Answering Roosevelt Island

Image: Cornell University

I’m certain Philadelphia officials were paying attention to Monday’s announcement of Charles Feeney’s $350 million gift to Cornell University to create a technology center on Roosevelt Island.

The $2 billion institute will include a $150 million fund for start-ups who agree to stay in New York City for 3 years and science education support for 100,000 city school children. “New York City is positioned to become the new technology capital of the world,” said David J. Skorton, the Cornell president.

This isn’t good news for Philadelphia, which has been trying to leverage its eds and meds core in science and engineering for 50 years. Is there hope for Philly’s technology sector? I put the question to Technically Philly’s advocate/journalist Chris Wink. Of course he’d already written an entire treatise on the issue, sent out four dozen tweets, and called in the all the data points known to man. His answer: social entrepreneurship.

Wink’s thinking is that New York will lead an east coast tech expansion, from which Philly is potentially positioned to profit, but not without having a distinct identity. That identity, he says, already exists as a particular social-problem-solving bent. You can find it, he says, at Indy Hall; you can find it at the Navy Yard’s energy hub; you can find it at OpenDataPhilly.org.

Indeed, you can find the reform impulse here from the beginning. “It goes back to Benjamin Franklin and Junto,” says historian Randall Miller, in the forthcoming History Making Productions film, “Yellow Fever and the Remaking of the City.” To as Far greater degree than other American cities, he says, “its part of the DNA of Philadelphia.”

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
A Reconstructionist Synagogue Weaves Itself Into Manayunk’s Industrial Fabric

A Reconstructionist Synagogue Weaves Itself Into Manayunk’s Industrial Fabric

August 22, 2019  |  Vantage

The congregation of Mishkan Shalom promotes sanctuary and social reform inside a 137-year-old textile mill on Freeland Avenue. Scotty Meiser has the story > more

African-American Abolitionist & Son Of Former Vice President Aaron Burr Receives Formal Recognition

African-American Abolitionist & Son Of Former Vice President Aaron Burr Receives Formal Recognition

August 19, 2019  |  News

The remains of John Pierre Burr, a black Philadelphia abolitionist and natural son of former Vice President Aaron Burr, has resided in an unmarked grave for more than a century. He will receive formal recognition and an official headstone on Saturday, August 24. Kessler Thibert has the details > more

Historic Maritime Landmark Under Threat After Construction Mishap

Historic Maritime Landmark Under Threat After Construction Mishap

August 15, 2019  |  News

Deferred maintenance and a construction error endangers Edward Corner warehouse, one of the waterfront's last prominent reminders of Philadelphia's shipping history. Starr Herr Cardillo has the details > more

In Northeast Philadelphia, A Rich History Of Train Tracks And Acquisitions

In Northeast Philadelphia, A Rich History Of Train Tracks And Acquisitions

August 13, 2019  |  Vantage

Ed Duffy give us a panoramic view of railroad history in Northeast Philadelphia with this longform essay > more

Eastern State Penitentiary Illuminates “Hidden Lives” Of The Incarcerated

Eastern State Penitentiary Illuminates “Hidden Lives” Of The Incarcerated

August 9, 2019  |  News

"Hidden Lives Illuminated," an animated film project created by inmates of SCI Chester, debuts at Eastern State Penitentiary on August 15. Kimberly Haas went inside the state prison to speak with the incarcerated artists > more

Rittenhouse SoundWorks Keeps The Tune Ups Coming In Old Auto Garage

Rittenhouse SoundWorks Keeps The Tune Ups Coming In Old Auto Garage

August 7, 2019  |  Vantage

A Germantown couple bet big on adaptive reuse when they converted an old garage into a full-service recording studio in 2014. Today, they are sought out by musicians from around the globe. Stacia Friedman has the story > more