NYU and NYU-Poly Propose Center for Urban Science and Progress

Dear NYU-Poly community,

As you know from discussions at faculty meetings, management meetings, town halls, etc., NYU-Poly has been integrally involved with NYU in responding to Mayor Bloomberg's call for the creation in New York City of a new institute of applied science and engineering that leads to new jobs and companies in emerging industries. We are proud of the submission we made to the city on Friday as it is our belief that young engineers who are adept at i2e — invention, innovation and entrepreneurship — will be the source of new jobs and companies. That's why we have made i2e the heart of our faculty and students' efforts to solve the challenges of the 21st century.

In response to the mayor's call, we at NYU-Poly have worked side by side with the top-leaders of NYU to propose a truly unique vision for applied sciences and engineering in Brooklyn. Bottom-line, NYU-Poly is at the center of the proposal to create a whole new capacity in New York City to invent, design, prototype and build intelligent urban infrastructure, not just for Brooklyn and New York City, but to serve the $100 billion global market for new and refurbished cities.

We have teamed with Carnegie Mellon University, University of Toronto, University of Warwick, City University of New York, and IIT-Bombay for our global university partners. Our corporate and government partners include IBM, Cisco, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), ConEd, Xerox, National Grid, ARUP, AECOM, Siemens and more.

To further inform you about the details of our proposal, I am excited to share with you the following message from NYU President John Sexton, NYU Provost David McLaughlin, and NYU Sr. Vice Provost for Research Paul Horn. It is further evidence of the benefits to Polytechnic and Brooklyn that we are deriving from our affiliation with NYU. I hope you find it to be as exciting as I do.


Jerry M. Hultin 
President, NYU-Poly


A message from NYU President John Sexton, Provost David McLaughlin and Sr. Vice Provost for research Paul Horn:

We want to update you on the University's response to the City of New York's call to create a new institute of applied science and engineering — our proposal to create the Center for Urban Science and Progress.


In December 2010, the City of New York unveiled a thoughtful challenge that will be critical to the City's future — creating a new applied science and engineering institute here.

New York is widely acknowledged as the world capital of finance and commerce, and the financial sector has been a — and probably "the" — key source of the city's prosperity for decades. But the economic downturn has caused all of us who care about New York to think about how to diversify the city's economy and to ensure its future prosperity. Undertaking an effort to make the City a world capital of applied science — a field in which it cannot now lay claim to being a world leader, but which leverages many of our existing strengths as a world capital — is a far-sighted stroke.

This past summer, the City released an RFP to set this in motion.


The Core Idea: From its conception, NYU has been urban in outlook — "in and of the City," as our founder, Albert Gallatin, wrote. Inherently, NYU's community of scholars and learners believes in the complexity, diversity, density, and vitality of cities.

We have reached a turning point in the history of cities: the majority of humankind now lives in them. By mid-century, when the world's population is estimated to exceed 9 billion, some 70 percent will live in urban areas. This rapid growth will inevitably be accompanied by challenges — infrastructure, the integration of technologies, public health, transportation, public safety, and environmental sustainability, to name but a few.

This reality is at the heart of our response to the City's request-for-proposals (RFP). And so, we have forged an impressive and exciting consortium of leading universities and leaders in the technology industry to establish the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) in Downtown Brooklyn. It will be an applied science institute focused on researching and developing new solutions for the pressing and complex challenges that confront the world's urban growth, one that will use New York City itself as a "living laboratory" to conduct its research and to test its discoveries.

CUSP has the potential to propel New York City to the forefront of an emerging field of study, and also create a major new sector in our economy.

Partnership: To develop our proposal, NYU and NYU-Poly have been building an outstandingly strong partnership of universities and technology leaders who share our interest in cities and their futures. Our consortium includes Carnegie Mellon University, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, the University of Warwick, and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay as academic partners, and IBM and Cisco as the lead technology industry partners. Independently, each of the partners is a leader in its field; collectively, they bring unrivaled strength — in research, in engineering, in urban understanding, in innovation, and commercialization — to this project.

Using the city as a "living laboratory" will be important to CUSP's research enterprise; we will work with municipal agencies in each of CUSP's partner cities, using their real-world problems to target our research and apply our solutions in real-world settings. In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already agreed to be our prototype partner in this sphere. In so doing, we will create a template for forming similar living laboratory partnerships with other agencies around the globe.

Academic Program: CUSP will be an important new academic program for us. Our proposal anticipates hiring a world-class director for CUSP by the fall of 2012 and starting graduate-level courses beginning in September 2013. By 2020, when it is at full strength, CUSP will have approximately 50 principal investigators (30 from NYU/NYU-Poly, including newly recruited additional faculty, and the other academic partners, 20 research scientists from the industrial partners), and 30 post-docs. Degrees would be granted in existing disciplines — civil engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering among them — in a program that would focus on the application of those fields to urban issues. Ultimately, CUSP would have some 400 Masters students and 80 Ph.D. students (some of these will be students of CUSP, some of them students from partner institutions who will spend one to several years immersing themselves in CUSP's focus on urban issues).

Though there will be industrial partners in the CUSP consortium, research conducted at CUSP will follow our regular practices — open and publishable without restriction.

For NYU, the development of CUSP could not come at a better moment. For one, it fits well with the investments we are making in NYU-Poly's academics and physical infrastructure. For another, it is in line with a broader, inter-disciplinary academic initiative on cities — the Institute for Cities, Environment, and Sustainability — that we have begun to explore with faculty and deans; CUSP would, in effect, be the applied engineering arm of that initiative. And, in addition, it is entirely consistent with the city-wide growth strategy in our NYU 2031 space plan, which calls for expansion in Downtown Brooklyn.

Location: The City's RFP proposed three possible locations — Roosevelt Island, Governor's Island, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard — for the new applied science facility. And much of the public discourse has since focused on Roosevelt Island, and in particular the competition between Stanford and Cornell for that site.

The RFP also allows for other sites to be proposed. We believe the best location for CUSP would be the Downtown Brooklyn/MetroTech area. It is a vibrant neighborhood, and an applied science institute there — and the industry cluster we hope it would spark — would be an especially good fit for MetroTech. In that area, we have identified a particularly promising site: 370 Jay Street, an empty City-owned building across the street from MetroTech and NYU-Poly, and just a few short subway stops from NYU's main campus in Manhattan (which itself will be a real resource — an engineering/applied science institute focused on cities can only benefit from having the full academic resources of a major research university nearby and closely connected). In our current thinking, we would maintain much of the existing 370 Jay St. building, demolishing a modest section at one end to create a six-story structure for new lab space. To make a quick start, we will first establish CUSP in rental space in MetroTech, and then move it to the nearby Jay Street building, which — once the renovations are done — would be home to CUSP, provide incubator space for start-ups, and have space for businesses which wish to co-locate near CUSP.

Given the location we are proposing, we do not see our proposal as being in competition with the Stanford/Cornell contest for the Roosevelt Island site. We do not see the process as an "either/or;" Instead, we believe the establishment of CUSP could occur in addition to other applied science centers the City designates.


We are proud and excited to join in this proposal with our partners:

  • it is focused on some of the great challenges of our time;

  • it fits existing areas of scholarly strength at NYU and new academic directions in which we are deeply interested;

  • it promises new, intriguing, productive collaborations with other world-class universities and industrial partners;

  • it will bolster the investments we are making in NYU-Poly's excellence; and

  • it offers an historic opportunity to contribute to New York's future and economy.

NYU and its partners are committed to the CUSP project, its success, and one another.

We look forward to sharing more information about CUSP and its progress in the weeks and months to come.