At the end of last month, the Tech:NYC team spent the day in Staten Island, and there’s lots to explore — at nearly 60-square miles it’s almost three times larger than Manhattan. During our trip, we took in the sites by visiting with member companies working in the borough, local elected officials, and other tech and business executives to hear their stories and learn more about what they’re working on.
After a breezy ride on the Staten Island Ferry, we visited the College of Staten Island’s tech incubator, where we hosted a lunch roundtable with Borough President James Oddo and several borough business leaders. Over a classic Staten Island slice from Paulie’s Pizzeria, we discussed the borough’s efforts to establish a tech hub in the St. George neighborhood — and what we can do to reignite those plans. With the right investments in the borough’s existing industries and their own base of talent, we all agreed the borough is well-positioned to develop into a major tech player.
From there, we continued on to Makerspace NYC, a community workspace founded in Staten Island as NYC’s largest makerspace for industrial manufacturing and digital technology. Established inside a 6,000 square foot space in Stapelton, Makerspace has flourished since its founding in 2013 and has gone on to help thousands of creative entrepreneurs get their start. With a robust calendar of workshops and classes, it has also attracted tens of thousands of students all across the city for its STEM and arts education programs. We were also excited to see that, thanks to their success, they are working with our partners at NYCEDC to expand to another location at the Brooklyn Army Terminal!
Next up was an outdoor adventure at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden for a demo with Tech:NYC member Lime. Lime rolled out its dock-free bikeshare, including electric pedal-assist bikes, on Staten Island last summer with Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to provide a reliable mode of smart transportation. A ride through the gardens on both their pedal-assist bikes and their e-scooters was a fun, hands-on way to experience how companies like Lime are providing first and last mile transportation options that are faster, cheaper, and healthier, both for riders and the environment (especially in hilly Staten Island). New York looks set to take Staten Island’s example and fully legalize e-bikes and scooters across the city, and we look forward to seeing them become a larger part of our transit infrastructure.
Further down the west side, we finished off the day with a tour of “JKF8,” Amazon’s fulfillment center on the island. Spanning over 800,000 square feet — approximately 15 football fields — the space has more than 2,500 full-time employees, 50% of whom call Staten Island home. Employees work alongside Amazon robotics, vision systems, and almost 20 years’ worth of software and mechanical innovations to pick, pack, and ship customer orders.
Deploying robotics and other advanced technologies doesn’t just create a more efficient, streamlined distribution model — it also creates an infrastructure for the company to work with its associates to train them into roles than deepen their technical expertise. Their A2Tech (“Associate to Technician”) program gives employees an industry-recognized IT certification and the necessary credentials to grow their careers and seek new professional opportunities — at Amazon or elsewhere.
All of this, and so much more, is positioning Staten Island as one of New York’s next frontiers for tech. We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Borough President’s office to elevate the borough’s assets — and to keep them plugged in as an important part of the tech ecosystem across the entire city.
If you’re doing big things in the Staten Island tech community, or know any startups that should be on our radar, we’d love to hear from you and hope to visit you soon. We’re also taking pizza recommendations for all future trips.
State Island Ferry by Shaun Merrit