Back in high school, when my english teacher asked the class to write an essay of 1000 words or less, I always pushed the limit on the lower threshold in order to see how few words would still garner an acceptable passing grade. In other words, I am not a very prolific writer, and thus grateful after last weeks lengthy “Schools” discourse to have someone else do the heavy lifting this week. Thus I was very happy to receive a write-up from “Kris@lictec.com, Long Island City’s largest co-working space” with his impressions from Wednesday nights “Queens Tech Meet-Up.”:
Wednesday night posed the dilemma of attending two important events in two spectacular spaces close together in our neighborhood, Long Island City: a Town Hall Meeting about the school situation took place at PS1 while the Queens Tech Meet Up met at a revamped former Bank of America branch. PS1 has undergone some significant changes including a new foyer while the former bank branch has been converted into the See.me exhibition space with support by the developer, TF Cornerstone.
About 150 of the mostly male members of the Queens Tech Meet Up mingled in skinny jeans, Budweiser bottles in hand, in the dimly lit former atrium of the bank of which only the door to the vault has remained. Documenting every moment by hash tagging on Twitter or forwarding badly lit smart phone pictures of far away presenters provided a much needed reprieve from the social awkwardness of geeks networking.
For me as a hard working owner-manager of a more or less traditional brick-and-mortar company it was a dream-like experience to escape from my daily worries about meeting payroll, broken machinery, and combating employee theft to the wonderful world of angel investors, venture capital, and the humble young men who set out to change supra-national entities like “the world,” the cosmos, or our galactic system by making the content diarrhea of the internet easier to categorize, visualize, and navigate. This was a truly invigorating visit as it transported me back to a time in my life when most of one’s adult life was still ahead, and when it was permissible to engage in ambitious planning of a grand style without the nuisance of being quizzed about achievements and actual results.
I harbored grandiose expectations of my own when attending the Tech Meet Up, mostly about the positive impact of the Cornell campus planned for Roosevelt island on real estate valuations and business activity in Long Island City. Dean Dan Huttenlocher and the “Founding Entrepreneurial Officer” Greg Pass explained that Cornell is trying to design a new type of campus, essentially a combination of an engineering school with a MBA-program specialized in technology centered around entrepreneurship. Students are taught and mentored by role models from the world of tech commerce.
While this sounds really cool, especially in view of my experiences in B-school, my enthusiasm was a bit dampened as far as Cornell’s impact of Long Island City was concerned. One of the people involved in Cornell’s real estate planning (who should remain nameless) stated that they are trying to put all amenities on the island itself because they want to create a vibrant 24-hour campus, complete with faculty housing, student residences, retail shops, and even their own hotel. In other words, Cornell does not envision that graduate students will join the ranks of Astoria apartment dwellers, that faculty will reside on the water front in LIC, or that incubators will invade the industrial loft buildings between Costco and Fresh Direct. Instead, they are planning to locate all that on Roosevelt Island itself in a well contained campus on a narrow island. I cited the one or two dozen small and affordable hotels that have been developed in Long Island City over the last five years: couldn’t they be used by Cornell to house visiting faculty, guest speakers, and conference attendants? Nope. According to the expert I was talking to, Cornell would like it much better if there would be an additional new hotel as part of their building complex directly on campus.
I left the event wondering whether any euphoria about the impact of the planned Cornell campus (the first phase is scheduled for completion in 2017) on the real estate market and local economy in Astoria and LIC is a little premature since the responsible planners currently operate from the idea to establish Cornell as a self contained campus that has everything within its vicinity and doesn’t need or promote much interchange with the Queens neighborhoods on the other side of the East River.
Thank you very much Kris, here is a recap of all the LIC news this week. Oh wait, there is nothing new to report, last weeks news and writing didn’t just exhaust me I guess. Instead, maybe we should all sit and ponder what has transpired here recently and what the future holds…