Why is a New York hospital being sacrificed for an Israel-backed science facility?

26 October 2012

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A New York science campus will be jointly overseen by Israel’s Technion university, which has developed technology used in Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

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).

Troubling questions

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).

Military links

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.

Terri Ginsberg is a film scholar and Palestine solidarity activist based in New York City. A director at the International Council for Middle East Studies in Washington, DC, she is currently active in New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership.

Comments

The hospital had to go. Besides, we all know that New York City is Tel Aviv west.

Just from reading your title, I can give you a few reasons: give me the name of another country in the Middle East, or world, with such a small population who has done so much in medicine and clean technology to improve the world. This article is a one-sided bash piece that lacks any grounds in the moral world. Be ashamed that you when you stomp on Israel, because of your political vitriol and baseless hatred, you stomp on thousands of good people and souls who are working tirelessly to make this world a better place. Any major research facility in the US, MIT included is linked to the military. This is just how it goes. By the way any major medical advance in medical scanning for cancer let's say, has come from military research. Get some historical context, and if you like, send me a list of medications or technology you've ever used and I can tell you just which ones have been invented by Israelis. You'd be surprised.

Karen Kloosterman's logic is not dissimilar from that which justifies medical experiments on humans in the name of "progress." The fact that some medical advances are offshoots of military research does not justify the billions of dollars granted to the Israeli military-industrial-communications complex -- by the United States, mind you -- for the purposes of developing high-tech weapons and surveillance equipment and maintaining the brutal military occupation of Palestine. Imagine how much further along the world would surely be if the bulk of those monies went DIRECTLY into medical research, and furthermore were allocated for health-care-for-all and other community-minded programs, such as a genuinely "green" environmental program that would belie the greenwashing Israel deploys in its disingenuous effort to distract attention from its slew of high crimes, which includes the environmental and social destruction that is a DIRECT research of the technology industry.

I find it interesting that you would consider "this article a one-sided bash piece that lacks any grounds in the moral world" and that you would go on to say" be ashamed when you stomp on Israel, because of your political vitriol and baseless hatred, you stomp on thousands of good people and souls who are working tirelessly to make this world a better place." You speak about morals there is not a Zionist living that has any morals, however, there are many Jewish people who have morals. The Zionist have stolen land from the Palestinians, taken their homes, destroyed their ability to earn a living, denied them medical care and the list goes on. They have forced good people into slums to live and daily kill and arrest people because they think they have the right to do so. They are selfish, arrogant, and commit every kind of hateful and despicable act that they can think of on a daily basis. You, my friend, need to get on your knees and seek God's Mercy and Forgiveness for all that has been done to the Palestinians and after you do that you might have the right to discuss humanity and morals but until then please keep your evil thoughts to yourself.

Absolutely

Israel continues its policy of ethnic cleansing in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel continues to give itself permission to commit murder, using the euphemism, "targeted assassinations." Israel continues to imprison 9,000 men, women, and children, torturing many and denying legal counsel or family visits to thousands. Israel holds itself above the commonly held standards of international human rights and justice. All aid, weapons sales, and cooperation between the USA and Israel should cease immediately and permanently.

The political/media elites in the USA and Israel have allied themselves with the military/industrial elites in celebrating the Technion/Cornell alliance. They give credence to President Dwight Eisenhower's warning that all such enterprises compromise and threaten our functioning democracy. Because the concentration of power in the hands of those whose increasing wealth correlates with the waging of war, their incentive to provoke wars is magnified by each "advance" in military technology. Of course, the working poor who actually wage wars ("Hi. I'm in the volunteer army. We kill strangers in strange lands for money, and to protect the wealth of those who send us there".) reap the rewards of lost lives and limbs - in addition to the eternal gratitude of those whose increasing wealth is fertilized with their blood. Eisenhower - America's last great president - mercifully was spared the spectacle of history's greatest Republic approaching the status of the latter days of the Roman Empire.

The New York Times article which reported on who had won the bid (NYT, 26 Dec 2011), stated that the city had asked The Technion independently to compete for the contract, but also that their involvement was kept quiet. And since then whenever there's talk about the campus the focus has been on Cornell, and not The Technion who are bringing no money into the deal. The faculty at Cornell were not consulted as they should have been according to their own bylaws (“The functions of the University Faculty shall be to consider questions of educational policy which concern more than one college, school or separate academic unit, or are general in nature”), and any opposition was immediately shut down. There was a real lack of transparency and we should at very least be questioning that.

To give an idea of how important this plan is no only to The Technion, but to Israel; the Acting Consul General at the Consulate of Israel in New York (Ido Aharoni) stated “This is of strategic importance in terms of positioning Israel not only in America, but all over the world, as a bastion of creativity and innovation,”, “When Americans think of Israel, overwhelmingly the first thing that comes to mind is the association with conflict, the fact that Israel is in dispute with its neighbors,” he added that he hopes the Technion’s role in the new campus and degree program “will fortify Israel’s image as a country that is about the promotion of goodness, about the advancement of knowledge for all humanity.” [The Jewish Week, Dec 20 2011].

An institute that is complicit in Israeli war crimes, that designs drones, that developed the remote-control capabilities for the Caterpillar D9 which demolishes homes and olive groves belonging to Palestinian families, should not be made to feel welcome in NYC. New York prides itself on its multicultural nature, and we should not allow an institute that practices discrimination against its Arab students to set up shop here.

Israel's successes in medical and other technologies is funded indirectly by US Congress' gifts of billions of US tax dollars annually, and weapons that free Israel from much of the financial burden of its illegal and ongoing crimes against its neighbors. Israel's positive achievements should in no way detract from the fact that Israel is an illicit murderous racist colonial enterprise that should not exist. That it is able to get this facility built is testament to the intrusive power of Israel in US politics, media and government.

That this project that will advance killing capabilities of Israel's military is no surprise coming from those who regularly do this:

http://desertpeace.wordpress.c...

David Evans Former Sergeant USMC
Veterans For Peace Member
Palestine and Middle East Working Group

Also see: http://www.countercurrents.org...

Thanks for brining this to my attention, I was unaware of these details. Unfortunately, the author throws the baby out with the bath water.

I think the word apartheid is just in speaking about the Palestine-Isreal situation, but attacking the development of an educational center based on politics 5000 miles away is a bit of a red herring.

The Applied Sciences center is a great initiative for creating 21st century jobs in New York. Roosevelt Island's community - and proximate communities in Long Island City, Astoria and Greenpoint - are going to reap direct, manifold benefits from this infrastructure investment.

The author makes the implication that Standford pulled out of the project based on Technion University's weapons R&D. Ironically, Technion University's home page highlights a study, dated Oct 16, 2012, in collaboration with Stanford on PTSD.

It's important to keep pressure on these institutions to be transparent about their operations, especially given the tremendous consequences (human lives!), but let's not assert nefarious conclusions before the fact.

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