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City Hall's Selection of NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress

To: The NYU Community
From: NYU President John Sexton and Sr Vice Provost for Research Paul Horn
Subject: City Hall's Selection of NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress as an Applied Science Center, and the Announcement of Its Director
Date: Monday, April 23, 2012

I am proud to share with you the good news that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is today publicly announcing that NYU’s proposed Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) – an applied science and engineering institute that will conduct research, support graduate study, and fashion real-world technologies to address the challenges of an increasingly urbanized planet -- has been selected as a winner of the Applied Sciences NYC initiative. CUSP is expected ultimately to make its home at 370 Jay St. in Downtown Brooklyn.

An effort as prominent, exciting, promising, and important as this demands an exceptional leader. And I have good news on that front to share with you as well: a renowned and outstanding scientist, Steven Koonin – a theoretical physicist who has served as the Undersecretary of Energy for Science, Provost at California Institute of Technology, and Chief Scientist for BP – is today being named as Director of CUSP.

One of the principal ways that higher education serves society is by engaging the great issues of the day; we take pride in our generation of new ideas, in our faculty’s research and discoveries, and in the ways that our students take their education and apply them to make the world a better place. Few issues present more opportunities, or hold more challenges, than those that accompany urbanization.

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 is predicted to exceed nine billion, of which 70 percent are expected to live in cities. Enabling 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.

This is the central idea behind CUSP. And it is a powerful one. The CUSP consortium is drawing in top universities from around the world – including Carnegie Mellon, the University of Toronto, the University of Warwick, CUNY, and Indian Institutes of Technology - Bombay – and prominent, successful industrial partners – Cisco, IBM, Siemens, Xerox, Consolidated Edison, National Grid, IDEO, ARUP, and AECOM – to participate alongside NYU and NYU-Poly.

New York, the world’s capital, will not only be CUSP’s home – and, eventually, home to the urban technology businesses that spring from CUSP – it will be a living laboratory. Through a Memorandum of Understanding we have signed with the City, CUSP faculty, researchers, and students will be able to collaborate with City agencies, other government entities, and major service providers to identify and develop solutions for challenges in municipal operations and delivery of services.

Pending a six-month due-diligence period to confirm costs associated with the renovation work and timing of relocating MTA and NYPD equipment in the building, NYU expects to lease the 370 Jay Street site, a 460,000 sq ft City-owned facility in Downtown Brooklyn adjacent to NYU-Poly that we will renovate after the relocation of some transit authority equipment currently in the building – for a $1/year, with an option to purchase after 99 years. In addition to space for CUSP’s scholars and students, the building will provide space for a business incubator and research labs for our partner companies. Until the renovations of 370 Jay St. are complete, CUSP will operate in 60,000 sq ft of leased space nearby in MetroTech. The City will also provide $15 million of support for CUSP in the form of energy savings and other expense savings.

CUSP will welcome its first students in September 2013; ultimately, it will grow to more than 400 Masters and 100 Ph.D. students, and it will have 50 full-time faculty and researchers, with up to 20 from CUSP’s industrial partners. Under Steve Koonin’s direction, faculty from NYU and NYU-Poly will begin developing curricula immediately.

Mayor Bloomberg has been a leader in strengthening New York’s institutions of higher learning, and in recognizing the linkage between them and the City’s economic well-being. His Applied Sciences NYC initiative – which brought NYU and all our partners together around this idea – deserves great praise, as does his economic development team – especially Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky – who made reality out of this idea. This agreement to create CUSP, as well as the agreement with Cornell and Technion – will not only help New York prosper, but will make it a world-wide center of science, technology, and ideas.

Our thanks go to many friends in Brooklyn – elected officials, business groups, and local leaders – who from the start shared the same sense of excitement about this as NYU did. They saw the promise of the CUSP idea and understood what it could mean for Brooklyn, and they were unstinting in their support and friendship, for which we are deeply grateful.

And I want to thank our colleagues here at NYU and NYU-Poly who have worked so hard over the last two years to develop CUSP: developing the initial concept around urban science, building the partnership with other university and industry leaders, and engaging the City in multiple rounds of discussions.

I believe I speak for the entire NYU community when I express gratitude to all those who nurtured and delivered CUSP, congratulations and welcome to Steve Koonin as CUSP’s director, and pride and excitement about this venture.

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