October 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Mayor Bloomberg

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Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

You, of all people, must know that New York City is too great, too proud and too innovative a place to not emerge as our nation’s leading technology and innovation hub. But the challenge to build this nation’s crown metropolis into a center for innovators and venture capitalists will itself require some innovation. Luckily, that is a bountiful resource in New York State. There is no need to remind you that New York can find some of the world’s greatest resources in its very own backyard. After all, the city is not referred to as the Capital of World for nothing.But you must also know that New York City is too unique to follow in someone else’s footsteps. Because it possesses the world’s most impressive cadre of universities, businesses and minds that few, if any, other cities can match — let alone compete with — New York City need not emulate its rivals. It can and should strive for more. Its citizens deserve better.After all, what is so innovative about an innovation hub if it is only another Silicon Valley? Only by differentiating itself from its competitors — not mimicking them — will New York City be able to attract the country’s, and the world’s, richest minds, talents and investors.So let Silicon Valley be California’s Silicon Valley and let New York City carve its own niche in technology and business using New York’s resources for New York City.You even said it yourself: “New York became the world’s greatest city because New Yorkers dared to dream it and build it.”And Cornell dares to share your vision. Ever since you announced your challenge to turn the City into a leading center for applied sciences research, our campus has been buzzing with excitement at the prospect of collaborating with New York City. Cornell’s 20,000 students, 3,000 faculty members and 255,000 alumni — of whom 50,000 call themselves New Yorkers — have dedicated time and energy to show support for your initiative. And as I write this letter, our online petition backing this partnership has more than 18,000 signatures.It is this excitement and involvement that makes Cornell unique amongst its peers. Cornell and its many New York alumni are permanent stakeholders in New York’s future — it is a role that was indelibly printed in our University’s history 150 years ago. Need I remind you that Cornell University is only one of two private land-grant universities in the nation, the other being MIT?  This partnership with New York City would sit squarely with our mission to work with the government towards scientific and engineering advancements. These sorts of collaborations are etched into our University’s DNA and we are reminded of them every day through our agricultural, biological, veterinary, policy analysis and labor research.Alas, the Cornell community’s enthusiasm to lend our minds and ideas is not shared by all the bidders. “What do we stand to gain from a New York campus?” writes one Stanford student. “I fail to see how [the tech campus] helps today’s Stanford community,” she continues. And a majority of the student body appears to share her sentiments, according to a poll by their student newspaper The Stanford Daily.But what others may have failed to see — but Cornellians have come to understand — is this long-term vision for a tech campus is not about polishing the reputations of our establishments or protecting our endowments. It is about keeping New York City, and the country at large, in competition with the rest of the world. Not surprisingly in today’s globalized marketplace, businesses have to keep innovating just to barely stay ahead of the pack. Our economy already feels China and India nipping at its feet.Let us aim for a technology hub that is distinctively New York, and that only New Yorkers are capable of producing and sustaining.And it must be unique, because right now, our country sorely needs an economic stimulus package of a different sort  — one that is long-term and sustainable. And that can only be achieved through science, technology and engineering research that is able to translate into higher productivity for businesses — Cornell’s forte.As our country painfully sputters along the road to recovery from the recession, our priority should be transforming this nation’s credit-fueled consumerist economy into one that is able to innovate and create in order to grow our nation’s GDP. Otherwise, our talents are wasted quibbling over a zero-sum game again and again. The protestors occupying New York City’s very own Zuccotti Park should be a stark reminder of the need for change. We have the solution in front us: this potential collaboration between Cornell and New York City. It will create jobs our country needs and produce innovators of tomorrow who will be able to compete. There is no better partner for New York City than Cornell University. No one else that can offer what we can.

Respectfully,Steven Zhang

Steven Zhang is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at szhang2@cornellsun.com. The Bigger Picture appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Steven Zhang