The New York City Panorama in the Queens Museum of Art got a temporary addition of “Silicon City” last weekend, but promoters are hoping it will become a reality in the future.
Jukay Hsu, founder of the Coalition for Queens, gathered elected officials who support his plan at the iconic Panorama on Friday afternoon to pitch his dream. “There is a lot of interest in building a tech hub in Queens,” Hsu said. “We can create a Silicon City with research and businesses for the 21st century.”
Earlier this year, the Flushing resident met with officials and groups to garner support for an applied sciences campus to be built at Willets Point. Last December, Mayor Bloomberg launched a plan to build a campus to foster innovative work. There have been dozens of proposals from institutions of higher education from around the world.
Of the three sites proposed by the city, the academic frontrunners indicated they favor Roosevelt Island. Although Hsu wanted Willets Point, the city’s Economic Development Corp. said in July that it would not consider placing the applied sciences campus there because “it would represent a significant diversion” from what is proposed: affordable housing, retail and open space.
But Hsu is not giving up, saying Friday there are other suitable locations in Queens, including Astoria, Flushing and the Sunnyside railyards. To promote his plan, the 27-year-old convinced the QMA to allow a model of a proposed tech campus to be put on the Panorama for the weekend.
Dressed in special slippers to protect the large model of the city, Hsu placed his campus at Willets Point.
Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the QMA, noted that when the Panorama opened for the 1964 World’s Fair, its creator, Robert Moses, wanted it used as a planning tool once the fair closed. “We’re not favoring the project, but we believe that the Panorama should be used for this kind of thing,” Finkelpearl said.
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), heads the Economic Development Committee and said some location in Queens should be considered for the future, even if Roosevelt Island, located in the East River off Long Island City, is the choice now. “Not just Manhattan deserves development,” Koslowitz said. “It’s time they come to Queens.”
Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) also wants Queens to be considered and Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) believes Willets Point is the “ideal location,” because it’s near an airport. “The complex shouldn’t be on a small, isolated island,” Meng said.
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) favors the proposal too, but concedes it would be a “tough fight” to get it in Queens.
Also attending was Pat Dolan, president of the Queens Civic Congress, who said she’d been talking to the city and it’s possible more than one university proposal will be selected. If that happens, the city may need a second site.
Jim Trent, an activist in Bellerose, said the city wants the project to be located on city-owned property. “They only want new buildings and would tear down any existing facilities,” Trent added.
Koslowitz noted that the Willets Point plan was announced four years ago and nothing has been built yet. “If we wait much longer, the mayor will be out of office and who knows what will happen with the project then,” she said.
Hsu indicated he would be happy with any site as long as it’s in Queens. For more information, go to coalitionforqueens.org