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The Empire

Mayor Bloomberg Answers Stanford U Critics

When Stanford University abruptly withdrew from Mayor Bloomberg's applied sciences initiative late last year, it was a bit of a black eye for the Mayor.

Stanford's name was mentioned from the beginning of the competition, even before the Cornell-Technion bid (which eventually won) picked up steam.

The New Yorker's Ken Auletta recently offered some insight into what went wrong - from Stanford's perspective:

Publicly, the university was vague about the decision, and, in a statement, [Stanford President] Hennessy praised “the mayor’s bold vision.” But he was seething. In January, he told me that the city had changed the terms of the proposed deal. After seven universities had submitted their bids, he said, the city suddenly wanted Stanford to agree that the campus would be operational, with a full complement of faculty, sooner than Stanford thought was feasible."

Auletta also obtained this fairly damning quote from Debra Zumwalt, Stanford's general counsel:

"I have been a lawyer for over thirty years, and I have never seen negotiations that were handled so poorly by a reputable party.”

If that comment riled the Mayor, he didn't show it.

"Let me tell you, we dealt fairly with every applicant," Bloomberg said, when a reporter read Zumwalt's quote to him.

The Mayor then detailed how the top five out of 20-odd applicants made it to the second round, where negotiations between the city and the universities began.

"The agreement was we would negotiate with each," Bloomberg said. "And one of the things was, there are risks, we are not about to give a nominally valuable piece of property...and $100 million in infrastructure improvements, we're never gonna give that away without some guarantees."

Bloomberg said Cornell is now penalty-bound to honor a number of agreements including the amount of space to be built, the number of faculty to be hired, and the number of graduate students that will be enrolled.

The Mayor said he does not know Zumwalt.

"I can just tell you my experience mostly with John Hennessy, the President of Stanford was thing but great," he said. "He's a very great educator, smart guy, good leader, and it's just a shame that it didn't work out. Some things work out and some things don't."