Elite Universities Vying For NYC Tech Campus Opportunity

The deadline for universities to submit their bids to open a new engineering school in the city with the help of the Bloomberg administration is today.

The competition has drawn enormous interest from academic heavyweights like Stanford, Cornell, Columbia and NYU. They, and other universities, are likely to bid for the right to open a campus for technology and applied science in the city.

In exchange for a university’s commitment to build or expand a world-class science and engineering campus, the city is offering free real estate — either at Governors Island, Navy Yard or Roosevelt Island — and up to $100 million in infrastructure upgrades.

Seth Pinsky, the president of the city's Economic Development Corporation, described the project this way: “We really believe this is what we like to describe as an Erie Canal moment, a time where we are faced with the ability to make an investment and that investment can lock in a competitive advantage for years to come, just like the Erie Canal did in the 1820s and 30s.”

That competitive advantage would come from churning out hundreds of highly skilled engineers a year — ones that would stay in city and start new businesses here or use technology to remake established ones, like media and fashion.

A few weeks ago, Stanford announced a partnership with City College of New York. And on Wednesday, the school said it would spend $2.5 billion over 20 years on a new school.

Over a week ago, Cornell announced a partnership with The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology to create the new campus.

Cornell President David Skorton told WNYC, "Our board of trustees, who obviously have just led us through the worst period that any of us have experienced in our lifetimes, unanimously and enthusiastically, to a person, are backing this application."

The schools have hired lobbyists and mobilized their alumni to talk up their plans. The new campus could open as early as 2013.

The Bloomberg administration said it would pick a winner by early January. And there may be more than one winner. The mayor has been saying he might choose two applicants.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could have more than one?” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday. “First thing is to get one, but it would be wonderful if you could get lots of universities to come here.”