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NE Qns activist lauds Roosevelt Isle campus

Queens leaders are excited about Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's plans to build an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Rendering courtesy Cornell
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Flushing resident JuKay Hsu advocated throughout 2011 for Willets Point to become the site of an applied sciences school, but said Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s school to be built on Roosevelt Island presents a lot of great opportunities for Queens.

“Even though it’s not Queens, it is very close to Queens,” Hsu said. “It’s a subway stop away.”

In December Cornell and Technion were identified as the winners of Applied Sciences NYC, a program from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Economic Development Corp. that challenged educational institutions to come up with proposals for an applied sciences and technology graduate school that would act as a magnet for jobs in exchange for free real estate somewhere in the city and $100 million in city capital.

The two academic institutions partnered to propose a 2-million-square-foot campus on Roosevelt Island estimated to create 8,000 jobs on campus, 20,000 construction jobs and 30,000 permanent jobs in the city through spin-offs, licenses and corporate growth.

“I think we’re going to do well as far as the side of spin-off business developments and also in terms of reasonably priced residential space,” said Dan Miner, of the business group Long Island City Partnerships.

Building a campus on Roosevelt Island had been touted by western Queens officials and business leaders, who said a campus so close to Queens would mean economic development in that part of the borough.

State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said she was thrilled by the prospect of the new campus and pointed out that the students who go there would end up spending money in western Queens.

“They will come into our community,” Simotas said. “They will eat at our restaurants.”

Meanwhile, Hsu had been promoting Willets Point as a location through his nonprofit Coalition for Queens. As part of the campaign, Hsu worked with the Queens Museum of Art to temporarily install a tech center on the museum’s panorama. While locations besides Roosevelt Island had been proposed for the campus, Willets Point was not considered.

Hsu said that while Roosevelt Island had ended up being the final choice, his nonprofit would continue to push the idea of a technological entrepreneur community in Queens before the first phase of the Roosevelt Island campus opens in 2017.

“Queens is still a place where there’s a lot of great opportunity to grow and develop,” Hsu said.

Hsu said he is working on forming partnerships with Long Island City’s LaGuardia Community College and Flushing’s Queens College, which has a large number of computer science majors.

He said that as Willets Point is redeveloped, even if it does not host another technical school, he hopes the office space will provide technological opportunities.

“I still think that’s a great opportunity,” Hsu said. “I still think that could have been a great choice and can be a good choice.”

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

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