The mood was festive on Wednesday as Islanders, in a rare show of finery, crowded into the huge glass tent festooned with the Cornell logo. As the sound system boomed Katrina & the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” and President Bill Clinton’s theme song, “Don’t Stop,” by Fleetwood Mac, Islanders lucky enough to get an invite rubbed shoulders with Cornellians, press, and elected officials to celebrate Cornell Tech’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
For many in the room, the moment had been a long time coming.
“Cornell Tech is an investment in the future of New York City – a future that belongs to the generations to come, and the students here will help build it,” said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Technological innovation played a central role in New York City becoming a global economic capital – and it must continue to play a central role for New York to remain a global economic capital. The companies and innovations spawned by Cornell Tech graduates will generate jobs for people across the economic spectrum and help our city compete with tech centers around the world, from Silicon Valley to Seoul.”
In December of 2010, at a press conference in the Google building, Robert Steele, deputy mayor for economic development under Bloomberg, announced that the city would seek a “top caliber academic institution” as a partner in building a school for applied science and engineering. He offered a few city properties as a possible location, and gave Roosevelt Island’s Goldwater campus as a possibility. This became a 2010 contest inviting universities to compete to open an applied-science graduate center. Cornell University and its partner, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, were declared the winners and awarded $100 million along with a 12 acre plot on Roosevelt Island.
Less than six years after winning Bloomberg’s contest to submit plans for an applied sciences and engineering campus, Cornell Tech is officially up and running.
Bloomberg thanked Cornell Tech Dean Daniel Huttenlocher for taking “this wild and unrealistic idea,” and turning it into “this extraordinary campus.”
“In many ways this campus helps bring New York City back to the future,” he said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo described Cornell Tech as an “extraordinarily singular achievement.” Cuomo gave kudos to Bloomberg for “literally changing the face of New York.”
Mayor Bill De Blasio also addressed the crowd, and described Cornell Tech as the exclamation point in New York’s progress toward “forever being a global center of technology and innovation.”
Freddie Streich, PS/IS 217 third grader, principal for a day, was a banner carrier for De Blasio. The honor inspired young Streich, who said, “I was excited to see the Mayor and all the important people and I think I will stay on Roosevelt Island for college since I want to be an inventor.”