Three New York City leaders—Pratt Institute, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC)—are partnering on a new advanced research and learning facility. It will unite many of Pratt’s cutting-edge research centers with City Tech researchers in the School of Science and Technology as well as BNYDC companies and will engage with local high school students in researching and developing solutions for real-world problems. Called the Research Yard of Pratt Institute, City Tech, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, its $6 million in funding includes $3 million from the New York City Council’s 2022 budget. Phase one construction on the facility is expected to be completed by late spring 2022.
“Building this advanced creative research facility just blocks from the Pratt campus and alongside the businesses and entrepreneurs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is crucial for New York City and especially for the borough of Brooklyn,” said Pratt Institute President Frances Bronet. “The Research Yard of Pratt Institute, City Tech, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard will further enable our research leaders to work with the local community on today’s important challenges. We are deeply appreciative of the funding support we have received from the city and state and this latest investment from the City Council.”
The Research Yard will expand on the Institute’s ongoing relationship with the historic shipyard that is now a dynamic hub for technology, design, manufacturing, and interdisciplinary innovation in New York. Pratt initially conceived of the concept of a research yard, which expanded into a public-private partnership with City Tech. The 27,000-square-foot Research Yard will be designed by architecture firm Smith-Miller + Hawkinson LLP. The announcement of the Research Yard was covered by Crain’s New York Business which highlighted how it will support the talent pipeline for technology and the local creative economy.
“In bringing two renowned academic institutions to a major job hub, the Research Yard will open doors for students by offering a hands-on learning environment,” said David Ehrenberg, president and CEO of BNYDC. “This unique partnership is an extension of the Yard’s mission to create a pipeline of quality jobs, while also providing the experiential learning and skill-building that make these jobs accessible to the local community.”
The open plan facility will include fabrication labs as well as research areas that include robotics, information visualization, sustainability, community development, environmental sensing, design incubation, and digital archaeology. In addition to contributions from Pratt, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the New York City Council, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office and Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) contributed to the realization of this ambitious project.
“The new Research Yard facility will give students and faculty at both Pratt and City Tech—two jewels of Brooklyn’s higher education ecosystem—the unique opportunity to participate in an exciting, dynamic environment, collaborating with and learning from leading industry professionals,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “It will also create pipelines from these institutions to jobs in emerging fields, connecting Brooklynites to high-quality employment opportunities and cementing our borough as our city’s tech capital after a decade of astronomical growth in the sector. I was proud to allocate capital funding to make this project a reality and thank our partners at Pratt Institute, City Tech, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.”
Joining Higher Education Research with an Innovative Ecosystem
Pratt’s partnership with BNYDC and City Tech is born out of a shared mission to provide research resources and workforce development opportunities to the local community.
“Nearly half of our students live and work in Brooklyn and over 90% of our students reside in New York City,” said Dr. Gerarda Shields, City Tech’s dean of the School of Technology and Design. “The Research Yard will provide a seamless and braided experience for our students and faculty to work alongside local workforce talent and tech industries.”
Pratt’s Brooklyn campus is located a few blocks south of the Brooklyn Navy Yard which sits on the banks of the East River and holds over 500 businesses. The Research Yard will be in the Navy Yard’s Building 3, an 11-story warehouse constructed in 1918 that already houses tenants such as Honeybee Robotics, an engineering company that has worked on Mars missions, as well as the Brooklyn Grange which has a roof-top farm growing produce and collecting stormwater. Pratt and its partners will be enriching this vibrant environment by transforming a traditional warehouse and fulfillment center into a 21st-century industry-education research model supporting the creative economy.
“The Research Yard creates a unique ecosystem for our surrounding community,” said Dr. Allison Druin, associate provost for research and strategic partnerships. “It will offer partnership opportunities for creative researchers, industry, and the local community to develop innovative research initiatives and learning experiences that will profoundly shape the world in which we all share.”
Building on a Historic Relationship for a Resilient Future
Pratt has a presence in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with the Consortium for Research & Robotics (CRR) which has digital, robotic, and analog technologies that engage designers, engineers, researchers, and artists in a range of projects from STEM education to robotic prototyping of architectural materials. The Pratt Center for Community Development has advocated for the site for decades, such as recently reporting on its growth of green manufacturing. The Pratt Sustainability Center plans to create a GIVE/TAKE program overseen by students where art supplies and other materials can be exchanged with the BNYDC community. And the Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI Center) will be developing information visualization tools to advance the missions of local nonprofit communities.
By consolidating Pratt’s diverse research centers and accelerators in one home, there will be opportunities for Pratt students, faculty, and staff to research new ideas that bridge art, design, technology, and the humanities.
“Stepping into the Research Yard will be much different than entering a usual research space,” said Mark Parsons, CRR founder and executive director. “The Navy Yard and its opportunities for entrepreneurship, technology, and research will help make this a space for applying ideas. We can incubate startups in the same place that we will be giving high school students hands-on experience with technology. We are taking what we are already doing at Pratt with technology and community outreach and adding to that pipeline for access.”
Pratt researchers, center leaders, and staff will be among the regular users of the Research Yard and will work with visiting students, industry leaders, fellow researchers, and others in the facility. City Tech will be bringing a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), collaborative robots (cobots), and automation; building performance and digital fabrication; and remote sensing technology for a climate-resilient future.
Creating a Hub for Collaboration and Cross-Fertilization
Fabrication labs, a range of technology, and research areas that can easily transform from conversation zones to hands-on production hubs will make the Research Yard an adaptable and creative space with the potential for cross-fertilization. While in one corner researchers may be investigating how to visualize complex data about urban change, another group might be collaborating on design incubation in rural areas, with the flexible facility allowing for communication, idea sharing, and the formation of new projects on equitable, environmental, and technological solutions that bridge disciplinary divides. For instance, a research accelerator planned to start in the Research Yard is addressing climate innovation with a concentration on how historic buildings could be retrofitted with sustainable cores involving technology like geothermal heating.
Furthering these opportunities for emerging creators, 11th and 12th grade students from eight Brooklyn high schools in the Brooklyn Navy Yard STEAM Center, a career and technical training hub located next to Building 3, will be involved in research. Researchers from Pratt and City Tech will work alongside the students on projects addressing real-world problems ranging from new applications for robotics to sustainability in manufacturing processes, something important for the Navy Yard in adapting its 20th-century industrial buildings for 21st-century uses. Inviting high school students to participate in this crucial research will allow students to improve the landscape of today as New York recovers from the toll of the pandemic while offering them pathways to become leaders in its future resilience efforts.
In the past months, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was integral to manufacturing medical supplies and PPE to combat COVID-19 in New York City, and fostering locally-based solutions to tackle community problems with a global impact will be at the core of the Research Yard. Its formation comes at a particularly exciting time as the Brooklyn Navy Yard is in the midst of a $2.5 billion master plan aimed at increasing its jobs to 30,000 and adding millions of square feet of manufacturing, as well as making its boundaries with adjacent neighborhoods more porous. The Navy Yard encompasses an expansive 300 acres, yet this has only recently become public-facing after decades of military use and a slow opening to new businesses.
The Research Yard will join not only Pratt’s nearby Brooklyn campus to this rapidly developing complex but will contribute to a community that is advancing Brooklyn’s reputation and resources for future thinking solutions to today’s challenges.