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Frugality Plays Role in Bringing Tech to New York City

This article was written by in Frugality. 6 comments.


Michael Bloomberg, the king-slash-mayor of New York City (will he increase term limits again to stay in his position?), has announced that Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will be transforming 11 acres on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island into a graduate school for technology. Classes will begin as early as next year and the first phase of construction on 300,000 square feet will be completed by 2017 and construction on 2 million square feet will be completed twenty years later.

Developing the land into a world-class graduate school will displace a hospital and some other facilities, but will generate $23 billion in economic activity and 20,000 construction, 8,000 continual operational jobs, and 30,000 jobs as a result of graduates’ activities according to Bloomberg.

A $150 million venture capital fund will provide resources to new start-ups affiliates with Cornell that promise to stay within New York City for at least three years.

With a world-class high-tech graduate program, New York City will become a tech start-up incubator, on par with Stanford University, who lost the bid for building a campus in New York City, and Silicon Valley.

Cornell’s bid for the land and the opportunity to transform New York City was assisted by a $350 million gift, anonymously given but later revealed to come from Charles F. “Chuck” Feeney. Feeney is a former Cornell student who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers Group and turned his wealth into a foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. With the foundation incorporated in Bermuda, its activities are not generally public knowledge, but its grants are on par with the Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Roosevelt IslandChuck Feeney has accumulated significant wealth over his lifetime, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him. When in New York, he walks and rides the subway, though he’s not the only New York billionaire to mingle with the people. He rents rather than owns a house, having parted with seven houses in a divorce settlement, but renting in New York is not necessarily an indicator of frugality by itself. He doesn’t own a car and flies coach. Feeney reportedly wears a $15 watch. Not wanting money to consumer his life, even his ownership in the business he founded was transferred to a charitable organization. Perhaps having given away most of his fortune away, Feeney has no choice but to be frugal, but his approach to money seems to be similar to Steve Jobs, the quiet billionaire next door.

Assisted by the gift from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a pledge from Bloomberg for $100 million in infrastructure improvements to the Roosevelt Island land on which the university will build the campus. Cornell will also partner with the State University of New York and the City University of New York in some capacity.

This could be an exciting time for New York City. Residents of Roosevelt Island won’t be displaced by the new construction, but patients and employees of the hospital that currently exists on the property will be. Having a University’s high-tech graduate program will change the character of the island, which was formerly known as “Welfare Island” and was a depository for prisoners.

Photo: shinya
New York Times, New York Times, Atlantic Philanthropies, Cornell University

Published or updated December 20, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

that’s very good news for NYC and I admire the humility & generosity of mister feeney.

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avatar krantcents

Perhaps Chuck Feeney is renting a rent controlled apartment. That would be very frugal and better than owning in a very expensive city.

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avatar Corey

That’s interesting. I think it will be a good thing overall, but it is hard to overlook displacing the hospital.

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avatar Brennan

Even though I was wanting Stanford to get the contract I think Cornell is definitely up to the task. The Chuck Feeney story is very interesting as well, especially since he made his money in luxury sales.

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

Even with the displacement of the hospital i think this will be a good thing over all.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Good for NYC. Sounds like Bloomberg and Feeney are moving the city in a positive direction.

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