Stony Brook University celebrated its selection as anchor for an ambitious climate solutions hub on Governors Island in New York Harbor yesterday with campuswide events, from a livestreamed town hall to a tree planting and succulent-plant giveaways.
“This really is a new day for Stony Brook,” said university President Maurie McInnis from the stage at the town hall meeting in the Charles B. Wang Center theater Tuesday, highlighting “what it means to be a flagship public university. This will affect how others see us.”
At the same time, university officials allayed concerns that the new initiative would divert funds from the university and its School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
“Zero” university funds would go toward building the $700 million, 400,000-square-foot campus of classrooms, research labs, business incubators, and exhibition and meeting spaces, according to Jed Shivers, senior vice president of finance and administration and a town hall panel member. Construction is expected to begin in 2025 and finish by 2028.
“There will be an impermeable barrier” between the university and the hub, known as the New York Climate Exchange, he said, noting the Exchange will operate as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
“Once the Exchange is operational, no Stony Brook funds can be used to bail it out” if it fails to raise enough funds through philanthropy as now planned. The only financial relation, he said, would involve faculty and students working and studying at the Exchange.
Kevin Reed, associate dean of research and faculty lead on the project, added, “What Stony Brook is going to invest is our passion, our ideas and our skills.”
McInnis will chair the 14-member board overseeing the project, with Shivers acting as treasurer, and the university will control 50% of the board seats, McInnis said.
She said the new board would quickly hire an executive director, development staff and a chief financial officer. The new leaders would be responsible for further hiring.
Officials predict 2,200 union construction jobs and over 6,000 new green jobs to emerge from the construction of the hub, and from the workforce training it will undertake.
Stony Brook led a consortium of academic, business and community-based partners in its winning proposal that includes IBM, BCG, Georgia Tech, CUNY, New York University, Pace University, SUNY Maritime College and Moody’s.
They expect to bring together scientists, innovators, world leaders and students to collaborate on climate research, including new technologies that can be sped to market and put to practical use, they said.
A shagbark hickory, a species original to Governors Island, was planted in a field on campus as part of the celebration.
Long Islanders who are members of city construction unions could find jobs on the site, as well as in the industries and projects boosted by the Exchange's research, said Matthew Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, a business group.
"While a lot of the work may be done in NYC, the fact that a Long Island institution, a flagship university for the state, is leading the way is truly huge for Long Island. Our workforce is going to benefit from that and our economy is going to benefit from that," Cohen said.