Cornell Quarterly Taskforce

Firm Campus Opening Date for Cornell Tech, Other Highlights

David Stone
Cornell Tech Taskforce Members Jane Swanson, Sondra Roberts & Floyd Young
Cornell Tech Taskforce Members Jane Swanson, Sondra Roberts & Floyd Young
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Five strong years of cooperation between Cornell Tech and the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition reaches a major milestone.

Cornell Tech and the Coalition have met quarterly since the post graduate school was little more than a plan that won the Bloomberg administration's landmark competition to build an all-new city campus. RICC members, led by Judy Buck and Christina Delfico, listened as Floyd Young, Senior Director of Facilities Operations, made it official. Cornell Tech will open on July 17th.

Although that date will be mostly a busy, orchestrated moving in day, the opening includes, later this month, the much anticipated Cafe, to be operated by Starr Catering Group, newly landscaped lawns and pathways through the campus.

The school begins packing up for the move from Google's Chelsea headquarters to Roosevelt Island on the 12th of July and anticipates having everything transferred within five days. The Cafe will use the first weeks of July to set up and train its staff. A public opening date is expected soon.

Explore Roosevelt Island

Cornell Tech Events Manager Sondra Roberts paired the opening announcement with a happening aimed at introducing Roosevelt Islanders to the campus and, simultaneously, school staff and students to the community.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. on August 5th, everyone is invited for breakfast on the campus. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney hosts along with Dean Dan Huttenlocher. As a visitor, you will be given a "passport book" in which you'll be able to record details of your visit. 

Tables will be set up to welcome you in each building and personnel on hand to answer questions.

At the same time, tours of Roosevelt Island's existing attractions, historical and commercial, will give Cornell Tech staff and students introductions to the community.

Cornell Tech to Offer Free Meeting Space

Roberts also announced that campus space will be made available every Thursday evening in the Bloomberg Building for the use of 501(3)c nonprofit groups from the community. Free from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., the room has a standard capacity of 50 but can be expanded to 70 by removing tables.

Requirements include proof of insurance and 30 days advance notice for requests. To keep the space as free as possible, recurring events will not be honored. Starr Catering will be available as needed.

The Roosevelt Island Community Coalition

Delfico and Buck focused their block of time following the presentations to raise questions of concern to the community. The fruits of thoughtful relationship building were evident as Senior Director of Capital Projects Andrew Winter, who has worked with the RICC since the first days of the ULURP that won City approval for the building, answered for Cornell Tech.

Among other issues, Winters explained why, even though the campus is "open," it will officially close overnight. "It's like a park," he noted, using Central Park as an example. Gates aren't closed, but it still is officially closed after sunset.

Young said that campus security is unlikely to prevent anyone from walking through along the pathways after hours but hanging out on the lawns will get his personnel's attention.

Jane Swanson, Assistant Director, Government and Community Relations, carefully handled the contentious and not well understood issue of payments of approximately $21 million promised to RIOC. The funds are compensation for returning 2.6 acres controlled under a 99 year lease back to the City to make construction possible. In RIOC's 2014 Annual Report, the public benefit corporation said the State would begin making payments of $1,000,000 per year, "in accordance with State budgetary procedure," specifically "to support capital infrastructure improvement on Roosevelt Island." Although the agreement covers 55 years, it promises "the present value of the payment fully made by December 31, 2018."

Controversy has swirled around the payments since RIOC President Susan Rosenthal offered the Board a 2017 budget that did not include any money from the State in consideration of the agreement. Rosenthal, who was not with RIOC when the deal was signed, argued that the money had always been contingent on infrastructure improvements actually being made and the agency had failed to complete its part of the bargain, leading to the State's withholding the money. Board Members argued that they were never aware that the conditions listed in their Annual Report would restrict the money being paid out.

Swanson reported that Cornell Tech had discussed the situation with RIOC but that it was a matter between state agencies outside the school's control. She said she believes, as Rosenthal publicly stated, that RIOC is equally concerned about receiving any moneys owed in the agreement.

Also considered were campus arrangements for limiting trash hauling, - They are not connected to the AVAC system - pets allowed in The House residential building and eternal question of an elevator from the Island to the Queensboro Bridge.


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