Brooklyn Tech Triangle Component Map 5

Tech Triangle Interface

The advantages and accessibility of the Tech Triangle are not apparent, which presents an amazing opportunity to brand a district area as tech-forward and test out new technology in municipal infrastructure. To facilitate the Tech Triangle transformation into a central hub for activity and amenities, it is increasingly important for people to digitally connect and access resources, opportunities, and information instantaneously. By building infrastructure that supports free and public WiFi, the Tech Triangle will transform into an environment that promotes connectivity and community engagement—thereby thrusting the area forward into the 21st century.

Startups can test their products locally and encourage innovation to be piloted in the Tech Triangle. A seamless wireless network is also a tool for economic development, and the Tech Triangle’s ability to use it effectively will allow the area to be commercially attractive as well as competitive in the new economy.

Specifically, the challenges to making the Tech Triangle more tech-forward include:

  • Challenge 1: Positioning the Tech Triangle as the most connected neighborhood.
  • Challenge 2: The tech revolution going on behind office doors is not reflected on the streets of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, where tech tools can be used for navigation, dynamic placemaking, and outdoor working.
  • Challenge 3: The advantages and activities of the Tech Triangle—ranging from the ability to benefit from the REAP incentive to the area’s transportation offerings to local meet-ups—should be made as accessible as possible.
  • Challenge 4: While there is broadband in the streets throughout the Tech Triangle, the costs of the “Last Mile” to bring the broadband into the buildings is a stumbling block to creating tech-friendly spaces.

A number of initiatives have been proposed to address these challenges, a few of which are highlighted in more detail below:

Free Public WiFi

In 2011, the DUMBO Improvement District launched a ubiquitous WiFi network between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and the media dubbed DUMBO “NYC’s first wireless neighborhood.” Free wireless data network is now available in DUMBO, parts of the Navy Yard, and several pilot sites in Downtown Brooklyn including Willoughby Plaza, Columbus Park, MetroTech Commons, and Albee Square—all which have been proven to be popular and indicates a growing demand for this amenity. It is a benefit to existing residents, visitors, shoppers, and workers, and a powerful marketing tool that continues to attract new investment. By expanding these independent networks to cover much of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, and possibly creating the first wireless commercial office district in New York City, this initiative could stitch together the diverse stakeholders and digitally connect them to the Tech Triangle. Expansion of this wireless network throughout the Tech Triangle will require coordination with the City, property owners, and installation and monitoring of wireless transmitters to ensure data connection.

Brooklyn Tech Triangle Annual Event

To further solidify the Tech Triangle’s growth, an annual tech event could increase exposure of the borough for newcomers and facilitate opportunities for collaboration among creative types. The event has the potential to be multi-tiered: while hackathons and competitions allow for innovation, mentoring sessions and keynote speakers can serve as inspiration. The area’s numerous venues, from Barclays Center to Galapagos Art Space to the powerHouse Arena, are ideal backdrops for the tech event.

Alternatively, the event could build on hackathons or conferences such as Brooklyn Beta to become large-scale events similar to SXSW. Existing events hosted in other parts of the City (e.g., TechCrunch, Northside Festival) or in Silicon Valley (e.g., TieCon, Hadoop Summit) could also be relocated to the Tech Triangle area.

Tech Test Kitchen

The three organizing entitities—the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and the DUMBO Improvement District—have much to offer local startups looking to test the market and their new technologies. They manage public spaces, have relationships with landlords, local retailers, host events, and manage local data. Allowing local innovators to tap into these resources to test their work would provide social benefits by facilitating innovative projects and further branding the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

The DUMBO Improvement District has begun using this model on a small scale with its “DUMBO Test Kitchen Program,” kicking off 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) in 2013. Companies and organizations interested in piloting their innovations should reach out to their local economic development organization.