Stanford has reportedly been the frontrunner in the city’s application process for an applied sciences and engineering campus in New York City, for which the city first offered monetary incentives over a year ago.
But according Stanford University, that’s no longer the case. “After several weeks of negotiations with New York City, university leaders and the Stanford Board of Trustees have determined that it would not be in the best interests of the university to continue to pursue the opportunity,” said a press release sent out around 2 p.m. today.
Stanford president John Hennessy, a Long Islander and fan of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, accepted the decision graciously.
“I applaud the mayor’s bold vision for this transformative project and wish the city well in turning that vision into a reality,” he said in the release. “Stanford was very excited to participate in the competition, and we were honored to be selected as a finalist. We were looking forward to an innovative partnership with the city of New York, and we are sorry that together we could not find a way to realize our mutual goals.”
Mr. Hennessy thought the idea of a second campus across the country would be in line with the way modern universities will work. Indeed, he and Mayor Bloomberg seemed to be winking at each other from across cyberspace, the mayor’s office issuing press releases touting Stanford’s proposal and Mr. Hennessy responding in kind. Stanford even set up a Tumblr for its cause. From the description: “Stanford seeks to launch a new hub of innovation in New York City through the creation of an applied sciences center for teaching and research. Stanford has created this Tumblr to showcase reflections and perspectives on the benefits of Applied Sciences NYC.”
Making memes? Seemed like somebody at Stanford really wanted this. But the proposal was not popular with everyone in Palo Alto, most notably the student body. There were also disagreements over the proposed location—Roosevelt Island—and other facets of Stanford’s application. It’s also possible that Stanford was worried that the city would pick another school, which would be a black eye for the university. Another factor was the amount of money each school was requesting. “Not sure. I wasn’t in the negotiations. I think there were a variety of areas where they just didn’t see eye to eye,” said one source familiar with the process, adding, “It’s what it looks like — they just couldn’t come to an agreement on terms and there wasn’t much point in continuing to negotiate. There are a lot of issues in these types of deals, both sides were tough negotiators, neither came off their positions, and as a result, there was nowhere left to go.”
While it doesn’t look great for the city, this could be good news for local contenders: most notably Cornell, which has been lobbying hard for its proposal, a 50-50 partnership with Israel’s Technion, and NYU, which wants to build the campus in Brooklyn. “Cornell wins!” tweeted one fan. It seems Cornell may now be the city’s favorite. “They were neck and neck on Wednesday night, so they [Cornell] are surprised as well,” a source told Betabeat.
Lisa Lapin, a spokeswoman for Stanford University, told the New York Times‘ City Room blog, “our negotiating team is still in New York; they were still working on it yesterday.” According to the blog’s sources, Stanford officials were frustrated by the fact that the city tried to negotiate new terms after the official proposals were submitted in October.
“I’m surprised to be honest but there are a number of strong proposals remaining including the CUSP proposal for downtown Brooklyn which is a better location than Roosevelt Island which is too isolated from industry and startups to be a catalyst for job creation,” said Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson. Mr. Wilson has been very vocal about his opinion that the city should choose a New York school over Stanford.
The fact that Stanford pulled its bid could be seen as bad for the process, as it reduces some of the pressure on the other schools. But it could have the opposite effect, as Stanford seemed such a clear frontrunner. Now the playing field looks a lot more competitive.
“This competition is about changing the future of the City’s economy, and we are thrilled that we have a number of proposals that we believe will do exactly that,” said Julie Wood, from the Mayor’s Office. “We are in serious negotiations with several of the other applicants, each of whom has a game-changing project queued up. We look forward to announcing a winner soon. We thank Stanford for participating in our process and wish them good luck.”
We’ll be updating this story as we report it out.
The rest of the press release is below:
“Stanford put forward an ambitious and serious proposal and worked hard to see that vision fulfilled,” Hennessy said. In the end, Hennessy said, the university could not be certain that it could proceed in a way that ensured the success of the campus. He said that the university decided to withdraw so that the city can move forward with its selection process and meet its tight timelines for the completion of the project.
“I appreciate the tremendous effort put forth at all levels of the university and the city. We are grateful for the enthusiastic support of the tech community both in New York and in Silicon Valley, the efforts of our alumni and the welcome we received throughout New York and from residents of Roosevelt Island in particular,” Hennessy said. “We gained through this process a fruitful partnership with our colleagues at the City College of New York, a partnership that will strengthen both of our programs and will continue to benefit New York City students for many years to come.
“We learned much from this process and know there will be exciting opportunities in the future to explore the issues that were at the forefront of this effort—the challenge of expanding our ability to deliver Stanford’s high-quality education to more outstanding students,” Hennessy said. “Great universities need to continue to take risks, to innovate and to explore new opportunities where we can make contributions to supporting economic growth and expanding knowledge. Stanford will continue to follow this path.”