The Cornell Column

Jane Swanson
Cornell Community Liaison
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Cornell Tech is making great progress on Roosevelt Island. At our most recent Community & Construction Task Force meeting, Andrew Winters, Cornell Tech’s Director of Capital Projects, provided an update on our campus development. Diane Levitt, K-12 Director, spoke about her work with PS/IS 217.

On campus construction, Phase 1 demolition is complete, and the team will be working on Phase 2 through June. As of February 1st, approximately 16,250 tons of waste have been removed by barge, avoiding approximately 8,000 truck trips. In October, we will embark on an updated barging plan that includes barging trucks on and off the site, further reducing traffic on Main Street.

We also have good news regarding trees. Cornell Tech has been working for months to find a way to save trees on its site along the west and south roads. At a July 2014 Community and Construction Task Force meeting, it was suggested that moving a sidewalk would allow a large corner tree to remain on site. We are thrilled to announce that this plan now has the approval of Cornell Tech’s engineers, RIOC, and the City of New York. Two trees on the south road will also be saved. Cornell Tech thanks all of the stakeholders who made this possible, but especially the task force members, tree advocates and the one savvy resident at the July meeting who suggested the sidewalk plan.

Diane Levitt has been meeting with PS/IS 217 staff and parents to discuss ways Cornell Tech can help develop STEM opportunities at the school. They are working together to explore several professional development opportunities for teachers. Last summer, Diane introduced the middle school math teacher to Bootstrap, a program that uses game design to teach algebra. This spring, Ric Campbell, the former director of the Masters in the Art of Teaching program at Bard College, will meet with Principal Beckman and her staff to work on embedding computational literacy and digital fluency into classrooms. Ursula Fokine from PS/IS 217 attended the Cornell Tech conference To Code and Beyond that convened the many stakeholders in the computing education community. There will be a second conference in July.

Diane has also been working with the Beacon program on afterschool computing opportunities. The first is already up and running: the Codesters program, led by the middle school math teacher. There are more afterschool and summer opportunities in the works, and Diane looks forward to sharing them at upcoming meetings.

I’m excited to report that on April 17, we will hold our first Hack Roosevelt Island tech event at PS/IS 217 and the Roosevelt Island Senior Center. This event is being run with a group of Cornell Tech student volunteers, who will be spending the afternoon with students coding computer projects on the subject of the environment, timed with Earth Day the following week. After they’re done at the school, Cornell Tech students will head over to the Senior Center at 4:15 p.m. to work with seniors on some of their tech skills, too. Seniors who are interested must sign up to reserve a spot because space is limited – please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 646-632-4986 by April 10.

We have been working with the Director of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center, Rema Townsend, to assist the center with their computer needs. In order to improve maintenance support at the center, Cornell Tech has connected the center to a wonderful organization called NPower, a nonprofit organization that provides individuals, nonprofits and schools with opportunities to build technology skills. NPower will conduct an initial maintenance assessment of all of the hardware and software in the computer lab and will then put together a regular system of support. To learn more about the impact NPower is having on the lives of people in our community or to find out how to get involved, visit

Cornell Tech is thrilled to be partnering with the Roosevelt Island Women’s Health Organization (RIWHO) to offer monthly seminars on health and wellness. A number of these seminars are offered through the auspices of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College. The first seminar was held in January on the topic of neck and back pain, and upcoming seminars include stroke prevention and sleep health. These seminars are open to the public and you can find details on the kiosks, at Roosevelt Island businesses and announced in The WIRE.

We look forward to seeing you at many of these events on the Island and at even more coming up. Please visit for updates and information, and stop in to chat with me on Wednesdays at Gallery RIVAA.

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