By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A two-mile stretch of Fifth Avenue will become a giant WiFi hotspot, enabling users to have Internet access as they walk down the street, shop in stores, and relax in their apartments, under an ambitious technology upgrade planned by the Sunset Park Business Improvement District.
The Sunset Park BID, which represents property owners, merchants, and residents on Fifth Avenue from 38th Street to 64th Street, has hired Sky-Packets, a Melville, Long Island-based company, to install equipment along the avenue to give the area WiFi.
“We’re very excited about it,” BID Executive Director Renee Giordano told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Giordano added that the BID’s Board of Directors is paying for the WiFi connection, meaning that merchants and residents will enjoy free access. The system will work on Smartphones, iPads, laptop computers, and other devices.
“It has so much potential. It will be great for the residents, of course. But it will also be great for our business owners,” said Giordano, who added that merchants will have a whole new way to reach potential customers. There are more than 500 stores in the Sunset Park BID area.
The new system should be up and running by the end of June, Giordano said.
The BID is also working with Sky-Packets to install free WiFi access in Sunset Park, a 24-acre recreational facility located between 41st and 44th Streets between Fifth and Seventh Avenues.
Work has already begun, according to Bill Brent, chief technology officer for Sky-Packets. “We’re about a third of the way through,” he said. The company is installing a router, known as a gateway, on a building every three or four blocks along the avenue to pick up signals. In between the gateways there will be receptors, known as repeaters, installed. The repeaters pick up the signal from the gateways and repeat them for users. “You will be able to literally walk from 38th Street to 64th Street without ever losing your signal,” Brent said.
The BID’s website will be the first thing users see when they access the Internet in the WiFi corridor, according to Giordano. The BID’s network will be called !Sunset Park Free WiFi. “We put the exclamation point in front so the network will be easier to find,” she said.
Giordano said she envisions multiple uses for the system. Customers can research stores for specific merchandise and the BID can use the system to communicate with merchants. “There are a lot of stores now that don’t have Internet access. With the free WiFi, we can give them an e-mail address and we will be able to send them updates. And they can contact me with any issues they have,” she said.
Parts of DUMBO enjoy free WiFi, but the Sunset Park BID is the first BID in Brooklyn to attempt to install a WiFi corridor for the entire length of its district. The Bryant Park BID in Manhattan already has free WiFi. “The Sunset Park BID and the people at Bryant Park are the most forward thinking when it comes to this,” Brent said.