New York City is internationally known as a bank and finance hub, with Wall Street as its center, but now NYC has ambitious plans to build a high-tech Silicon Island right next door.
Roosevelt Island has been used as a prison, it has been a mental asylum and an isolation hospital. But now, this thin patch of land beside Manhattan may soon become a $US2 billion hi-tech launchpad for the industries of the digital age.
City officials have drawn up plans to build a state-of-the-art campus and to develop another global reputation as a center for technology and digital enterprise.
The highly ambitions project to create a research hub from scratch is being watched as a blueprint for other countries trying to find a way to kick-start such hi-tech innovation.
Its origins go back to the financial crash of 2008, when city authorities looked nervously at an economy over-reliant on finance and banking. The new digital giants, such as Google and Facebook, were coming out of technology clusters around Stanford University in Silicon Valley and Harvard and MIT in the Boston area.
New York decided it had to compete. Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited universities across the world to take part in a competition to build a new science campus. The winner was Cornell, in partnership with the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
The first classes are set to begin in autumn and while the Roosevelt Island campus is being constructed, the university will to be housed by the folks at Google in Manhattan and free of charge until 2017.
It has hired Twitter's chief technology officer to promote links between the academic world and the technology industry. This start-up has the support of old-fashioned philanthropy. Charles Feeney, a reclusive billionaire, famous for not owning a car or his own home, stumped up $US350 million.