By Rebecca Henely
The nonprofit Coalition for Queens once sought to bring an applied sciences campus to the borough. Now it is teaching people about the technology already here.
Queens Tech Meetup, the coalition’s newest initiative, held its second meeting last Thursday at Hunters Point Plaza, at 47-40 21st St. in Long Island City. The session, which sold out its 150 tickets, included information about the Coalition for Queens’ new technology classes and featured demonstrations of products as complex as a live streaming TV service for your computer or iPad to something as simple as a web site that can identify pictures of cats.
“Our goal is really to bring the tech community together here in Queens,” said Jukay Hsu, founder of the coalition.
Hsu’s original goal for the Coalition for Queens was for the city to consider building an applied sciences and technology graduate school in Willets Point. The city, which had challenged higher education institutions to submit proposals to build such a campus last year, eventually ended up picking Ithaca, N.Y.’s Cornell University and Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s proposal for a campus on Roosevelt Island.
Yet Hsu’s proposal found defenders in many Queens elected officials, and his new initiative has also received attention in high places. Hsu’s first meeting, which also sold out, hosted Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the popular discussion and link sharing site Reddit. The coalition also earned the support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who gave $65,000 to the nonprofit to help it kick off classes hosted through the website skillshare.com.
The workshops cost about $25 and range from how to run teams better in a business to operating Adobe Illustrator.
“They’re all super-focused on entrepreneurship, technology and business,” Leighann Farrelly of Skillshare said.
Hsu said he wanted Queens residents to be aware of the innovation in the borough. He said Queens, especially Long Island City, was well-suited for technological growth due to the large number of industrial spaces and warehouses that can host startups, its diverse culture and immigrant entrepreneurs, and its arts and design community.
“We think everyone should be a part of this,” Hsu said.
Charlie O’Donnell of the investment firm Brooklyn Bridge Ventures said when he was part of a New York technology meetup in 2004, its fifth meeting only had 30 people. He said the Queens Tech Meetup’s ability to draw 150 people at its first meeting was a testament to how technology-based businesses are growing outside of Silicon Valley or Boston.
“It matters less and less where you build with technology,” he said. “Technology is becoming more and more accessible.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.