Western Queens may become Silicon Valley of the East

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Alexis Ohanian, the creator of Reddit, showing a map comparing the current technology hot spots in New York City.THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
Alexis Ohanian, the creator of Reddit, showing a map comparing the current technology hot spots in New York City.

Local inventors and technology specialists are saying western Queens could become the Silicon Valley of the East.

At the first Queens Tech Meetup on June 7, an estimated 200 techies and gadget lovers gathered on a Long Island City rooftop to view upcoming apps and devices from local companies, proving the expansion of the digital community in the borough.

“We know that there are a lot of talented entrepreneurs and companies who are already doing business here and it’s events like this that showcases that,” said Queens native Jukay Hsu, who organized the inaugural event.

Hsu is the founder of Coalition for Queens, a nonprofit organization that aims to grow the tech sector of the borough. He said he plans to host the event each month.

The Meetup was hosted atop Hunter’s Point Plaza overlooking Roosevelt Island, where, in five years, the new Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, dedicated to science and technology, will be located.

The new school is expected to bring fresh thinking and entrepreneurs to the city soon, as off-campus classes throughout the city will begin in the fall.

Local companies and officials see it as an opportunity for Queens to advance, since the campus will be just a short train ride from Long Island City.

“Digital media is the future of New York City’s economy and we need to bring it to Queens and with the announcement of the applied science campus Technion-Cornell on Roosevelt Island, Long Island City is the logical location to create a new tech center,” said Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall Inc. in LIC.

The event kicked off with a speech by Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit, a popular social news media site that allows users to share links.

“The thing that gets me excited about tech is that we are approaching this point where, as long as the right variables are in place, it does not matter as much as being in Silicon Valley,” Ohanian said. “You don’t need to be the stereotypical Mark Zuckerberg getting on a plane to live in a boring suburb in Northern California.”

Elias Roman, one of the creators of Songza—a new application that allows users to build expert playlists for any occasion—and Marleen Vogelaar, one of the founders of 3D printing company Shapeways, also took the stage to explain their innovations and the growth of technology in Queens.