Today’s news:

Willets Point tech center installed by group on Panorama of QMA

JuKay Hsu of the Coalition for Queens (c.) poses with Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum, City Councilman Peter Koo and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz at the Queens Museum of Art's Panorama, where Hsu temporarily installed a mock up of a tech center over Willets Point. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Jukay Hsu, founder of the advocacy group Coalition for Queens, temporarily installed a mock-up of a technical innovation center over Willets Point on the Queens Museum of Art’s Panorama from last Thursday to Sunday.

Hsu and the QMA said last Thursday they hoped the installation would inspire debate over whether or not Queens should be the site of the new applied sciences and engineering university Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to be built in the city.

The coalition has in particular been eyeing Willets Point, a 62-acre industrial area between Northern Boulevard, 126th Street, Roosevelt Avenue and the Flushing River that has long been planned for redevelopment.

“There aren’t many places in New York and we think Queens is the best place,” Hsu said.

Bloomberg’s plan, Applied NYC, was launched by the city Economic Development Corp. last winter to encourage universities to build in the city in exchange for city land and a seed investment. Willets Point was not one of the sites listed on the request for proposals for the plan. Suggested sites include Roosevelt and Governor’s islands, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Farm Colony in Staten Island.

Tom Finkelpearl, director of QMA, said the museum is not taking any position on the issue, but pointed out the Panorama, an intricately designed model of the five boroughs in the museum created by influential city planner Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, was intended as an attraction and has a secondary use as a city planning tool.

“Our position is that the Panorama should be used for this kind of project,” Finkelpearl said.

Hsu was joined for the installation by Queens Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Seth Bornstein, Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum and various Queens elected officials including state Assembly members Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and City Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Peter Koo (R-Flushing).

“We want to turn the Iron Triangle into a research triangle,” Koo said.

Koslowitz, who chairs the Council Economic Development Committee, said it was time development such as this came to the borough.

“Queens has the two airports that bring everyone to New York City, yet Queens is neglected,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) threw their support behind Roosevelt Island as the site of the new college last week, saying while it was not technically in the borough, a college there would benefit Long Island City and western Queens. Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa— have proposed to team up to build a campus at the site. Stanford University in California has also expressed interest.

Hsu said a Willets Point location would have greater room to grow, but said a college at Roosevelt Island would also benefit Queens.

“We can very well have multiple universities,” he said.

Bornstein expressed approval for both sites, saying Roosevelt Island, which can be reached on foot from Queens but not from Manhattan, was practically part of the borough. He also said that since Willets Point is marked for mixed use, some of that use could be for technology and education.

“We have to educate the world and let them know [Queens] is the place to be,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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