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NY awards $35 million grant to University at Buffalo

Daniel Robison
In visit to Buffalo Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $35 million to the University at Buffalo to expedite its plans to relocate its medical school.

As part of the new NY SUNY 2020 program, meant to improve the state's higher education system, the University at Buffalo (UB) will receive $35 million to re-locate its medical school downtown and hire new faculty.

The money comes from shrunken and re-tooled version of UB 2020, which was originally a large legislative package calling for $4 billion worth of projects and programs for the school.

Last spring, that ask was modified and expanded, to include all four of SUNY's research universities: SUNY Brockport, Binghamton and Stony Brook, in addition to UB. 

"From my first days as chancellor, the advocacy for UB 2020 was undeniable, and that planted the seed that ultimately led to the scaling up of this idea in the concept of NY SUNY 2020," recalled Nancy Zimpher, SUNY chancellor.

The transition from UB2020 to NY SUNY 2020 left the fate of funding for UB unclear. Now, with $35 million on its way to Buffalo from Albany, questions still remain.  

The funding announced in a visit to Buffalo by the governor on Tuesday, accounts for about 10 percent of the current price tag of the new medical school, leading some to wonder if 2020 is no longer a date by which to measure progress - but rather a brand name the school is struck with.

Governor Andrew Cuomo defended the diluted status of UB 2020.

"Thirty-five million dollars is more than some money, it's a lot of money. It's a big plan, it's a bold plan. [It will bring] 3,000 jobs [to Buffalo]," Cuomo says.

The 3,000 jobs figure, which Cuomo treated as a refrain during his upstate visit, did not come with details Tuesday. But this latest grant from Albany will see UB hire a few hundred more faculty in key areas like medicine and bioinformatics.

Those targeted improvements to UB's educational product were benchmarks of UB 2020, that were not lost in the shuffle, says Satish Tripathi, UB president.

"UB has waited a long time for Albany to act. And thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, UB 2020 will finally become a reality," Tripathi says.

With time ticking on achieving these goals before 2020 approaches, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown assured UB officials the city will help expedite the process in any way it can.

"The move of the medical school will definitely happen before 2020," Brown says. "You can count on that."

UB will still need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for many of UB 2020's projects, the biggest of which is the new $400 million medical school. That addition to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has not been designed yet. In fact, the blueprints for the structure will not be ready for another year and a half.

Construction begins in late 2013 with a ribbon cutting envisioned in 2016.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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