Silicon Alley U

Does Mayor Bloomberg Hold All the Power When It Comes to Deciding Who Will Build the Tech Campus?

dsc 0039 Does Mayor Bloomberg Hold All the Power When It Comes to Deciding Who Will Build the Tech Campus?Throughout the drawn-out process to build an engineering mecca to rival Silicon Valley on city-owned land, the NYC Economic Development Corporation has maintained that there was no front-runner. The reason for that, EDC president Seth Pinsky has said repeatedly, is because the committee of government officials, city elders, and entrepreneurs have yet to see the proposals.

It didn’t matter that the Mayor seemed to have a sweet spot for Stanford, because it all depends, said Mr. Pinsky, on what the schools submit to the requests for proposals (RFP).

In the New York Times today, however, the paper reports that, “the decision as to who gets to build what, and where, will ultimately rest with one man“: Mayor Bloomberg. At the half-way marker of his third term which has been marred by cutbacks and managerial missteps, the campus is a potential crown jewel for his legacy. It’s not mere conjecture, even deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tells the Times, “This is going to be a mayoral call, because this is something that is incredibly important to him.”

Betabeat talked to a source familiar with the selection process for clarification.

Our source advised us to, “Treat that quote in the same way that Steve Jobs ‘made all the decisions’ at Apple.” Hmm, so he’s an exacting ruler who does have all the power? The source explained that a group will come to the Mayor with a recommendation that “he will approve (or not).”

“There are specific objective requirements that the respondents have to meet. The challenge is when two respondents are objectively the same, but subjectively different. And that’s where the mayor and other judgment will come in,” said the source via text. “I wouldn’t call it veto power. He can’t pick someone who doesn’t ‘win’ on objective requirements.”

This sounded a little different than what we’d heard previously. After the deadline, Mayor Bloomberg praised the strength of the proposals. And considering that universities invested in some cases millions in developing specs and soliciting help from alumni, PR firms, and lobbyists, it’s hard to see how the seven proposals would fall short on some objective requirements like benefiting the surrounding community. Other mandates, like 1 million sq. ft. of floor space would disqualify NYU, which clocks in at 400,000 sq. ft., expect in the possibility of picking two winners.

It’s possible that the selection panel will come to the Mayor with more than one proposal. “They might. He can’t just ‘want’ another.”

“This is the same as any complex services ego,” the source texted, followed by, “Aah, RFP not ego.” Freudian slip or auto-correct?

UPDATE: EDC vice president of public affairs Patrick Muncie responded to Betabeat with the following statement:

“This has been a Mayoral initiative from the very start, so it’s no surprise that he will be closely consulted throughout the evaluation process, and ultimately involved in the final selection. The Mayor has firmly stated that there are no frontrunners, and we are presently evaluating each proposal in order make a selection that will provide the greatest benefit to New York City and its taxpayers.”

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com