What I saw in my glimpse of Stanford’s New York proposal — and why it’s not at the library yet
Stanford’s plan to build a New York City campus is now long dead, but the exercise is still a conversation starter in some corners of campus. In a two-part series for The Stanford Daily this quarter, Caroline Chen showed high-level university officials willing to discuss what happened and suggesting the process would influence Stanford in the future.
The series made me all the more eager to see the proposal Stanford submitted to New York City. We knew, broadly, what the university had envisioned for its east-coast expansion. But the proposal itself, the university had said, contained far more details about “academic, financial, design and legal” aspects of the project and cost about $3 million to produce. Stanford President John Hennessy wrote parts of it himself, university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin told me.
The proposal would become available at Green Library on the northern California campus “subject to confirmation from NYCEDC that we can do so,” Stanford said after dropping its bid, referring to New York City Economic Development Corporation. That was the agency that spearheaded the project to attract a university (or universities) to the city to build applied-sciences facilities.
The wait for the proposal to become available at the library has lasted longer than I expected it would. I’ll have more on why in a minute.
First, though: In the course of my asking around about this, beginning in January, Stanford officials let me see the proposal. It fills two three-ring binders and contains probably days’ worth of material for the higher-ed aficionado — not all of which I have read. I did spend a lot of time in the section on financials and, throughout the proposal, read a few things I had not seen elsewhere. (If you have seen any of the following details elsewhere, please contact me so I can update this post.)
According to the proposal, dated Oct. 28, 2011, that Stanford officials allowed me to see:
- Stanford projected funding the full build-out on Roosevelt Island, with a completion date of 2038, with the $100 million city award, $1.23 billion in gifts, $1.17 billion in general obligation bonds and $15 million in university equity, all subject to change.
- “Stanford has not requested specific gift commitments for the NYC campus to date, but the university plans to secure several large gift commitments quickly if it is selected.”
- “Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley have all underwritten recent Stanford debt issuances, and each stands ready to assist Stanford in raising additional debt for the New York City campus.”
- The annual payout of an endowment for the New York City campus, started with $100 million from reserves, was proposed to be about $5.5 million starting in FY2013. The model “assumes an average annual investment return of 10 percent.”
- Several big banks also expressed interest in working with Stanford in another capacity. Representatives from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley said in a statement: “We see the opportunity for mutually beneficial research and teaching programs that can serve the interests of the banking sector and we are prepared to explore ways in which the banks might work together to fund such programs. … Without endorsing one university over another while the city’s selection process is unfolding, we see great merit in the programs that Stanford outlines in the accompanying document and would hope to support these programs, or ones like them, as an applied sciences center takes shape in New York City.”
Other statements shed light on how the Palo Alto campus has changed in recent years, and which developments the university argued were relevant to the New York City venture. “During the past 12 years, Stanford University has completed on time and often under budget 105 major construction projects worth nearly $4 billion,” the proposal said, for example. “It is also near completion of a fundraising campaign that is expected to raise $6 billion.”
The proposal claimed that “there is widespread and enthusiastic support at the California campus for StanfordNYC.” Support did exist here, but not universally. City officials — and at least a couple students and faculty— had their doubts.
And as for the student studio apartments that will never be: 1,210 units, 350 square feet on average, $1,181 per month on average.
Back to the wait for the whole proposal to become available: What has taken so long and when will Stanford put the proposal in the library for people to see themselves?
The short story is that we don’t know yet, but that people may have luck individually asking Stanford to let them read the proposal.
The long story: Back in January, when I started asking about the proposal, the Stanford office of general counsel told me through Lapin:
The NYCEDC RFP [request for proposals] states that the proposals submitted are confidential and cannot be released without the permission of NYCEDC. Given that Stanford has withdrawn and an award was made to Cornell, Stanford asked NYCEDC to allow us to make the proposal publicly available. NYCEDC replied and stated they will not allow us to make the proposal public until all awards have been given and that there are some awards still to be made pursuant to the RFP. We do not know what those awards are or when those decisions will be made.
Indeed, New York says that “productive discussions are ongoing with other respondents—Carnegie Mellon, Columbia and a New York University-led consortium—and the possibility of additional science and engineering partnerships in the City is still open.”
I asked NYCEDC whether it disputed anything the counsel’s office said, plus when it expected to make final award(s) to other schools and allow Stanford to release its proposal. “Considering this is an ongoing competitive process we have asked for discretion from all respondents, which is no different from any RFP we issue,” said a city official, who declined to be named, in an email.
As of a couple weeks ago, when I last talked to Lapin about the matter, not much had changed. “The city is still asking that we not release it, believe it or not,” Lapin said in an email. “After Debra [Zumwalt, university general counsel] cleared you to view it, the city came back and said we can’t release it.
“But,” Lapin continued, “we are going to allow people to read it and I’ve let the General Counsel know you did.”
Meanwhile, Stanford Magazine reported in its March-April issue that “Stanford plans to make its 900-page proposal public when New York authorizes its release sometime this spring.”
Whenever it happens, it may be rewarding to those who care about the future of Stanford — or of universities broadly — and can do their own close readings of the thing. The impact on Stanford of the New York exercise will “be pretty profound,” School of Engineering Dean Jim Plummer predicted to The Daily. “The fundamental question that drove all of this is, what is a research university in the 21st century going to look like?” The proposal offers a slice, at least, of how Stanford answers that question.
Elizabeth Titus is a reporter and Stanford undergraduate. Contact her here.