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Brooklyn rolls out red carpet for tech firms

7:00 am, June 19, 2013

Proposals include creating a Jay Street Crossing at Sands Street to improve the experience of pedestrians walking between Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO.

Supporters of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle yesterday (Tuesday) unveiled a bold new plan that aims to roll out the red carpet for some of the world’s most innovative companies.

The plan calls for creating more affordable real estate, improving transportation and public parks and training local people to work in the 1,000 plus new firms expected to be operating in the Tech Triangle by 2015.

“The City has a golden opportunity in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

“To seize it, we need to create space for tech growth and tap into our talent pools of local residents and students enrolled in the area’s 12 universities. This new strategic plan lays out specific ideas which will make the Brooklyn Tech Triangle the most attractive place for tech to set up shop and stay.”

Focused on the areas between Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the plan is widely viewed as the model for creating innovation districts throughout New York.

The Brooklyn Tech Triangle is a magnet for innovation-based entrepreneurs and has emerged as the City’s largest cluster of tech activity outside of Manhattan.

It is projected that in two years the area will support 18,000 tech-related jobs and 43,000 indirect jobs.

However, the group behind the plan says a lack of appropriate commercial and light industrial space to support the innovation economy and an adequately trained workforce, among other factors, threaten to stifle this growth.

The Brooklyn Tech Triangle coalition – led by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, DUMBO Improvement District and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation – says if its plan is fully implemented with support from government, the real estate community, tech firms and academic institutions, up to four million square feet of space in the Tech Triangle would be occupied by tech and creative businesses in 2015.

The Brooklyn Tech Triangle coalition conducted an economic impact study of the tech sector in Brooklyn in 2012 that found there are more than 520 tech companies employing over 9,600 people, generating $3.1 billion of economic output and is poised to nearly double by 2015, requiring an additional 2.2 million square feet of office space.

Following the study, the coalition formed a task force comprised of local tech firms, entrepreneurs, government representatives, real estate firms, area residents and civic leaders and educators to develop a strategic plan to capitalize on this upward trend.

“Innovative companies want to grow and create great jobs here. We have to unlock the potential of our real estate – the buildings that were home to New York’s industrial boom once before – to make sure they can do just that. We also have to unlock the potential of our local workforce to make sure they can give those jobs to New Yorkers for years to come,” said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Improvement District.

“The Brooklyn Tech Triangle coalition looks forward to working with residents, companies and elected leaders to turn these ideas into reality.”

The Brooklyn Tech Triangle strategic plan – prepared by a multi-disciplinary team led by WXY Architecture + Urban Design – lays out five key challenges and initiatives, many in partnership with the City’s universities and agencies, which they believe will entice tech talent and businesses. Ideas for creating space for tech to grow including activating key buildings such as the 700,000 s/f of property owned by the Watchtower at Sands Street; 200,000 s/f of office space at the Empire Stores in DUMBO; 1.2 million square feet of commercial space surrounding Cadman Plaza and government-owned and occupied buildings such as the Municipal Building at 210 Joralemon Street, 65 Court Street, and the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse at 271 Cadman Plaza East.

The group has suggested creating a master lessee program to designate an organization to carry umbrella long-term leases and credit-worthiness on behalf of multiple short-term leases for tech firms.

And it has called for a Special Innovation District to allow minimal residential density to subsidize the conversion of storage and warehouse buildings into new space for the innovation economy. They also want to see an incentive program to encourage building owners to refurbish their buildings to meet tech needs and allow for the transfer of air rights from buildings along the Fulton Mall to other properties within the Downtown Brooklyn District, provided owners on the Mall take action to transform the derelict upper floors of their buildings into space for the innovation economy to grow.

Funding and other support for the Brooklyn Tech Triangle initiative has come from Empire State Development Corporation, Office of New York City Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, New York City Department of Small Business Services, New York City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Marty Markowitz, New York University, Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

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