The Cornell Column

Jane Swanson
Cornell Community Liaison
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While I have the pleasure of spending time on Roosevelt Island every week, there have been many opportunities over the last couple of months for my colleagues and Cornell Tech students to come over to the Island from our temporary home in Chelsea.

At our Town Hall on October 1, Andrew Winters, Senior Director of Capital Projects, provided an update on the great progress that has been made at the campus. The City of New York gave us an incredible and rare opportunity to build our campus from scratch on Roosevelt Island, and we believe that designing this campus is an opportunity for everyone involved. Our 12-acre campus will be among the most energy efficient and environmentally-friendly campuses in the world, and will feature the latest in cutting edge technology.

Steel has started rising at the Bloomberg Center, our first academic building, and at the Bridge, where companies will locate on campus. In addition, the superstructure has started going up for the residential building, which will be the world’s first residential Passive House high-rise. All of our buildings as part of Phase One of the campus are now under construction and on track to open in summer 2017.

As a result of our aggressive barging operation, 6,389 trucks – that is 12,778 truck trips – were avoided on Roosevelt Island’s Main Street during demolition operations.  A new phase of barging was begun in September, with the installation of a temporary facility that allows delivery of certain construction materials to the site. In addition, we are doing extensive air quality monitoring on our site (you can see the results online at, and we are making extensive improvements to the roadways, replacing utilities, and widening the loop road around our campus to include a bike lane. We have also reopened the north loop road.

We are also working on a bike study, taking an engineer’s look at what can be done to improve safety for bikes accessing and circulating around Roosevelt Island.

PS/IS 217

Diane Levitt, Cornell Tech’s Senior Director of K-12 Education, has been very busy at PS/IS 217, and she gave an update on her work at the Town Hall. Working together with the PTA, teachers, school administration, and elected officials, we’re building a school that will truly prepare students to be citizens and creators in the digital age.

To date, we’ve connected the school to available tech learning opportunities for students and teachers, including professional development in computer game design and introducing the coding platform Codesters to the Beacon afterschool program. On October 30, 70 Cornell Tech students spent the morning with middle school students for Let’s Code Roosevelt Island.  It was a Halloween-themed event where students learned Scratch, the block coding language developed at MIT, to create some spooky online projects.  The Museum of the Moving Image trained our grad students in Scratch, and were there to help out at the event.

We’ll have many other activities at PS/IS 217 this year.  In addition to our Let’s Code event, we’ve invited the students to our campus in Chelsea for a tour and a panel with our graduate students about careers in technology.  A consultant has started leading workshops with teachers introducing computational thinking and computer science for the K-8 classroom.

At the Town Hall, we also had the pleasure of having Associate Dean Doug Stayman join us to give an overview of Cornell Tech’s academic programs, including our cross-disciplinary learning, innovative projects, and unique faculty whose research and work is changing the world.

We got to hear from one group of students at our Construction and Community Task Force meeting on October 26 that is working on an innovative project called Pallette to help those with quadriplegia live more independently. The students developed a tongue-operated device that could allow people with quadriplegia to control devices and the world around them as the Internet of Things expands. I am working to connect them with Coler Hospital, which has a large number of people living with quadriplegia.

It has already been a busy fall! Please visit for ongoing updates and to get in touch with us. I look forward to seeing you on the Island soon, and hope you enjoy the holidays!

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