To facilitate the Tech Triangle transformation into a true innovation hub, it remains a high priority to position the area as a dynamic, engaging place, where the advantages and activities taking place here are made as accessible as possible and the tech revolution going on behind office doors is reflected in the streets. In short, the “tech” in Tech Triangle needs to be more evident to all. A number of initiatives proposed in the Tech Triangle Strategic Plan have begun to address these challenges.
In 2011, DUMBO launched a ubiquitous WiFi network between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and the media dubbed DUMBO “NYC’s first wireless neighborhood.” Since then, Downtown Brooklyn has followed suit with its own network covering the areas bordered by Cadman Plaza West, Tillary Street, Flatbush Avenue, and Schermerhorn Streets, with more than 40,000 users per month. Plans are now underway to expand the network to parts of the neighboring NYCHA developments as well.
To help ensure that innovation comes out from behind closed doors and is evident to those who live, work, and visit the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, a number of demonstration projects have been implemented over the past several years. The DUMBO Improvement District’s “Test Kitchen Program” included projects with startups including Pensa (a solar paneled tourist kiosk), BioLite (a holiday lighting installation), Etsy (Hands-on-DUMBO program), and Flocabulary (a curriculum-based experiment with local students).
Under its “Innovation Gallery” initiative, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has partnered with Brooklyn Grange to create a rainwater catchment system for one of its public plazas, Fantastica and Bien Hecho to prototype Street Seats furniture that is being deployed across the City; and Big Belly will soon install solar-powered trash cans throughout the district. Finally, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a team of local New York City College of Technology students built a solar-powered, highly energy-efficient house that combines affordability, innovation, and design excellence, and innovative exhibits like a recent one on new manufacturing have helped the visitors’ center at BLDG 92 welcome more than 60,000 people since its opening in 2012.
Innovative events and marketing initiatives also help to position the area as a tech leader, increase exposure of the borough for newcomers, and facilitate opportunities for collaboration among the Tech Triangle’s innovation firms.
In June 2015, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership hosted the inaugural Make It in Brooklyn Innovation Summit, bringing together 300 of Brooklyn’s leading business leaders—spanning all industries from tech to real estate to culture to food—in a conversation about the future of the borough’s economy. The success of the event, which included panels, innovator show and tells, and a pitch contest, demonstrates the growing rise of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle as the borough’s true commercial heart.
Thanks to a grant from JPMorgan Chase, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will hold quarterly pitch contests in FY16 as part of the Make It in Brooklyn campaign. The series of four pitch-offs will feature startups pitching their ideas before a panel of judges to win cash and other prizes like free work space, transportation, and more.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 opened the “Making It in NYC: The Era of New Manufacturing” exhibit in May 2014 to help shine a light on the growing nationwide phenomenon, and focus it on the disruptive power of the artisans, techies, and traditional manufacturers who represent “new manufacturing” in New York City. This exhibit explores this story on behalf of BNYDC, as it relates specifically to job creation, and that transition point when the designer becomes the entrepreneur seeking to produce at volume. In its first year, the exhibit served as a backdrop for 35 public programs for makers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs.
As highlighted in the Tech Ecosystem section, an annual entrepreneurship symposium known as Tech Triangle U was started in 2014 to forge connections between the academic and innovation communities. Each year, approximately 50 companies from across the Tech Triangle take part in panel discussions, networking events, open office tours, and a mentorship hackathon geared toward introducing Downtown Brooklyn’s college population to life in entrepreneurial careers. Nearly 2,000 people have attended Tech U over the past two years.