New York City seeks university partner for Engineering Research Institute


New York City is looking for a university partner to help create a private applied-science research facility to attract engineers from around the world.

The offer, part of a long-term economic strategy, promises an unspecified capital investment and possibly a city-owned site such as Governors Island to attract technology business and create jobs, officials said.

“There’s one major academic area in which New York City is strong, but doesn’t dominate — applied sciences and engineering,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Steel in remarks to business leaders at Google Inc.’s Manhattan offices.

While the city’s economy has rebounded from the recession better than most of the U.S., unemployment in October stood at 9.2 percent, below the national rate of 9.6 percent. Tax revenue hasn’t kept up with expenses, opening a projected $4.5 billion budget deficit for the year starting July 1.

“Whether you look at population growth or tourism, more and more people want to visit and live in New York City and that is a huge source of competitive strength as we plan for our future,” said Steel, who’s served as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy for economic development since June.

Steel, 59, the former chief executive officer of Wachovia Corp., was undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Department in the administration of President George W. Bush. He was vice chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. from 2002 to 2004.

‘Top caliber’

The city is inviting proposals aimed at finding “a top caliber academic institution” to which the city would “make a significant capital contribution,” including possibly offering municipal land, Steel said. The search extends as far as Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Steel said.

In addition to Governors Island, a former military base in New York Harbor, potential sites include the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Roosevelt Island in the East River, and the Farm Colony on Staten Island, he said.

“We’ve identified possible sites that could make for an excellent location for the school, but we’re also open to hearing about locations we haven’t thought of,” Steel said.

Including city land, the city’s capital contribution may top $100 million, said David Lombino, spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp.

The announcement added to the mayor’s pledge on Dec. 8 to add 10 job training centers to the nine already operating, with a goal of 40,000 placements in 2012 — 10,000 more than this year. The city has plans to add two business incubators next year, adding to the six created to help entrepreneurs in such fields as fashion and Web design get off the ground.

The next Google

“No one knows for sure where the next big thing will come from,” Steel said, pointing to Google, which didn’t exist 15 years ago. The Mountain View, California-based company, owner of the world’s largest Web-search engine, has a market value of about $189 billion.

“Our job is not to find the next thing, it’s to create the conditions to make sure it happens right here in New York City,” Steel said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.