June 29, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has unveiled a long-term plan to help grow the technology industry along the East River waterfront, including in Long Island City and parts of Astoria.
The “Western Queens Strategy Plan”, as the plan is called, features a series of steps aimed at bolstering the area’s local tech ecosystem through initiatives like job training, building tech hubs, and funneling investors to the area.
Katz’ plan works off the premise that Western Queens is well positioned to become a “highly-recognized tech district.” Western Queens, for example, saw 8,400 tech jobs last year, making it one of the largest tech centers in the city, despite its lack of recognition as an urban tech district.
“We commissioned the Tech Plan to facilitate a more equitable growth of this emerging global innovation hub and the City’s next leading tech ecosystem,” Katz said in a statement. “By leveraging its inherent assets, as well as training locally and hiring locally, we will steer our borough into a more competitive lane of the digital age.”
The plan has six components that are grouped into either a people, place, or programmatic category. Each component includes specific strategies for its implementation.
In the “people-focused initiatives,” existing tech training programs would be expanded and reorganized to help reach more Western Queens residents, with a focus on recruiting and supporting people underrepresented in the tech industry. Another facet includes strengthening ties to tech companies to develop workforce pipelines.
Immediate strategies to carry out these goals include devising comprehensive training programs, with the help of local and citywide training providers, to best retain and prepare applicants. Funding at the city, state, and federal level will also be sought.
For “place-based initiatives,” the plan is to build a tech hub for the Western Queens community, and bring more activity to attract students, tech firms, and residents to the area, thereby setting up a better environment for the hub.
The Tech Plan identifies three geographic areas that could be better linked to one another to help accomplish this goal. The blocks encompassing LaGuardia Community College, for example, can become a sizable education and industry cluster, which can link to the area around Kaufman Astoria Studios—a potential visual and performing arts cluster. Another connection can be made with the proposed waterfront industrial cluster, a radius that includes the Queensbridge Houses.
As for “programmatic initiatives”, Western Queens will be marketed with a focus on its existing tech institutions—and what the area can become—as a way to attract private sector investments to the area. New economic development tools will also be implemented to facilitate outside investment.
A Western Queens Tech Council, made up of local tech stakeholders, for example, has already been created to help develop an outreach plan and marketing strategy to increase the area’s exposure.
“As we enter the phases of implementation, our success in reaching the Tech Plan milestones will hinge upon continued engagement from all stakeholders vested in Western Queens’ growth, including those entrusted on the Tech Council,” Katz said.
The plan follows multiple recent initiatives aimed at increasing Long Island City’s tech profile. The LIC Partnership, for example, received $100,000 last year from NY State to develop a business plan for the growth and development of a life sciences and research cluster in the area.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation also offered a city-owned site in Long Island City earlier this year for organizations to potentially develop it into a world class life science and research center.
In addition, New York City was recently selected as a finalist in Amazon’s second headquarter’s search, where places like Long Island City were highlighted as potential bases in the city’s bid to the online-retail giant.