N.Y.U. Putting $1 Billion Into Its Engineering School in Brooklyn
New York University will announce Wednesday that it is investing $1 billion in its flagship engineering school in Downtown Brooklyn, in a bid to improve its ranking among competitors and raise New York City’s profile in the technology sector.
The money, which N.Y.U. officials say came from the school’s own coffers, will be used over a decade to revamp labs and student spaces at Tandon School of Engineering, as well as expand its focus on cybersecurity, wireless technology and artificial intelligence. Officials are also planning to hire 40 tenure-track faculty members.
The investment includes $600 million that was already slated for N.Y.U. Tandon, and an additional $400 million in new funds.
In September, the university purchased 3 MetroTech Center, a 10-story, 350,000 square-feet building in Brooklyn, a borough that has outpaced the rest of the city in adding tech jobs and is home to companies like Etsy and Kickstarter.
The upgraded campus, said Jelena Kovacevic, the dean of N.Y.U. Tandon, will be “like a candy store for grown-ups.”
“Students from day one start doing things and building things and experimenting, making mistakes and iterating,” she said.
N.Y.U. Tandon was a product of a merger between the N.Y.U. College of Engineering and the Polytechnic Institute of New York, which Ms. Kovacevic said originated in a “shotgun wedding” in the early 1970s. At the time, both institutions were struggling in the midst of the city’s financial crisis.
Polytechnic first absorbed N.Y.U.’s engineering faculty and programs, and then, in 2008, the two institutions formed an affiliation. In 2014, the two institutions merged.
A year later, the school was renamed following a $100 million donation by Ranjan Tandon, an Indian American engineer-turned-businessman, and his wife, Chandrika, a Grammy-nominated artist and businesswoman. The money was used to improve lab spaces at 370 Jay Street, with a big effort to recruit faculty members focused on robotics, health and data science.
The investment bore fruit: In 2006, the school was at number 82 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. This year, it ranked 33.
The investment in the school comes as N.Y.U.’s president, Andrew Hamilton, is planning to retire next year. “I came to N.Y.U. with several priorities, among them improving affordability, increasing diversity, enhancing the sciences, and building upon our foundation in Brooklyn,” Mr. Hamilton, a former chemistry professor at Yale, said in a statement.
“Engineering education is a force for social mobility, an economic engine for the borough, and a vital contributor to the city’s effort to be a world center of tech,” he added.
Mayor Eric Adams has been trying to increase the tech industry’s presence in the city, even as the pandemic has depressed office occupancy.
His predecessors, Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg, also sought to lure tech giants. In recent years, the four firms that make up so-called Big Tech — Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, which is now owned by a parent company, Meta — have staked a bullish position on the future of New York.
Last year, Google said it would spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building on the Hudson River waterfront, paying one of the highest prices in recent years for an office building in the United States.
Though tech and tech-related jobs represent only 7 percent of the city’s work force, they generated $290 billion in economic output in 2021, or 28 percent of the city’s total economic output and twice as much as in 2013, according to a report published earlier this month by HR & A Advisors, a real estate consultancy.
Still, an education at Tandon may be out of reach for many New Yorkers: The total sticker price to attend for on-campus N.Y.U. students, which includes Tandon, is currently more than $83,000 a year.
Lower-income students typically pay less because of financial aid — about $23,000 in the 2020-21 school year, according to federal data — but they can still expect to pay significantly more for an education at N.Y.U. than at many other higher-education institutions in the city, including public colleges and some private universities like Columbia.
Ms. Kovacevic, the dean, insisted the latest upgrade would not result in higher tuition fees. N.Y.U. has been trying to make itself more affordable and increase financial aid for students, she added.
She added that the funding “was needed because no university can achieve sort of national or international status without the viable technology school.”
Anthony Concolino, a Polytechnic alumnus who is now a tech executive at Wells Fargo, described the school as an underdog that was starting to gain ground.
“We do compete with the bigger schools, but obviously you can’t compete if you can’t grow,” Mr. Concolino said. “We never had the same kind of research staff, teaching staff, classroom capacity, but we always felt that we were like this small powerhouse of an engineering school that wanted to be an M.I.T.”
The school has had at least two Nobel winners pass through its halls in its long history: Rudolph A. Marcus, a former professor at Polytechnic, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems; and Martin L. Perl, a Polytechnic alumnus, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics.
And the cables used to hold up the Brooklyn Bridge were designed by Polytechnic students. Those cables then paved the way for skyscrapers to be built in Manhattan, introducing the concept of elevators.