- ARTICLE – NYC Community Board member calls BDS “the face of anti-Semitism” (6 March 2014)
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR – Don’t Be Evil: Google and Cornell-Technion (18 Feb 2014)
- ARTICLE – “New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership” oppose Technion’s role in U.S. militarization and domestic spying (17 Nov 2013)
- ARTICLE – New York tech university evasive about Israeli partner’s role in arms industry (9 Sept 2013)
- ARTICLE – Goldwater Hospital Residents Express Concern Over Hospital Demolition (15 Aug 2013)
- PRESS RELEASE – NYACT Activists Carry Out Final Protest of the Academic Year at Google/Cornell-Technion Site in Manhattan (7 May 2013)
- PRESS RELEASE – Cornell Shuts Down New Ethics Concern Hotline and Website (29 April 2013)
- ARTICLE – NYACT Questions Google Chief’s Call for Drones Regulation (16 April 2013)
- RADIO INTERVIEW – New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership hold a protest rally (27 March 2013)
- ARTICLE: Concerns about Roosevelt Island Tech Campus (27 March 2013)
- ARTICLE: Cornell NYC Tech’s Alarming Ties to the Israeli Occupation (1 March 2013)
- ARTICLE: New York City Coalition Decries Cornell-Technion Partnership (1 March 2013)
- PHOTO ESSAY: Paralyzed Roosevelt Island Residents Face Displacement by Cornell (19 Feb 2013)
- ARTICLE: Cornell partnership with military-linked Israeli school greeted by protests on first day of class (23 Jan 2013)
- Cornell/Roosevelt Island Task Force Meeting, November 26, 2012
- LETTER FROM TECHNION PRESIDENT: On Cornell University President David Skorton’s visit during Operation Pillar of Cloud (19 November 2012)
- OPEN LETTER: To Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (31 Oct 2012)
- ARTICLE: Why is a New York hospital being sacrificed for an Israel-backed science facility? (26 October 2012)
- Cornell/Roosevelt Island Task Force Meeting, Oct 22, 2012
- PRESS RELEASE: 25 Organizations Urge Architectural Firms of Proposed CornellNYC Tech Campus to Drop Project (16 Oct 2012)
- OPEN LETTERS: To Morphosis Architects, Inc. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (24 Sep 2012)
- OPEN LETTERS: To Professors Serge Belongie and Rajit Manohar, CornellNYC Tech’s second and third Faculty Members (5 Sep 2012)
- OPEN LETTER: To Professor Deborah Estrin, CornellNYC Tech’s first Faculty Member (23 Aug 2012)
- UPDATE: Missing portions of July 31 meeting now available
- Cornell/Roosevelt Island Task Force Meeting, July 31, 2012
- Public meeting on Roosevelt Island, May 14, 2012
- Leafleting on Roosevelt Island ahead of a public meeting there, May 14, 2012
- Our first action – Distributing leaflets at Roosevelt Island Town Hall Forum, April 8, 2012
ARTICLE: NYC Community Board member calls BDS “the face of anti-Semitism”
Mondoweiss, 6 March 2014 - [...] Community Board 4 Member Brett Firfer, who is visibly Jewish, approached the microphone holding a large camera. “This is the face of anti-Semitism,” he said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), with which NYACT is affiliated. He referred to NYACT as “the enemy,” and, in the context of remarking what one does to one’s “enemies,” proceeded to snap a group photograph of all ten of us seated in the second and third rows of the auditorium. [read full article]
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Don’t Be Evil: Google and Cornell-Technion
WestView News: The Voice of the West Village, 18 Feb 2014 - Every other [Wednesday] of the semester, from 5:00-7:00 PM, a quiet demonstration takes place outside the offices of Google on the corner or 15th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. “Don’t Be Evil,” the signs say, referencing Google’s own slogan. [read complete letter]
ARTICLE: “New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership” oppose Technion’s role in U.S. militarization and domestic spying
Mondoweiss, 17 Nov 2013 - This article, a revised transcript, was presented on behalf of New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) at Judson Memorial Church on October 23, 2013 as part of a panel discussion hosted by NYACT, entitled “Militarization, Domestic Spying, and the Boycott of Israel,” and including additional participants from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM); and RootsAction. [read full article]
ARTICLE: New York tech university evasive about Israeli partner’s role in arms industry
Electronic Intifada, 9 Sept 2013 - Israel’s first major arms-developing educational institution on US soil recently received the green light. This occurred despite opposition from many inhabitants of Roosevelt Island, who had expressed concerns about the vagueness of clauses in the lease regarding who would be responsible for any damage caused during the construction period, which is expected to last 25 years. Like the lease, publicity for the new campus is replete with vague messaging. Although the ostensible goal of the project is to create a Silicon Valley-like hub in New York City, the precise nature of the technology it aims to develop has not be spelled out. A closer look at the corporations affiliated with Technion, some of which have expressed interest in this entrepreneurial venture, indicates that the project’s aims may be more sinister. [read full article]
ARTICLE: Goldwater Hospital Residents Express Concern Over Hospital Demolition: Cornell NYC Tech to be built on top of Goldwater Hospital site
Cornell Daily Sun, 15 Aug 2013 - Roosevelt Island, with its regulated number of cars and easy access to Manhattan, is a haven for wheelchair-bound patients like Xama, and they were able to find a community at Goldwater. But that community is being dismantled: Goldwater is scheduled to to be demolished by the end of the year so Cornell NYC Tech can build its $2-billion applied sciences school on the site in 2014, and the hospital’s residents are being relocated to various centers, including one on Roosevelt Island and two in Manhattan. [read full article]
PRESS RELEASE: NYACT Activists Carry Out Final Protest of the Academic Year at Google/Cornell-Technion Site in Manhattan
May 7, 2013 – After eight bi-weekly protests at which hundreds of leaflets and information sheets have been distributed and petition signatures collected, New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) and friends will today carry out their final protest of the academic year outside Google’s offices in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Over the last months, the protests have succeeded in drawing attention to the involvement of Technion in the new applied science and research school, and to the true nature of Technion’s complicity in Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid system. [read full statement]
PRESS RELEASE: Cornell Shuts Down New Ethics Concern Hotline and Website
On April 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm (EDT), members and supporters of New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) telephoned Cornell University’s ethics concerns hotline to express their opposition to the Cornell-Technion Partnership and its questionable ethics. At approximately 2:00 pm, callers were notified that the hotline was no longer taking complaints and that they should use an online form instead. Shortly thereafter, at approximately, 2:30 pm, the online form was also shut down. [read full statement]
ARTICLE: NYACT Questions Google Chief’s Call for Drones Regulation
RADIO INTERVIEW: New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership hold a protest rally
WBAI (99.5 FM) Radio, March 27, 2013 - New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership say the Bloomberg Administration fast-tracked the proposal for building an engineering school on Roosevelt Island, that proper hearings haven’t taken place, $100 million of taxpayer monies are going towards the project and Technion has a dubious relationship with weapons manufacturing used against Palestinians. WBAI’s Rebecca Myles has more. [listen to interview]
ARTICLE: Concerns about Roosevelt Island Tech Campus
THE QUEENS GAZETTE, March 27, 2013 – The March breakfast meeting of the Long Island City/Astoria Chamber of Commerce welcomed two women from Roosevelt Island who talked about the Cornell-Technion scientific campus. Their message, however, ran counter to previous ones the chamber has heard, principally because, unlike those promoting the campus or accepting its presumed benefits, they are skeptical of what building the campus will mean to island residents. [read full article]
ARTICLE: Cornell NYC Tech’s Alarming Ties to the Israeli Occupation
THE NATION, March 1, 2013 – New York City’s Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land that sits in the East River, is home to around 12,000 residents living in a quiet neighborhood in the middle of a large metropolis. The Island is soon to be transformed: by 2037, Cornell University will establish a two million square foot graduate school on the island. Last November, representatives from Cornell attended a community board meeting there to discuss the university’s plans for a new campus. Left largely unmentioned was Cornell’s partner in the venture, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Technion’s troubling role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [read full article]
ARTICLE: New York City Coalition Decries Cornell-Technion Partnership
THE CORNELL DAILY SUN, March 1, 2013 – Holding signs that read “Occupation is Illegal” and “No to Technion in NYC,” members of New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership say they plan to continue their protests of the Cornell Tech Campus’ partnership with an Israeli institution, according to the group’s leaders. [read full article]
PHOTO ESSAY: Paralyzed Roosevelt Island Residents Face Displacement by Cornell
GOTHAMIST, Feb 19, 2013 – Last year the city acted on long-standing plans to develop the southern end of Roosevelt Island. As a result, Goldwater Memorial Hospital will be closing at the end of the year and everyone who considers it their home will be forced to move to other facilities in the city. This is the story of two people whose lives will immeasurably change when the hospital shuts down. [read full article]
ARTICLE: Cornell partnership with military-linked Israeli school greeted by protests on first day of class
MONDOWEISS, Jan 23, 2013 – Palestine solidarity activists greeted the first day of classes for students attending Cornell NYC Tech with leafleting, signs and petitions against the school, a massive collaboration between Ivy League Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. About 25 demonstrators braved the biting cold to send a message to Cornell and the city: that they should cut off their links with Technion due to their involvement in making Israeli weaponry used on Palestinian civilians. [read full article]
Technion Partnership Challenged at Community Board 8
Cornell/Roosevelt Island Task Force Meeting, November 26, 2012
Scroll to 51:21 to hear the challenge
LETTER FROM TECHNION PRESIDENT:
[On 18th November, four days into the Israeli assault on Gaza, as civilians were being massacred, Cornell University President David Skorton visited The Technion in Haifa, Israel as a "a true friend of the State Israel" (see letter below). Skorton's visit to The Technion at the height of Israel's assault shows profound support for Israel by Cornell's President, and a shameful disregard for Palestinian lives. The visit clearly refutes any claims by David Skorton that he wants to "connect with colleagues in Israel and the Palestinian Territories" (The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 12 2010. http://bit.ly/10jxlpE).]
November 19, 2012
I would like to express my gratitude to the many of you who took the time to respond to my letter of November 16th about the current situation. It is difficult to put into words how heart-warming these expressions of solidarity and friendship with the State of Israel and the Technion are for all of us.
We are also profoundly encouraged by the ongoing visits to the Technion by friends from around the world. Just yesterday, we had the honor and pleasure to host the President of Cornell University, Prof. David Skorton, who is not only our partner in the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute in New York City, but a true friend of the State Israel.
As you know, Operation Pillar of Defense continues, and millions of Israelis are still threatened by rocket attacks. Numerous Technion students have been called up for emergency military duty, and I know that you join with me and the entire Technion community in praying for their well-being, and that of all the soldiers and civilians who this conflict has placed in harm’s way.
With warmest regards,
EXCERPT FROM 2010 ARTICLE BY DAVID SKORTON:
“So, it is more important than ever for faculty colleagues throughout the world to resist and oppose academic boycotts against Israeli institutions, to reject fatalism, and, instead, to enlist faculty, students, staff and higher-education leaders throughout the world to connect with colleagues in Israel and the Palestinian Territories: facilitating bidirectional student and faculty exchange; combining our aggregate knowledge, skills, resources, and spirits; learning about each other one interaction at a time.”
(source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 12 2010. http://bit.ly/10jxlpE)
October 31, 2012
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney
1651 Third Avenue, Suite 311
New York, New York 10128-3679
Dear Congresswoman Maloney:
While we applaud your track record of defending civil liberties and women’s rights, we are deeply concerned about your recent support of Cornell University’s partnership with The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to build a campus on Roosevelt Island.
We understand that New York City needs to invest in education and training opportunities; however, this should not come at the expense of others who are not given that chance and who suffer human rights abuses. The Technion partners in the design of military weapons and development of technologies that are used to destroy Palestinian houses, farms, businesses and government buildings, expropriate their water sources, drive them off their land, suppress demonstrations for their rights, and carry out attacks against people in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. The Technion is thus directly implicated in war crimes.
You may not know that The Technion practices institutional discrimination against Palestinian students by severely restricting their freedom of speech and assembly and rewarding Jewish students who, unlike the majority of Palestinians, perform compulsory military service in Israel. Not only do these facts contradict New York City and New York State non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws and Cornell University’s own bylaws. They directly contrast the recently opened Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, built to commemorate President Roosevelt’s goals of freedoms of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. When President Roosevelt made that speech in 1941, he said that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy those four freedoms, a sentiment which surely must apply to the Palestinian people, as well as all others.
Now that Cornell NYC Tech has entered into the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Process, there is an urgent need to take a stand. This review process provides the opportunity to express opposition to the partnership with The Technion and to stand up for community interests, which have always been at the heart of your work. We have spoken with many residents and workers on Roosevelt Island who feel that their views are being ignored. They need you to voice their concerns, highlighted here in a message we received from a healthcare worker in May this year:
“I do not live on Roosevelt Island. 48 weeks out of the year I come five mornings per week to work at the nursing facility Goldwater Memorial Hospital. For a long time we thought Donald Trump had bought the property for luxury condominiums. Then we were told about the college campus project. Now, we learn that the nursing facility is to be torn down …to provide a safe haven for the military destroyers created by Technion. As a health care professional you cannot disrespect my life-giving work more than by replacing my work with the profession of death and destruction…of national supremacy and war mongering. Your involvement is a welcome increase in numbers of those who care about health…and peace.”
We are confident that you will take seriously the important issues raised in this letter.
As you now seek re-election for an 11th term in Congress, we urge you to reconsider your position of supporting the Cornell-Technion partnership, and instead to support human rights. We at NYACT are happy to discuss the matter with you in more detail and to supply you with additional information about the history of The Technion and Israel should you find that helpful.
Anna Calcutt, NYACT
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT)
Roosevelt Islanders for Accountability and Transparency (RIACT)
Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine
Hunter College Students for Justice in Palestine
Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine
Muslim Progressive Traditionalist Alliance
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)-New York City
Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)
Occupy Wall Street – Global Justice Working Group
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (BfW)
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC)-Vancouver
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
International Socialist Organization (ISO)
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) is an ad-hoc coalition of New York-based students, academics, activists, writers, and concerned individuals who are working together to oppose the collaboration of Cornell University with The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Founding members include activists from the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) and Cornell University Students for Justice in Palestine, both of which continue to collaborate with NYACT. NYACT works within a wider framework of support that includes additional NYC-based groups as well as groups across the US, Canada, Palestine/Israel, South Africa, India, and Europe. Notably, along with Palestine solidarity groups and grassroots and labor activists, several key Jewish groups support the NYACT campaign.
ARTICLE: Why is a New York hospital being sacrificed for an Israel-backed science facility?: A New York applied sciences campus will be jointly overseen by Israel’s Technion university, which has developed technology used in Caterpillar bulldozers that destroy Palestinian homes.
ELECTRONIC INTIFADA, October 26, 2012 – Despite critical opposition from residents and their supporters, plans are proceeding unimpeded to build a multi-billion dollar campus linking an Israeli and an American university in New York City.
The applied sciences university campus, Cornell NYC Tech, is to be located on tiny Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land in the East River dividing Manhattan from three of New York’s outer boroughs.
The Cornell NYC Tech project is jointly overseen by Cornell University and the Israeli Institute of Technology — better known as the Technion — in Haifa and will eventually sit on 12 acres, or 2.1 million square feet, of Roosevelt Island’s south end. A temporary campus will open in January 2013 at Google’s New York headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where the nascent university will operate until 2017, when completion is expected of its first leg of construction, a “net-zero energy” building to be designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects.
On 15 October, New York City began the seven-month uniform land use review procedure (ULURP) that will initiate a public review of Cornell NYC Tech’s master plan, including an environmental impact statement, by the City Planning Commission.
Cornell NYC Tech will ultimately cost developers $2 billion, including $350 million in start-up costs supplied by Cornell alumnus Charles Feeney, a wealthy philanthropist, and $100 million in New York taxpayer funds allocated freely last year by Michael Bloomberg, the city’s mayor (“Cornell alumnus is behind $350 billion gift to build science school in City,” The New York Times, 19 December 2011).
Feeney is often praised in the mainstream media for his philanthropy. This is particularly the case in Ireland, where Feeney has supported the country’s universities, as well as to community groups (“Universities honour their ‘Renaissance man’ Feeney,” The Irish Times, 7 September 2012).
Critics of the Cornell NYC Tech project surmise that Feeney’s mega-grant helped push through the Cornell-Technion Partnership’s comparatively late bid with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to build the proposed Roosevelt Island campus.
NYCEDC awarded the project to Cornell NYC Tech rather than to Stanford University, in potential partnership with the City College of New York, after Stanford pulled out of negotiations at the last minute.
The circumstances of Stanford’s withdrawal, and of the seeming fast-tracking of a deal involving Cornell and the Technion, remain mysterious and raise disturbing questions about Cornell NYC Tech (see “Alliance formed secretly to win deal for campus,” The New York Times, 25 December 2011). These questions have been made all the more troubling in light of NYCEDC’s recent move to prevent Stanford from making its own bid public (“Why does NYC refuse to allow Stanford University to publicly release details of its withdrawn proposal for Roosevelt Island NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School?,” Roosevelt Islander, 31 July 2012).
The Cornell NYC Tech project has been loudly criticized for its institutional implication in international law violations.
The Technion, Israel’s premier high-tech university, is heavily involved in the research and development of drones, weapons manufacture, communications surveillance technology and Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers — the kind used to kill US peace activist Rachel Corrie — and used to demolish many thousands of Palestinian homes and public buildings.
These research areas are directly tied to Israeli military activities which violate international humanitarian charters and resolutions, including the Geneva Conventions, laws against breaches of human rights, and laws against apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Cornell NYC Tech has already announced that it will engage in dry laboratory manufacturing, mainly robotics, as well as communications development, but the pertinent details have not been released. This is despite claims of transparency from Cornell representatives and some of the project’s supporters, including Nicholas Viest, President of Roosevelt Island’s Community Board 8.
To make way for the new campus, New York City has arranged to demolish Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, a 2,000-bed, long-term comprehensive care facility in operation since the Franklin D. Roosevelt era, in January 2014 (“Hospital patients forced out as Roosevelt Island tech campus moves in,” DNAinfo, 3 May 2012).
Plans to move the hospital’s patients to other facilities, some of them still in the proposal stage, have been blocked temporarily by East Harlem area residents, represented by Community Board 11, who are concerned they will not be permitted to live or work in the prospective facilities initially slated to be built — following more demolition and displacement — in their neighborhood.
Should new homes not be found for Coler-Goldwater patients by their mandatory evacuation dates in mid-2013, many of them (those who are US non-citizens holding temporary visas) may face deportation, according to a Coler-Goldwater resident spokesperson.
Cornell NYC Tech is not scheduled for completion until 2037. Until then, Roosevelt Islanders will be faced with 30 years of noise, potentially hazardous dust, and heavy construction traffic as well as a likely, permanent increase in security and police presence on the island. These are conditions which many New Yorkers are greeting with displeasure and concern.
Below is a brief report on the October 22, 2012 Community Board 8 Task Force on Cornell-Technion meeting.
The meeting was clearly an attempt to do some damage control by containing the dissent which the Cornell-Technion Partnership and its supporters have been facing. Nicholas Viest, Chair of CB8, stated early on that “We are all citizens here,” and that the meeting would include an important debate for which time had been set aside–although once the moment for that debate arrived, he said he was not going to allow actual debating (“back-and-forth” contestation).
Viest also announced, in the spirit of “transparency,” that all e-mails between persons involved in the C-T Partnership would be subject to public scrutiny. Therefore, he implied, everyone involved in the project will need to be careful what they say and write. (This move simply underscores and reinforces the real secrecy of the project.) Viest also emphasized the fact that the minutes of the Oct. 22 meeting and its slide show presentation would be made available online.
First, however, a line-up of major players in the C-T project was introduced. Each of them proceeded to give a short presentation about their role in Cornell NYC Tech. These included, but were not limited to, representatives from Cornell University, Morphosis, Skidmore/Owings/Merrill, New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New York City Transportation Department (if I recall correctly), Fried Frank (land use counselor Melanie Meyers), and NYC Communications (David Keating).
Some highlights from these presentations are as follows:
* The Technion was welcomed as a partner with which Cornell is pleased to be working because, it was claimed, this “top” Israeli institution has been instrumental in developing the Israeli economy from primarily agricultural to “leading” technological production
* information was supplied about the Google campus opening in January 2013: Cornell NYC Tech will operate in the Google building for 5 years, until 2017; its first degree offering is an M.Eng in Computer Science; it will foster an “entrepreneurial spirit”
* an out-of-context description, as “not there,” was given of patients and employees in Goldwater Hospital; this was followed by reference to the current number of patients and employees in the hospital, with no ensuing discussion about the question of their relocation
* there was much focus on the “green” and “open” aspects of the proposed Roosevelt Island campus
The ensuing “debate” revolved largely around environmental concerns and instanced the greenwashing approach that Cornell-Technion is taking on this project. In addition, questions were raised about perceived C-T’s (non)accountability to the Roosevelt Island community. The most powerful comment was made by an initial speaker, a retired physician who read a statement which concluded by asking CB8 not to approve the C-T plan until C-T has agreed to requests he was making on behalf of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). Nothing whatsoever was mentioned, however, by that speaker or anyone else about Technion’s implication in violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. It must be noted that David Keating, who co-moderated this part of the meeting with Nicholas Viest, was noticeably defensive at numerous points throughout.
Comments focused on:
* the question of trucking vs. use of barges; the former was thought to produce too much noise, air pollution, heavy traffic, hazardous materials transport, and pose a structural problem in light of the substandard nature of the entry-exit ramp connecting Roosevelt Island the 59th Street Bridge
* the unstable R.I. southern sea wall in need of repair that might be delayed by C-T construction
* the likely destruction of New York State trees by construction and new buildings
* the fear that if Cornell NYC Tech’s parking requirement is removed, C-T won’t build enough underground parking spaces on campus, whereupon there will be an unacceptable spillover of parking needs into the already congested public streets
* the concern that despite claims to the contrary, representatives from the C-T partnership have not in fact met with the Board of Directors of the RIOC and have not in fact set up any formal meetings with RIOC
* the concern about school and library overcrowding resulting from an influx of new residents in the (plentiful) corporate co-location areas of the projected new campus (one C-T representative let it slip that there will in fact be no lending library on the [geographically isolated] campus)
25 Organizations Urge Architectural Firms of Proposed CornellNYC Tech Campus to Drop Project
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website URL: http://againstcornelltechnion.wordpress.com
To Morphosis Architects, Inc. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP
Morphosis Architects were chosen to design the first academic building of the proposed Cornell-Technion campus (see article), and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the overall campus layout used for the bid to Mayor Bloomberg (see article).
September 24, 2012
Mr. Thom Mayne
Morphosis Architects, Incorporated
153 West 27th Street, Suite 1200
New York, New York 10001
Dear Mr. Mayne:
It has come to our attention that your firm has been awarded the bid to design the first academic building on the proposed Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island. We are writing to let you know that many in the architecture community, as well as students at Cornell University, academics, human and civil rights organizations in the United States and abroad, and Roosevelt Island residents, are deeply troubled by the Cornell partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, an Israeli university that is strongly implicated in the oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. Considering the renowned status of Morphosis in the world of architecture, the ethical and professional credentials of your firm may be at stake due to your participation in this project. Hence, we urge you to reconsider your involvement in the CornellNYC Tech project based on the following information.
The Technion is a research university that collaborates with the Israeli government to develop technology vital to Israel’s oppressive and aggressive operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Palestinian people are enduring the longest military occupation in modern history, in which every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled, regulated, and policed through use of soldiers, tear gas, tanks, and the illegal Separation Wall that divides people’s land. Israeli research institutions such as the Technion provide the research and development as well as the strategies and planning behind Israel’s military occupation. The Technion is not just linked to the occupation but deeply complicit with it, working hand in hand with Israel’s military. Israel’s brutal occupation has been clearly condemned by the United Nations and human rights organizations for its persistent breaches of international law and human rights.
Although many of us would like to believe in the innocence of academic institutions in light of the advancements they may provide, we cannot ignore what Cornell’s partnership with the Technion represents for the contemporary struggle against apartheid. We ask Morphosis Architects to join us in the present-day struggle against Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing, by reconsidering and ultimately declining participation in the CornellNYC Tech project. We invite you to take a closer look at the Technion’s record of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law:
- The Technion boasts a partnership with Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers. Elbit manufactured the drones that Israel used during its bombing of civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09. This collaboration has played a leading role not only in the construction and surveillance of the Separation Wall in Palestine, but also along the U.S.-Mexico border through its subsidiary, Kollsman.
- The Technion trains its engineering students to work with companies dealing “directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses” . In one example involving Elbit Systems, the reward has been the funding of research grants upwards of $500,000 to Technion students conducting research .
- One of Technion’s most notorious projects resulted in the development of a remote-control function on the Caterpillar’s ‘D9’ bulldozer, which is “used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses and farms and the development of a method for detecting underground tunnels, specifically developed in order to assist the Israeli army in its continued siege on the Gaza Strip” .
- The Technion has deep relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers famous for its “advanced hybrid armor protection system” used in Israel’s Merkava tanks . Technion has developed an “MBA program tailored specifically for Rafael managers” that further solidifies the connections it has forged between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex .
- The Technion has granted Israeli army reservists who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009 “academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists” . In fact the Technion practices racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel under the pretext that they do not serve in the military, by granting military-specific scholarships.
While many of the above points may seem isolated, they represent actions undertaken at the expense of Palestinian life. You may be aware that an international appeal has been issued to halt the collaboration between Cornell and the Technion . This appeal was issued in response to a Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli businesses, organizations, and institutions implicated in crimes against humanity and other violations of international law.
In light of this appeal, Morphosis Architects’ participation in the CornellNYC Tech project not only implicates the firm’s professional practice in international crimes and legal violations, but renders it likewise subject to negative publicity and potential boycott.
We urge you not to risk jeopardizing Morphosis Architects’ reputation with further involvement in the CornellNYC Tech project, until Cornell disassociates from the Technion, an Israeli institution that is “directly implicated in war crimes” .
At every moment in history we face conflicts in which people must choose silence or find the strength to struggle against what they know is wrong. We therefore ask that Morphosis Architects join us in sending a firm message that the Cornell-Technion Partnership is unacceptable.
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT)
Roosevelt Islanders for Accountability & Transparency (RIACT)
Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR)
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
Cornell University Students for Justice in Palestine
John Jay College for Criminal Justice Students for Justice in Palestine
Hunter College Students for Justice in Palestine
Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine
Jews Say No!
Arab American Forum
Muslim Progressive Traditionalist Alliance
Muslim Solidarity Committee, Albany, NY
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)
U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
Boycott Against Israeli Apartheid Campaign Vancouver
Labor for Palestine
New York City Labor Against the War
Coalition to Defend the Egyptian Revolution
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Occupy Wall Street – Global Justice Working Group
New York City War Resistors League
International Socialist Organization (ISO)
Sources:  Uri Yacobi Keller, The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin (Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center, 2009), p. 10, http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf.  Ibid., 10-11.  Ibid., 9.  “Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia Universities Must Sever their Links with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology,” 4, http://www.tadamon.ca/wp-content/uploads/Technion-English.pdf.  Ibid., 3-4.  Keller, 12-13 (see link above).  See: http://www.usacbi.org/2011/12/open-letter-to-cornell-university-dont-collaborate-with-apartheid/.  See: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1829 ; and http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/in-opposition-to-cornell-universitys/.
August 23, 2012
Professor Deborah Estrin
UCLA Computer Science Department
3531H Boelter Hall, Box 951596
Los Angeles, California 90095-1596
Dear Professor Estrin:
It has come to our attention that you have recently accepted an invitation to serve as a Professor of Computer Science at the new CornellNYC Tech campus scheduled to begin operations in New York City this Fall. While we understand how exciting this new career opportunity may seem to you, we at New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) are very concerned not simply that you have agreed to teach and conduct research at this new campus but that you have done so in apparent disregard for the grave implications of doing so.
NYACT is a nationwide group of academics and activists which formed in early 2012 in critical response to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement that Cornell University and its partner, The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, had won a bid for a massive new applied sciences and technology campus to be built on Roosevelt Island. Perhaps you are unaware that this agreement was made behind closed doors, without consulting staff and faculty at Cornell. The public, $100 million of whose taxpayer money has been promised to fund the Partnership, was never given full information about the plan, nor was it told just how complicit The Technion is in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
The Technion designs military weapons and develops technologies that are used to destroy Palestinian houses, farms, businesses and government buildings, expropriate their water sources, drive them off their land, suppress demonstrations for their rights, and carry out attacks against people in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. The Technion is thus directly implicated in war crimes.
You may also not know that The Technion practices institutional discrimination against Palestinian students by severely restricting their freedom of speech and assembly and rewarding Jewish students who, unlike the majority of Palestinians, perform compulsory military service in Israel. These facts directly contrast Cornell University’s founding values of universalism and inclusion embodied in the university’s motto, “any person, any study.” Thus any collaboration with The Technion makes Cornell likewise complicit.
In light of these implications, we strongly urge you to reconsider your acceptance of an employment offer from CornellNYC Tech. It is by no means too late for you to join with the many academic scholars who likewise oppose the Cornell-Technion Partnership, by making the right decision based upon ethical values respecting human life and social justice. We at NYACT are happy to discuss the matter with you in more detail and to supply you with additional information about the history of The Technion in/and Israel should you find that helpful.
Knowing your background in higher education and your commitment to its principled search for truth, we are confident that you will take seriously the important issues raised by the Cornell-Technion Partnership and that, in the end, you will decide against taking up any kind of employment capacity at CornellNYC Tech.
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership
This audio – and two ensuing audios – contain portions of the July 31, 2012 Community Board 8 / Roosevelt Island Task Force on Cornell-Technion meeting that “Roosevelt Islander” apparently does not want you to hear (otherwise they would not be missing from his YouTube uploads). The presenter is Cornell’s attorney, Melanie Meyers (of Fried Frank law firm), and the meeting moderator is Nicholas Viest (Chair of CB8). Just scroll in Part 4a to 4:40, and you will hear a heated discussion in which Meyers admits she doesn’t care that Cornell is partnering with an institution, The Technion, implicated in ethnic cleansing and other violations of international law. Chilling!
Part 4a –
Part 4b –
Part 4c -
Members of NYACT attended a meeting of the Community Board (CB) 8 Cornell-Technion / Roosevelt Island Task Force at the Roosevelt Island Senior Center on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Although the room was stocked with 48 chairs, by the end of the meeting over 80 people were in attendance, including numerous Roosevelt Islanders and several CB8 Board members. The meeting was convened by CB 8 Chair Nicholas D. Viest, who also served as moderator, and CB 8 Board member James G. Clynes. Cornell Vice President and future Academic Dean of Cornell-Technion Cathy Dove introduced presenter Melanie Meyers, Cornell’s attorney and a partner at the Fried Frank law firm who specializes in real estate development with special focus on land use, environmental review, zoning, public approvals and private/public partnerships.
Meyers’ presentation focused primarily on the matter of enlarging one of the main roads on Roosevelt Island and what that would look like. She used a lot of technical language to explain Cornell’s application for a New York City zoning amendment that would enable greater land disposition for commercial use in a primarily residential and community area, and that would loosen certain environmental sustainability requirements to enable dry laboratory manufacturing (mainly robotics) on the new campus. Residents raised concerns about a proposed, tree-lined esplanade and bicycle lane while expressing general concern about public access to parks and walkways to be constructed in and around the new campus. Numerous questions arose about transportation (including parking), water and air quality issues, and waste removal. Meyers’ deferred repeatedly to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is currently in preparation and will not be ready for perusal until September, after which, in October, it will be presented to the City Planning Commission for official, Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) certification, whereupon CB 8 will have 60 days in which to review it prior to the June 2013 vacation of the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility (on which former site the new campus will be built). Other audience members wanted to know if Cornell had plans to assist the many disabled immigrants who are residents at Coler-Goldwater who will likely lose their temporary visas, and thus face deportation, before the deadline arrives for their “transfer” to make way for the facility’s demolition in January 2014. Related questions arose concerning the high level of mold and asbestos that will have to be barged off the island during the demolition process. In light of the above concerns as well as the mentioned fact that the eventual two-million square foot campus will take 25-30 years to build, another resident stated her desire for a police station on the island.
Videos of the meeting, taken by a photographer from the Roosevelt Islander, are available on YouTube:
Part 1 –
Part 2 –
Part 3 –
Part 5 –
Part 4 of the series is unfortunately missing and unavailable for viewing. It contains additional questions and comments from the audience, including several important ones posed by NYACT members about the relationship between the Cornell-Technion collaboration and Palestinians. One such comment focused on the irony of Meyers’ attention to land use issues considering their centrality to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Upon the questioner’s reference to Palestinians, the room erupted into boos and jeers, whereupon the questioner proceeded to ask whether the presenters would comment on Cornell’s decision to partner with an institution complicit in war crimes and what impact they might have on Roosevelt Island. As the ruckus in the room did not abate, another NYACT member stepped in to condemn the audience for shouting down the previous questioner. She reiterated the fact that Technion is complicit in violations of international law which include ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations, and she insisted upon knowing whether anyone in the room cared at all that Cornell was entering into a contract with an institution implicated in these crimes. Moderator Nicholas Viest tried to silence this second questioner, whereupon she redirected her attention specifically toward him and Melanie Meyers. Although the volume in the room at that point was quite high, Meyers finally answered the question in the negative. Her sentiments were shared audibly by numerous hecklers in the room.
The meeting soon returned to order, but NYACT’s intervention could not be contained. A series of questions and comments arose subsequently concerning terrorism and security issues. In direct response to a comment about 9/11, Nicholas Viest stated that the Cornell-Technion collaboration team would be looking into the matter of First Amendment rights with an eye to managing possible future protests and demonstrations on the island. Shortly thereafter, another audience member stated her belief that the Palestinian-Israeli aspect of the Cornell-Technion collaboration deserves a more in-depth discussion that should be held at an ensuing meeting. Another NYACT member added that the issue was not going to go away and will likely fester and grow if CB 8 and the Cornell-Technion collaboration team continue to ignore it.
Last Monday evening, Roosevelt Island residents and workers joined NYACT for our first public meeting on the island. The aim was to let people know about our campaign, and to hear what their concerns are about the proposed campus. After a last-minute cancellation of the room we had originally planned to use, a new location was secured at a local restaurant. About 35-45 people attended, and of those 9 or 10 were known to be non-residents.
Self-proclaimed ‘ardent Zionists’ were initially disruptive and did not allow us to talk or even explain the issues we have against the Technion Institute without shouting us down. After they became quiet however, we were able to explain what it is we are protesting, and to give the information about the Technion which has not been provided by the mainstream press.
People thanked us for telling them about these issues, saying that the discussion so far has all focused on Cornell, and how very little is ever said about the Technion. Residents also raised other issues including about security on the island, transportation, and that they are concerned at how the public meetings so far held by Cornell / The City have censored any questions relating to serious concerns. A patient from Goldwater hospital spoke about the anxiety felt there about where the long-term care patients will be moved to, and whether some might even end up homeless. The idea of the island turning into a college-campus worried some people who didn’t like the thought of their quiet community being turned into a noisy student town.
One thing that was clear from all the concerned residents was that they felt that there was a lack of transparency from Cornell and the City. Despite local resident’s association members stating that there has been a year-long dialogue with Cornell, there were many residents present who were opposed to the project and had clearly not had their voices heard.
As one attendee wrote later in a letter to the Roosevelt Island Main Street WIRE:
“I was impressed by the impassioned discussion, and particularly by the emerging natural partnership between those on Roosevelt Island who feel they have not been consulted enough about this project, and those working in solidarity with Palestinian people who often feel they are not consulted about major decisions and policies that affect their daily lives”.
A reporter for the Main Street WIRE, Roosevelt Island’s biweekly newspaper, came to the meeting, and his report as well as letters to the paper, including a NYACT statement, can be read here.
Our meeting certainly got us noticed; it was the subject of a Roosevelt Island blog page, which we were then invited to submit a statement to. We have done so, but are yet to hear back. NYACT were also then reported in ‘Curbed‘ and ’Observer.com‘. They might not like us, but they are certainly giving us a lot of publicity!
We would like to thank everyone who came to the meeting and shared their views with NYACT. We are looking forward to working closely with the local residents and workers on Roosevelt Island, who are a necessary and essential part of this campaign.
This past week members of NYACT have been distributing leaflets to residents of Roosevelt Island, explaining our campaign and inviting residents to a meeting on Monday 14 May. It has been strikingly obvious that people have not been told about The Technion, and that this partnership continues to be well hidden.
People are concerned about their island being taken over by a noisy campus, about what’s happening with the Goldwater Hospital residents and staff, and were angry to hear that Cornell/Bloomberg are saying that they asked everyone about the proposal. One woman asked for more leaflets so that she could give them to friends. One man stood and read the entire text and then thanked us for doing a great job and talked to others about it. A few people actually thanked us for doing this.
There is real support for NYACT, such as shown in a message we received yesterday from a concerned healthcare worker, copied here in its entirety:
“I do not live on Roosevelt Island. 48 weeks out of the year I come five mornings per week to work at the nursing facility Goldwater Memorial Hospital. For a long time we thought Donald Trump had bought the property for luxury condominiums. Then we were told about the college campus project. Now, we learn that the nursing facility is to be torn down and the forest land de-forested in order to provide a safe haven for the military destroyers created by Technion. As a health care professional you can not disrespect my life-giving work more than by replacing my work with the profession of death and destruction… of national supremacy and war mongering. I spoke out against any invasion of the Goldwater Campus which will endanger our peaceful forested campus. Your involvement is a welcome increase in numbers of those who care about health… and peace.”
We hope as many people as possible will join us at the public meeting to be held:
Monday May 14, from 7-9pm
Lower Community Room, Westview, 625 Main Street, Roosevelt Island
We will be explaining what The Technion is, and hearing what the residents of Roosevelt Island really think.
Last Thursday evening members of NYACT attended a Town Hall Forum on Roosevelt Island, where various elected representatives and Cornell University staff presented their idea of what the proposed Cornell-Technion development would look like. The meeting was attended by roughly 150-200 people, many of whom appeared to be residents of Roosevelt Island.
What are Cornell-Technion scared of?
At least six security and police officers were stationed outside the Manhattan Park Community Center where the meeting was held. City and Cornell staff were also positioned inside the entrance asking for, and recording, everyone’s name – they said that Cornell University wanted to know the names of every person who attended the meeting.
Outside, we distributed leaflets explaining who we are, our mission statement, and giving the link to this website. The police asked us to stop, but after acknowledging our right to free speech under the First Amendment, they left us alone. Someone who appeared likely to be a member of staff for a city/state council member asked us not to distribute the leaflets inside the building, as reported in a news article:
“Perhaps the noisiest dissent was from one woman who handed out fliers on behalf of a group decrying Technion’s role in developing weapons for the Israeli army against Palestinians. She was told to hand them out outside and she came back in soon afterward, without the fliers.”
Those two sentences convey something very positive; that opposition to the development exists, that we are a group (and therefore organized), that there is a very straightforward and logical explanation to why we oppose the development, and that despite being asked to move on, our leaflets disappeared quickly as people were keen to receive them. We were certainly noticed!
Roosevelt Islanders are not fooled!
Despite Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s claims that the Roosevelt Islanders are unanimous in their support, and City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky’s description of an “aggressive enthusiasm”, we met people who proved otherwise. When handed leaflets before the meeting, two local women exclaimed:
“Oh, this is what we were just talking about!”
“We’re with you!”
Another person identified himself as an anti-School of the Americas activist, and wanted to know how he could get involved. Finally, a young man identifying himself as a reporter writing a piece about the meeting wanted to know how many people were represented by NYACT and how he could learn more about it.
Fast-tracking to hide the lies
Despite bylaws of Cornell University stating that faculty should be consulted over “questions of educational policy which concern more than one college, school or separate academic unit, or are general in nature”, this was not done. There are several Faculty members who have clearly stated to the Cornell University Administration that they are vehemently opposed to the partnership, and were not part of any discussions.
Still, Carolyn Maloney stood in front of the Roosevelt Islanders and claimed:
“Representatives of Cornell met with absolutely everyone”
Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean for Computing and Information Science on the proposed campus, claimed that Cornell alumni have been “unbelievably enthusiastic” about this project. He must not have spoken to the many alumni who have signed the petition against Cornell-Technion.
NYC Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, speaking on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg, referred several times to the 54 weeks it took from when the RFEI (request for expressions of interest) which was sent out by the Mayor’s office, till the decision was made to approve the Cornell-Technion bid. Cathy Dove, Vice President of the new campus, also referred to it as having been an “amazing fast tracked progress”. Too fast it seems to have had time to consult with anyone opposed to it.
Putting greed before need
And in another sign that the Cornell-Technion team are putting greed before need, Deputy Mayor Steel quickly skirted over the issue of relocating patients at Goldwater Hospital, as the buildings are due to be demolished to make way for the development. Under the news article, a comment about displacement of elderly patients at the Goldwater Hospital long-term care facility voices concern:
“The time given to them to find outside housing is short, and many will not succeed. People with more money discovered Roosevelt Island, they decided they wanted it, and the story of those who already live there is not being told. They have no money, so who cares.”
Do your research and tell them what you think!
Cornell University President David Skorton repeatedly stated that they are still “early in the process” and very much “in a listening mode”. He asked people to do their research and find out about Cornell University. Presumably he also encourages people to do their research on The Technion, especially since little or no information about them was provided at this meeting. There were no representatives from The Technion present, and barely any mention of the institute that has provided $0 for the opportunity to land prime real-estate in the heart of NYC.
When being given one of NYACT’s leaflets, President Skorton’s response was that he had already read it, and that his staff are not asleep. President Skorton also stated that Cornell University “take responsibility to the wider community seriously”, so they should have all ears open to us!
Email them at: CornellNYCInput@Cornell.edu
More open houses and community meetings are planned, including a Public Scoping Meeting on May 22nd to be hosted by the City at the same location (Manhattan Park Community Center, Roosevelt Island).
A final quote from President Skorton:
“Our past behavior is going to be the best evidence of how we’re going to act in the future.”
Which is why we have to do everything we can to stop The Technion coming to our city.