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Downtown to city: Give us MTA’s Jay Street eyesore! • Brooklyn Paper

Downtown to city: Give us MTA’s Jay Street eyesore!

Community leaders rallied on Wednesday to support NYU’s bid to turn an old MTA office building on Jay Street into a high-tech campus. (From left) Zephrin Lasker, CEO of Pontiflex; Alexandra Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Improvement District; state Sen. Daniel Squadron and Borough President Markowitz.
Photo by Alice Proujansky

Brooklyn’s high-tech CEOs are calling on the city to give up its long-vacant eyesore at 370 Jay St. so that NYU can transform it into a flashy science center — the latest in a salvo of publicity for the cutting-edge project.

On Wednesday morning, bigwigs from DUMBO’s Etsy and Small Planet rallied with local pols outside the vacant MTA building, saying it would create a much-pool of talent for their firms.

“A lot of companies in DUMBO are hiring kids out of school,” said Gavin Fraser, CEO of Small Planet, an iPad and iPhone app development firm. “What we need now is access to qualified talent.”

Downtown boosters have been frantically pushing the city to donate its massive building near Willoughby Street to NYU since October, when the private mega-university proposed the “Center for Urban Science and Progress.”

Local business groups even rolled out a print ad campaign this month to urge Mayor Bloomberg to “Get Smart” and approve the school — which would be a partnership with giants such as IBM and would focus on making cities safer and more energy-efficient.

NYU presented its plans this fall, after the MTA announced it would finally sell or lease its offices above the Jay Street subway station — a structure that city officials pushed the cash-strapped agency to sell for years.

The university is just one contender in the city’s contest that provides free real estate in exchange for a world-class science campus on Governors Island, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Roosevelt Island. Cornell won the bid for Roosevelt Island this week.

But NYU was high on Downtown, designing a glassy futuristic school that fits in with its existing Polytechnic campus in Metrotech Center — a group of 11 mixed-use buildings between Flatbush Avenue Extension and Jay Street.

If the school wins, it would move into a 60,000-square-foot space at 1 Metrotech Center as soon as fall, 2013. Then the university would refurbish 370 Jay St. and turn it into a research lab and startup space by 2016.

A host of elected officials including Borough President Markowitz and state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) are hailing the applied sciences school as another way to revitalize Downtown.

“Brooklyn is bigger than basketball and burgers,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) — referring to the ballyhooed opening of Shake Shack and the incoming Barclays Center. “Now is the time to cultivate brains.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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