Civic News

In Brooklyn borough president transition, tech is courted

They might not always be comfortable with the lingo, but it's becoming clear that you can't be a modern politician in New York without talking points on technology.
Full Disclosure: Brooklyn helped organize one of the panels for this breakfast seminar and this reporter moderated that session.

If you want a sign of the advancement of technology as a power play in New York politics, then look no further than what was something of a transition of power between tech-minded city leadership at Brooklyn Borough Hall Monday.

In 2011, popular Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, 68, first acknowledged he would retire from politics, and then he backed Eric Adams, who, running unopposed, is his presumptive successor.

Neither man has much personal history in technology, but both have shown the digital industry is too developed in New York to ignore. To kickoff an online selling breakfast seminar yesterday, Markowitz Chief of Staff Jon Paul Lupo quoted his boss: “after leaving [some office in Dumbo] he has often said, ‘I don’t know what those guys do, but I’m pretty sure they are the future of our economy.”

Lupo welcomed and introduced Adams, who gave a passionate speech about the need for tech, while also managing to mispronounce one of the borough’s best known technology successes: Etsy became “Eats-say.”

It was a minor slip, but the meaning was there. Adams is starting to make an effort to court the tech sector, unfamiliar territory to him, like Markowitz has.

Markowitz and Adams built their political careers in a Brooklyn tradition that has only recently seen technology flourish. They might not always be comfortable with the lingo, but it’s becoming clear that you can’t be a modern politician in New York without talking points on technology.

Look at Monday’s event, which welcomed more than 200 Brooklyn small business owners into borough hall for the second tech-focused breakfast seminar from Markowitz’s office:

  • The breakfast seminar itself had a goal of connecting IT service providers in Brooklyn with small businesses that could be likely clients. Playing that intersecting role is a new kind of constituent services and Markowitz’s office has embraced it.
  • The morning featured a slew of speakers with technology on their minds. Citing numbers from Dumbo Improvement District, Brooklyn son and the city’s Small Business Services chairman Robert Walsh said IT jobs will double from 8,000 to more than 16,000 in the next three years. But space is becoming an issue in the borough’s core, he said, so “how do we extend those technology jobs beyond downtown Brooklyn?”
  • “The goal is to make whatever happens next [in technology], happen here.” said NYCEDC president Kyle Kimball, also a Brooklyn native. “Technology is really no longer a sector in our industry but really an underpinning of all the sectors of our economy.”
  • Twenty-two companies earned fiber internet wiring support from the first rollout of the city’s ConnectNYC program, said Kimball. The July launched another outreach effort. Brooklyn should help lead the city’s technology renaissance.

The morning-long program featured three tracks of programming around efforts like social media, ecommerce and other online selling strategies. Full disclosure, Technically Brooklyn helped organize one of the seminars and this reporter moderated the panel.


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