutes while they're young, but scientists have a lot of other attractive and more affordable options all over the country, including Silicon Valley. It's also not a problem for University scientists at NYU and COlumbia because they have subsidized housing.

I partially own a tech startup in NYC, and we have had to pay salaries significantly above the national average to attract good talent. The first non-science question I usually hear from VC's is about our plans to set up outside of the city. (Of course the second is often what our plans are for manufacturing in China.)

Of course, what needs to be part of this to make it work is affordable housing for middle class people nearby, but the Mayor just sold Stuytown, so that ship has sailed.
posted by overhauser at 1:50 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a perfect example of what the late Jane Jacobs talked about when she claimed that once institutions start prettying up their digs, and/or building new "palaces" to impress others, they are already on the way down.

In what sense is this a perfect example of that? Yes they are building what might be called a "palace" I guess; how are they on their "way down"?
posted by ericost at 2:01 PM on December 30, 2011


Next Silicon Valley?

It's eight office buildings so I'm going to say no.
posted by chairface at 2:17 PM on December 30, 2011


Come to think of it, it's not much of a valley either.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:28 PM on December 30, 2011


A cultural wasteland?

Yeah, okay. That one is true.


Bah. Best place in the country for South Indian cuisine. In between the tech giants also plenty of reminders that the valley was built by Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican immigrants. And pho and Hawaiian outnumber McDonalds and Starbucks.
posted by eddydamascene at 4:10 PM on December 30, 2011


The food is good, but if you want arts you'll have to slum it in SF or better yet catch a plane for LA.

The San Jose Museum of Art is a complete travesty. The best thing you can say about downtown San Jose is that it's sooo much better than it was thirty years ago. Faint praise indeed.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:25 PM on December 30, 2011


living within any kind of reasonable commute to Roosevelt Island for a scientist ... unaffordable on a postdoctoral salary

Astoria, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Sunnyside, Woodside... all pretty affordable, particularly the last two. Hell, Jamaica is less than 30 minutes from Roosevelt Island by F train.
posted by zvs at 4:30 PM on December 30, 2011


I think Boston is pretty good evidence that it takes more than schools to build the "next" Silicon Valley. Of course, Boston is probably #2 behind it, but it's an order of magnitude difference, having had experience with both. If anything, NYC might be the next Boston. (Yankees suck?)
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:35 PM on December 30, 2011


The food is good, but if you want arts you'll have to slum it in SF or better yet catch a plane for LA.

Bah. SFMOMA has a great permanent collection, but San Jose often picks up better contemporary exhibitions. Todd Schorr's American Surreal, for example, was pretty much the art event of 2009 in the bay. My point is not that Silicon Valley is culturally comparable to SF or LA, but that this popular image of it being completely devoid of culture is a misconception. Diluted, definitely, but it's there.
posted by eddydamascene at 6:15 PM on December 30, 2011


In what sense is this a perfect example of that? Yes they are building what might be called a "palace" I guess; how are they on their "way down"?

Educational institutions are currently living atop a Swiss cheese platform - full of holes. Not just theoretically, but in reality, one could literally educate oneself in almost any discipline without every setting foot inside the walls of a private post-secondary educational institution. Stanford, Harvard, etc. are really valuable for graduate students, today, for one thing - access to a Rolodex of peers once they have gotten the jump start that everyone knows they will, because so many of the people at the top of the private equity or corporate boardroom pile came from the same place.

Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, and European educational institutions, PLUS the fast-arriving virtualization (give it about 10-12 years) of education, is making the physical presence of the University moot.

As for "making NYC "just like" Silicon Valley - why? This is more "politispeak" that naive readers of news like this get excited about. Silicon Valley is still numero uno in the world of startups, but it is being challenged by at least a dozen other places, whose challenge is less than a decade old (in some cases far less than that).

Follow the money: someone is going to make a PILE on building this development; they are going to get all kinds of special treatments and tax dispensations, etc. etc - - THAT's the reason it's getting built.

Stated above, the current post-secondary brick and mortar infrastructure in and around NYC has MORE than enough capacity to deliver superb engineering and science graduates, in large numbers. This thing is motivated by politics, private money, and a PR campaign that makes the "winner" look like something they're not.

Again, Stanford did well to drop out. The fix was in at the beginning, anyway.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:15 PM on December 30, 2011


One more thing: you want to "fix" the difference between Silicon Valley and NYC? First, fix the lame attitude of the VC and private equity sector over there - they are mostly a bunch of moneyed know-nothings who don't understand startup risk.

Case in point: if you have failed at a startup in that region, you will probably never get a fair hearing from a VC, again. They think failure is something that "losers" do. In Silicon Valley, failure is considered something that happens on the way to your next try (assuming you have a ggreat idea and great people).

Seriously, NYC (and the region's) VC's need to grow some hair on their chest, and stop lounging in their smoking jackets as they review business plans.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:20 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also something very homey about the one and two story buildings along Sand Hill road. As you walk into today's VC pitch meeting you often get to wave through the window at the people who shot you down yesterday.

All the VCs know each other in the "bastard stole my parking spot" sort of way, which makes for a very different dynamic.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:14 PM on December 30, 2011


Good idea, incredibly awful tower-in-a-park urban design. Manhattan is great precisely because of the many mixed uses and vibrant retail - not sure why they chose to go as far away from that as possible.

I also agree that if NYC really wanted to spur tech industry growth it would allow for significantly more office space in its current tech hotspots.
posted by ripley_ at 2:27 AM on December 31, 2011


Cornell ponies up for tech campus
posted by rosswald at 1:15 PM on January 9, 2012


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