Coalition for Queens Seeks to Harness Borough’s Diversity for Tech Community
Stroll through a neighborhood in Queens and you might pass a Chinese restaurant, Colombian bakery and Greek diner all in one block. While the diverse borough is home to many immigrant-owned businesses, within New York City as a whole, only 1.5 percent of immigrant business owners have founded tech companies. Enter Access Code, a new program started by the Coalition for Queens that is seeking to empower the tech community in the borough.
Two years ago, the Coalition for Queens started out as an advocacy group spearheaded by co-founder Jukay Hsu, a Queens native who saw a great disconnect between elected officials and the tech scene. Now, Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council, is a sponsor of Access Code, and a testament to the growth in collaboration with the government.
The 8-week education program teaches participants how to make iOS applications with 50 hours worth of lesson time. Prior knowledge of coding is not required, but a MAC computer is for this program that was designed to reach those underserved in the tech community, including immigrants, ethnic minorities and women. Tuition is $950, but full scholarships are available.
“Only 1/4 of tech jobs in New York are filled and for the tech community to grow, we want to help try and solve that,” said Hsu about the motivation behind the program. “And we realized by working with Queens College and other institutions here that there are lots of really talented people in Queens and across New York who could be involved in the tech industry, but who might not have the most up-to-date skills or the network to understand how to enter tech.”
Currently, 22 students are enrolled in the spring 2013 program where they are benefiting from exposure to industry professionals such as Vin Vacanti, an immigrant himself and Harvard grad who created Yipit.
For those that wish to connect with others in the tech industry, the Coalition also started the Queens Tech Meetup group, which has grown to 1300 members in just a year. Past events have included an open source conference with software company, 10gen, and future events will include hack-a-thons and a Startup Advisory Day at Nasdaq. Hsu also encourages anyone who wants to organize an event to reach out to them so they can help facilitate it.
Their most recent event, a forum for mayoral candidates to discuss tech policy, was held at the Museum of the Moving Image, just one of the many attractions of western Queens that is also now home to tech companies Songza, Uber and Shapeways. Hsu also sees the area as an ideal place for companies, since it has plenty of former industrial spaces that could be converted into company lofts.
With the future launch of Cornell University’s tech campus on Roosevelt Island, western Queens is poised to become an increasingly important locale for the tech community. But, don’t wait to enroll in a tech college to get involved. Last year, the Coalition for Queens welcomed 60 volunteers who assisted with activities such a fundraising, event planning, and aiding businesses affected by hurricane Sandy recovery and advocacy.
Before you know it, living near the 7 train won’t be a great spot because of its quick commute into Manhattan, but because you’ll be only moments away from NYC’s tech hub.
Photo Credit: Andrew Theodorakis for New York Daily News