Beep on board for Queens ‘Tech City’

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A community group created earlier this year in hopes of bringing an applied sciences university campus to Queens has received the backing of a critical new supporter: Borough President Helen Marshall.

As one of the key players in borough politics and government, Marshall’s endorsement brings added attention to the proposal by Coalition for Queens: Silicon Valley 2.0 to bring a college to her borough.

On Aug. 29, Marshall wrote a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg asking him to include one or more slices of land in Queens as preferred sites for the construction of a new university aimed at fostering the city’s burgeoning tech sector.

“I am writing to express my support for the Coalition for Queens’ ongoing efforts to encourage prospective universities to consider the borough of Queens as a primary site for the city’s proposed applied sciences university,” she wrote. “Queens is experiencing unprecedented levels of economic development activity, and I believe the development of a ‘Tech City’ in its midst would be to the great benefit of our city.”

She did not specifically name a site — the coalition has pushed Willets Point as its top pick — but she said she believes Queens has unique strengths that make it a good candidate for such a school, such as its diverse population, abundant developable land and transportation infrastructure.

Jukay Hsu, the 26-year-old Flushing founder of the nonprofit coalition, said he worked with Marshall’s office for several months on the issue.

“I’m glad that the borough president is supportive of what we’re doing,” he said. “She’s a strong advocate for Queens and I hope this will help Queens become the destination for the future.”

In December, Bloomberg unveiled a bid to attract a university, institution or consortium to develop and run a tech campus in the city. In July, his administration issued a request for proposals for the initiative, and despite pressure from borough leaders and advocates, none of the preferred sites listed was in Queens.

In exchange for building such a school, the city will provide support, infrastructure investment of up to $100 million and access to city-owned land. Bloomberg identified in the RFP three locations as prime for such development, namely the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Roosevelt Island and Governors Island.

The city Economic Development Corp. projects that the construction of such a campus would generate about $6 billion of overall economic activity for the city over 35 years and create 22,000 permanent jobs.

Two dozen schools, including Stanford and Cornell universities, are considering the initiative.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 7:09 pm, September 14, 2011
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