By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More office space for high-tech companies to grow, re-use of older buildings like the Empire Stores, green connections between different parts of the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle" – these are all parts of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition’s plan to overtake Silicon Valley as the largest tech hub in the nation.
The coalition – led by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the DUMBO Improvement District and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation – presented these plans at NYU-Poly on Tuesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York.
Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, presented the plan to an enthusiastic audience.
As part of his presentation, he also revealed some new details, most notably a planned Clean Technology Incubator at 15 MetroTech, co-sponsored by NYU-Poly and the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The incubator will focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.
Reed began by pointing out the progress that has already been made. Today, he said, the Brooklyn Tech Triangle is the second-largest tech hub in the nation. As an example of its growth, he mentioned one company that started with three employees in 2009 and has 165 today. It is projected that in two years, the area will support 19,000 tech-related jobs and 43,000 indirect jobs.
Unfortunately, the area is running out of space. “The availability rate in DUMBO today is near zero,” he said. While the Brooklyn Navy Yard is adding more space, there are more companies waiting to get in than the Yard can handle.
As far as Downtown Brooklyn is concerned, he said, many of the offices there “are tied up in long-term leases,” while tech entrepreneurs tend to prefer flexible short-term leases.
The plan, according to Reed, includes reactivating key buildings such as the Empire Stores, office buildings currently owned by the Watchtower, unused government offices near Cadman Plaza, and long-unused space above stores on the Fulton Mall.
Getting across the Triangle is also a problem, saaid Reed. “It is often more difficult to get from one part of the area to another than it is to get to Manhattan.”
The plan includes transit expansion, such as the extension of the B-67 and B-24 bus lines into the Navy Yard; new ferry landings at the foot of Jay Street and in the Navy Yard, pedestrian bridges, new bike lanes, new subway entrances and more.
Finally, he said, amenities are very important to tech firms. “I’ve heard people say, `I’d like to locate in Downtown Brooklyn, but there’s no bar there!’” Reed said.
Among the proposals are a cafe in the rear of the War Memorial Building, a museum in the now-closed Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, a “pedestrian-friendly environment” at the intersection of Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue, an enhanced entranceway to MetroTech and more.
Columbus Park, Cadman Plaza and Clumber Corner (between Prospect Street and BQE), he said, could be redesigned as a “cohesive greenway” called Brooklyn Strand. This would be marked by cafes, new lighting and an “improved crossing of Adams Street.”
Of course, the plan also includes dramatically expanding public WiFi throughout the district, and increasing fiberoptic availability in office buildings. It would also give startups the chance to test their products locally.
Collaborations between local universities and tech firms would continue. “Many high-tech firms say they have problems getting qualified employees,” said Reed. “But we have more college students than Cambridge, Massachusetts.”