BY COUNCILMEMBER MARK WEPRIN
With the new technology campus coming to Roosevelt Island, Queens is poised to become a destination for startups. Startups are newly created companies, often technology oriented, with the potential to be the next big Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.
Why will Queens be the new place for startups? Queens sits adjacent to Roosevelt Island and has plenty of affordable space (in contrast to neighboring Manhattan). When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced in December that Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology had won the bid for a partnership with the city to develop a brand-new applied sciences campus, I knew that the economic impact would be tremendous, not only on Roosevelt Island, but also in nearby Long Island City and in other parts of Queens.
As a member of the City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committees, I recognize that the tech campus will create tens of thousands of new jobs. It is estimated that about 600 companies will be derived from the tech campus, creating as many as 30,000 additional jobs in startups. Over time, those numbers can escalate.
If we capitalize on the investments that the city and the universities are making, we can render Queens the new tech capital of the world. Though Roosevelt Island will be home to the new science campus, the potential for economic growth extends far beyond the island’s borders. While there will surely be new jobs, housing, and businesses on Roosevelt Island, the spillover effect will bring benefits right into our own backyard. Tech campus graduates, professors, and researchers are likely to set up shop in Queens. They are among today’s most brilliant minds, and they are the kind of people who come up with the transformative ideas that yield business success.
Think of Jet Blue Airways, based in Queens, which started in the late 1990s and quickly brought big changes to the air travel industry. Or take Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios, New York City’s largest full-service film and television production facility, which is contributing to the booming local film industry. When the entrepreneurs are ready to bring their ideas to market, they will set up offices in the downtowns of Long Island City, Flushing, and Jamaica. Long Island City is already home to film and television studios, industrial space, museums, and nightlife; LaGuardia’s two planned dormitories will bring hundreds of young people to the vibrant neighborhood. Downtown Jamaica has a college, cultural institutions, and unrivaled access to public transportation; it is well positioned to accommodate new businesses.
In February, while visiting Israel with several of my Council colleagues, I saw firsthand what has come to be known as the startup nation. It is no secret that Israel is moving forward with an economy that is the place for startups, with the largest number in the world, surpassing even Japan and China. When ambitious individuals start new companies, they provide a boost for the local economy as well as for their own futures. Queens can follow the same path that Israel took to startup stardom.
Innovation once led the United States to the forefront of the world economy, and it can take us there again, with Queens leading the way.
Weprin is a member of the City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committees