Center for Urban Science & Progress

On April 23, 2012, Mayor Bloomberg announced the launch of the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), an applied science research institute that is being created by New York University and NYU Tandon School of Engineering with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international tech companies to address the needs of cities.

CUSP simultaneously responds to two important challenges:

  • The very specific challenge issued by the Bloomberg Administration to create an applied science institute in New York that will make the city a world capital of science and technology, and lead to new jobs, and
  • the grand technical, intellectual, engineering, academic, and human challenges posed by a rapidly urbanizing world.

The Idea

For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas; in just a few more decades, the world's population will exceed 9 billion, 70 percent of whom will live in cities. Enabling those cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and sustainably while keeping their citizens safe, healthy, prosperous, and well-informed will be among the most important undertakings in this century.

CUSP will tackle these urban challenges and set the research agenda on the science of cities, educating the next generation of engineers in how to apply that research, bringing innovative ideas to a world market, and creating a new, fast-growing, and indispensible industry—along with the many jobs that go with it.

At the scale at which it will operate, CUSP will generate an entirely new sector in New York City’s economy, placing it at the center of a global stage in this field.

Rendering: Common Area Interior

The Location

We have identified Downtown Brooklyn as the preferred location for CUSP. It is a vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial neighborhood whose energy will be leveraged by the tech cluster we expect to spark. Growth in this field will be an especially good fit for MetroTech Center, helping it to more fully realize the City’s vision for this campus as a hotbed of technology firms and research.

We have identified a particularly promising site: 370 Jay Street, an empty City-owned building adjacent to MetroTech and NYU Tandon. It will be just a few short subway stops from NYU’s main campus in Washington Square, giving CUSP immediate access to thinkers and practitioners who are creating and implementing scholarship on urban issues across the many disciplines found at a major international research university. In addition, it is entirely consistent with the citywide strategy for growth in the University's NYU 2031 plan to meet its academic space needs over the next two decades.

In our current thinking, much of the existing 370 Jay Street building will be maintained, demolishing a modest section at one end to create a new six-story wing for state-of-the-art lab space. To make a quick start, we will first establish CUSP in leased space at MetroTech Center. After renovations at Jay Street are completed—estimated for 2017—it will then become the home to CUSP, provide incubator space for start-ups, and have space for other technology and entrepreneurial support firms that will be attracted to CUSP.

We have sought an approach to CUSP that is consistent with NYU’s strong and widely recognized commitment to sustainability. For that reason, we will pursue adaptive reuse, rather than demolition and re-building, having a dramatically lower environmental impact. To make the building far more efficient, our plans call for re-cladding it with a high-tech, high-performance façade system using recycled materials to help keep the building cooler when hot and warmer when cold. We will install a green roof, which both helps with heating/cooling efficiency and allows for the installation of a "gray water" system to replace the waste of potable water. Recycled and locally-sourced materials will be the materials of choice for 370 Jay Street. And we will replace the building's outdated interior systems with state-of-the-art, lower energy-consuming heating, cooling, and lighting systems; moreover, we will study other ways to improve building performance as part of CUSP’s academic mission. CUSP-related construction and renovation will achieve LEED Gold certification or higher.

The Academic Program

CUSP will be an important new academic program for NYU. Led by a world-class director – renowned physicist Steven Koonin – it will have at full strength approximately 50 principal investigators (30 tenured and tenure-track faculty from NYU/NYU Tandon and the other academic partners, and 20 research scientists from the industrial partners), over 400 Master’s students, 100 Ph.D. students, and 30 post-docs. This academic core will spark new technologies, discoveries, and innovations; lead to new businesses and job creation; educate the workforce for the high-tech urban science sector; and position New York City as the world capital of applied urban science, to be uttered in the same breath as "world capital of finance…of the arts…of media…of publishing."

For NYU, the development of CUSP could not come at a better moment: It fits brilliantly with the investments we are making in NYU Tandon’s academics and physical infrastructure, and it will serve as the applied science arm of a broader, interdisciplinary academic initiative on cities – the Institute for Cities, Environment, and Sustainability -- that NYU has begun exploring with faculty and deans. 

"Living Laboratories"

Using cities as a "living laboratories" will be essential 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, giving CUSP’s researchers access to the very specific scientific and engineering challenges the agency faces in the coming years. In so doing, we will create a template for forming similar living laboratory partnerships with other agencies around the globe.

The Partnership

CUSP will draw its research strength from an extraordinary consortium – leading institutions of higher learning, leaders in the tech industry, and leaders in public service — that individually rank among the most prominent in their sectors, but together form an unsurpassed whole.

The academic institutions include:


The industry partners include:

  • IBM
  • Cisco
  • Siemens
  • Con Edison
  • National Grid
  • Xerox
  • Arup
  • IDEO