Summit raises hopes for South Bronx to become tech hub

Political and business leaders want the South Bronx to become the next technology hub for New York City, and are brainstorming new ways to bring tech companies – and the jobs and energy that come with them – to the area.

“When it comes to technology, we want in,” said Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. in his keynote address at the Bronx Tech Summit, held on April 28th. “We deserve nothing less.”

Diaz Jr. was joined by city tech leaders, other Bronx politicians and community leaders at the conference. All were looking for ways to make the South Bronx a tech hub similar to the Flatiron district in Manhattan or the Navy Yard in Brooklyn.

The borough president highlighted the four new Metro-North stations coming to the South Bronx as a lure for tech companies, as well as the infrastructure changes in Longwood and Soundview promised by the governor as reasons tech companies should move to the borough. Soundview will also be a stop on the city’s new ferry service, opening in 2018.

“As we talk about the future of the Bronx – technology – we need to be not only a part of that conversation, but leaders in that conversation,” Díaz Jr. said. “I would like to see an area like Port Morris, like Metrotech Center, to be the next Silicon Valley.”

However, it was the announcement of “ThisistheBronx.info” by Bronx television personality Gary Axelbank that turned heads. The website will aggregate Bronx news, restaurant information and event information among other things onto one central platform. The website seeks to be a resource for tourists, investors and residents alike.

“As a Bronx person I was frustrated – I’ve got to subscribe to 15 different sources,” said Axelbank on where he got his idea for the website. He noted how much larger the Bronx was than Boston, and how the Bronx lacked many of the media resources Boston had, such as several daily local newspapers and several local TV stations.

The website was built by Cornell Green, head of 21st Century ComunIT solutions, a company that takes care of technology for small businesses, and Patricia Collazo, a Lehman College student who interned for Axelbank before he hired her.

“I’m from the Bronx, I work mostly in the Bronx, I went to school mostly in the Bronx, I want to make this community good,” Collazo said. Green agreed, saying, “I’m just so caught up by Gary’s infectious desire to bring positivity to the Bronx.”

After Axelbank’s address, a panel in the main room dove deeper into the question of creating a Bronx tech triangle. Speakers on the panel included Bret Collazzi of HR&A management and a supporter of the PennDesign/OLIN team who competed in the H.U.D. “Rebuild by Design” competition that looked at guarding Hunts Point against storm damage. It also included Majora Carter of Hunts Point based Startup Box, and Michael Brady, the new executive director of the HUB / Third Avenue Business Improvement District.

The panel looked at how the resources of the South Bronx allowed for the creation of a sustainable tech triangle. They took note of the South Bronx’s convenience for travel from Connecticut, upstate New York and midtown Manhattan. For some, the location of Hunts Point was a concern. One person said that it “requires an Uber” to get there, though not everyone shared that concern.

“I think everything is there in Hunts Point,” said Brady. “We have to work with folks in Port Morris to know that Hunts Point is not a million miles away.”