Not many New Yorkers know who Chuck Feeney is, but in the decades ahead, tens of millions of residents will benefit from the impact his generosity has had and will have on the city.
In 2011, during my third term as mayor of New York, our administration launched a competition to attract major new investments in the fields of applied science and engineering. The goal of the competition was to strengthen New York’s economy in the 21st century by transforming it into a global capital of technological innovation. To do that, we offered city-owned sites that had been long neglected or under-used and invited top-tier universities from around the world to submit proposals to build a new applied science campus on one of the sites. The competition succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.
Cornell University, Chuck’s alma mater, was one of many world-class academic institutions that submitted proposals—and it was not only the most ambitious proposal, it was also the most achievable, thanks in no small part to Chuck. The $350 million commitment that Atlantic made to Cornell’s proposal is expected to cover the cost of the first phase of the project, which is now being built on Roosevelt Island, a stone’s throw from Manhattan with spectacular views of the skyline and surrounding waterfront.
Chuck had hoped that this donation—like so many others—would remain anonymous. But few people were surprised when, after a flood of inquiring calls from reporters, The Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed that he was the source. Atlantic’s gift to Cornell NYC Tech is a wonderful example of its generosity, and it helped make one of the largest economic development initiatives in the city’s history possible. In the next three decades, New York’s three new applied sciences campuses will create almost 40,000 jobs, spin off hundreds of companies, and pump more than $33 billion into the city’s economy, helping generate revenue for the essential services that all New Yorkers rely on. And Cornell NYC Tech will not only transform Roosevelt Island, it will help transform New York City’s economy for generations to come.
Cornell NYC Tech demonstrates how philanthropy—especially public-private partnerships—can be a powerful force for change. Governments have finite resources; there is only so much money to go around. But there is virtually no limit on what public- private partnerships can achieve.
The Cornell NYC Tech campus also illustrates how Chuck focuses his giving on projects that create lasting, transformative change. Through The Atlantic Philanthropies, Chuck has donated billions of dollars to education, health, scientific research and peace-making initiatives in countries around the globe—making a huge difference during his lifetime, and inspiring others to do what they can to make our world a better place.
Like Chuck, I’ve supported my alma mater—Johns Hopkins University—for many years. I gave my first contribution to my alma mater the year after I graduated—$5, which was all I could afford. But I never stopped giving, and as I became more active in various philanthropic causes, I found that there is nothing more rewarding than making a difference in people’s lives. That’s why I decided to run for mayor in 2001, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I have always said that the ultimate in financial planning is to bounce the check to the undertaker. After all, as the saying goes: You can’t take it with you. And the greatest inheritance you can leave your children is a better world and a brighter future. Chuck Feeney knows that, too—and we are all better for it.
— MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Former Mayor of New York City, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies