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SBU gives more info on Climate Exchange

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis speaking at a reception in celebration of the University winning a bid to build “The Exchange,” a $150 million project on Governors Island. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

On April 25, Stony Brook University held a town hall following the University winning a proposal to build a new campus on Governors Island that will focus on researching and developing solutions to the climate crisis.

The discussion was moderated by Stony Brook alumnus Craig Allen ’79, chief meteorologist for WCBS-880. The panelists were President Maurie McInnis, Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor Kevin Reed of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Associate Vice President of Campus Planning, Design, and Construction William Herrmann and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Jed Shivers. 

The town hall opened with McInnis’s remarks on the University’s success in winning the proposal.

“A lot of this is still sinking in just a little over just a little bit more than 24 hours after the official announcement from New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams, that Stony Brook’s historic plan to re-imagine Governors Island as an international hub for convening client, climate science, research and solutions was revealed as the winner,” she said.

She then described how the New York Climate Exchange would benefit from pledged support from multiple groups that had pledged to contribute financial resources to the project.

“Two of the world’s leading philanthropic organizations, the Simons Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, have pledged to combine $150 million in support of the New York Climate Exchange,” McInnis said.

Stony Brook competed for the ability to lead the project with both the City University of New York (CUNY) and Northeastern University. McInnis pointed out that Stony Brook having the winning proposal selected by the New York City government strengthened the University’s status as a flagship university in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, a distinction it obtained early last year along with the University at Buffalo.

The Exchange’s financial status was also a big talking point in the Town Hall meeting.

During the town hall, the panelists explained that the exchange would not be financially linked to Stony Brook University, and instead be labeled as its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This would prevent Stony Brook from directly putting money into the project and stop The Exchange from being a strain on the University’s finances. 

“The [Exchange] is a separate and distinct charitable organization licensed to do business in the state of New York,” Shivers said. “It’s going to have its own assets. It’s going to have its own liabilities. It’s going to have its own management. And its own board of directors, which represents the participating higher education institutions, corporations, and other organizations.”

Shivers said the board of directors responsible for running the New York Climate Exchange will be selected through a collaboration between the institutions running the facility. However, as the anchor institution, Stony Brook will be responsible for filling half of the seats.

“Stony Brook’s role will be as the principal appointing authority, it will assume that role for at least the first 25 years [and have] 50% of seats,” Shivers said. “Initially Stony Brook [will have] seven seats with the remaining seven coming from the other participating organizations. In addition, the Stony Brook University President will be chairman of the board for the first two three-year terms”

Another component of the town hall was the discussion on how the exchange would be constructed in order to withstand future environmental challenges. The panelists said the buildings will be designed to withstand future storm surges, and the campus will come equipped with walls to block threats from rising sea levels. The campus will also be designed to preserve the island’s past, including amenities like a historical center.

The campus will also include scientific laboratories, though when asked by an audience member if the labs will host a particular type of research, Reed did not give a specific answer.

“When there’s work that can particularly make use of the coastal urban environment, or can make use of space directly on the island to demonstrate and test new technology, that’s the type of laboratory space that will be available,” he said.

When Jonathan Sanders, a professor in the School of Communication and Journalism, asked how the committee responsible for the exchange was planning on making sure the construction of the campus did not add to carbon emissions, McInnis did not directly answer his question, saying “details on all of that forthcoming.”

Francis Lawrence, an incoming graduate student studying anthropology who attended the town hall, said he was curious about where the project was headed.

“It certainly seems ambitious,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t have much knowledge of it coming in and I certainly learned a lot today. I’m curious to see where it goes as it continues to develop.”

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About the Contributor
Sky Crabtree, Assistant News Editor
Sky Crabtree is an Assistant News Editor for The Statesman and a sophomore studying journalism and political science. He joined the paper in the spring of 2023 as a news reporter and was promoted at the end of the same semester. Outside of The Statesman, you can catch him reporting on WUSB's weekly news show and as a member of the Stony Brook Media Group.
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