Queens, with Support from Speaker Quinn, Makes a Push for Tech

Queens, with Support from Speaker Quinn, Makes a Push for Tech

July 19, 2012 at 4:00 am

A coalition of leaders supporting technology development in Queens gathered Wednesday near City Hall. L-R: Art Chang, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Adam Milligan, Jukay Hsu, Elizabeth Hendrey, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo by William Alatriste, New York City Council

Educating New York City’s future tech entrepreneurs and workers won’t just happen at NYU CUSP in Brooklyn and CornellNYC Tech on Roosevelt Island (and first, at Google headquarters in Manhattan.) The push to train more New Yorkers in software development and computer science will also take place in Queens, both at CUNY’s Queens College, and through the newly formed Coalition for Queens.

In a meeting room near City Hall on Wednesday, two city-driven initiatives were announced by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The Advanced Software Development Program will offer 20 students at Queens College in Kew Gardens advanced classes in partnership with Tipping Point Partners and other local tech companies. The second partnership with Coalition for Queens gives both CUNY students and the public the opportunity to take affordable courses on computer programming, digital marketing and entrepreneurship.

There are 10,000 really good jobs out there for New Yorkers, Quinn explained, and the partnerships will help the city prepare residents for those jobs. Of the more than 1,700 digital companies in the city, 932 of them are hiring, she said. Quinn’s facts were gleaned from the recent release of the Made in NY Digital Map, which shows where the city’s tech companies, investors and incubator spaces are, and which companies are hiring.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn explains why tech education will help New Yorkers get jobs. Photo by William Alatriste, New York City Council.

“We need to close the skills gap and put New Yorkers to work in these New York firms,” she said.

The tech economy in New York City has been growing for years. As the city fosters entrepreneurs and start-up companies —  by providing affordable co-working space and by hosting competitions like Big Apps — more and more companies have started or relocated here. But while the city has helped to open the Cornell the NYU campuses, the CUNY initiative is the first time the city has ventured into collaboration with a city school.

“For some people Cornell is out of financial reach, and we want to make sure folks have access,” said Quinn. “We’re really lucky to have CUNY.”

Each student who successfully completes the course of study at Queens College will receive a paid apprenticeship with a New York tech company, Quinn said, to applause.

The Coalition for Queens, a nonprofit organization that formed last year following the announcement about plans for a tech campus on Roosevelt Island, will also be offering affordable courses. The coalition’s purpose is to support a growing tech entrepreneurial ecosystem in Queens.

Jukay Hsu, the founder of the coalition, said they will be offering two or three classes this fall as part of a pilot program and will continue to grow after that. They have formed partnerships with tech companies like Skillshare to teach the classes.

Hsu added that Queens was the appropriate next place to push for more tech, adding that more students study computer science at Queens College than at any other university in the metropolitan area.

Tech has “an incredible potential to empower communities,” he said.

Normally, when people think of tech in NYC, Queens isn’t the first borough that comes to mind. But New York City is more than just Manhattan, said Dawn Barber, co-founder of NY Tech Meetup and an advisory board member for the Coalition of Queens.

“The city is the city,” said Barber. “This is fabulous because we really need to expand out, and it’s great to be in Queens.”