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NYC Council Speaker Quinn Promotes DUMBO in Jobs Plan

Growing the tech sector was a major theme of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s jobs address to a packed audience at the Association for a Better New York this morning, and DUMBO was a centerpiece of that plan. Calling for a “Tech Triangle” between DUMBO’s thriving digital and creative scene, the Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn, the Speaker proposed improved transportation links and a focus on attracting major technology companies to the area.

“We need to find opportunities for smart development – development that doesn’t take years or hundreds of millions of dollars. Our job is to see where industry is naturally heading and help speed it along. The tech industry, like a lot of industries, thrives on connections to similar businesses. Take for example the proximity of DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, two hubs of our growing tech sector. All you need to do is look at a map to realize the next logical place for these businesses to head is Downtown Brooklyn.  It could be the third point in a vibrant Brooklyn Tech Triangle. But there are some obstacles. It’s barely a mile away from DUMBO or the Navy Yard – but unless you have a car, there’s no easy way to get from one to the other. So we’ll work with the MTA to find practical transportation solutions, and connect all three points of the triangle to pave the way for new growth. Then we’ll market Downtown Brooklyn to tech start-ups, and build a critical mass of demand,” said the Speaker.

The push was lauded by Alexandria Sica, Executive Director of the DUMBO Improvement District, who led the Speaker and Council Member Levin on a tour of the neighborhood earlier this month: “DUMBO makes a major impression on anyone looking at job growth in New York City. The start-up, digital and creative community that continues to expand here is remarkable. By expanding that community up to Downtown Brooklyn and over to the Navy Yard, DUMBO companies can only grow stronger. We’ve got a real opportunity to give companies room to grow while still enjoying all that DUMBO and the Brooklyn waterfront have to offer, and we’re thrilled that the Speaker wants to help build on the successes and address the needs of our companies,” said Sica.

The Speaker also touted DUMBO’s largest employer, HUGE, as a case-study for the challenges facing New York’s digital sector: “Another growing tech sector, digital media, faces a different challenge. I recently visited a company called HUGE, an internet marketing business located in DUMBO. In the last five years, they’ve gone from 30 employees to 300, making them the largest employer in all of DUMBO…They’ve had such a hard time recruiting qualified people that they had to start their own training school at a cost of nearly half a million dollars a year. When we have nine percent unemployment, and companies like HUGE have jobs they can’t fill, something is seriously wrong.”

To address these issues, the Speaker announced the creation of a job placement service with hackNY to connect hundreds of New Yorkers with jobs in growing companies within the tech sector and a Council partnership with CUNY and tech industry stakeholders to develop certificate programs for in demand computer programming languages. HUGE is enthusiastic about the ideas presented: “We’re encouraged by the initiative and enthusiasm shown by Speaker Quinn in pursuing ways to develop, attract, and retain technology talent here in New York. We’re excited to partner with her in developing new models, like our own company schools program, to help New York companies succeed in what is a quickly evolving and highly competitive marketplace,” said Shirley Au, President of HUGE following the speech.

Other initiatives proposed by the Speaker that are of interest to DUMBO’s digital community include:

  • The establishment of the Center for Innovation at CUNY to serve as a tech incubator for NYC’s public universities, connecting researchers, entrepreneurs and business experts who can help turn research into new businesses.
  • Creation of an Angel Investor Tax Credit for investors who back biotech and medtech start-ups in NYC. Building on the success of the Council-created Biotech Tax Credit, the angel capital it facilitates will help fund research and development, endow fledgling companies and solidify the city’s standing as a biotech hub.

Photo: William Alatriste