New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Alicia Glen, recently announced the selection of NYU Tandon School of Engineering to “develop and operate” the “first government-funded” VR/AR hub for education, training, research, investment and business creation at a 15,000 square foot space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the Bronx, CUNY (City University of New York) Lehman College’s VR/AR Training Academy and Development Lab will prepare students for careers in the virtual and augmented reality sectors.
Speaking on a first-floor wing (known as the ‘MakerSpace’) of Tandon’s 6 Metrocenter building in Brooklyn, Glen described a cross-borough investment of $6 million by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME). The lab-hub’s ambitions to fuse VR and AR education, entrepreneurial pursuits and corporate enterprise echo those of the NYC Media Lab, a public-private partnership founded by the NYCEDC that operates out of 2 Metrocenter. Indeed, NYC Media Lab Executive Director Justin Hendrix was on site for the announcement and hailed for his role in pushing the deal.
The announcement says the incubator will provide the following:
- Support New Ventures. Provide workspace, equipment, infrastructure and early stage capital to startups, and connect them to a community of mentors and investors through key program partners. Foster the creation of new companies through entrepreneurial programing and resources.
- Increase Access and Expand Talent Pipeline. Establish presence at CUNY Lehman College’s VR/AR Training Academy to develop a citywide VR/AR talent pipeline. Build a curriculum of executive and professional education programs. Offer hands-on learning opportunities, apprenticeships, and scholarships for students.
- Research. Create the preeminent VR/AR research center in the country by drawing on the expertise of faculty and students from NYU, Columbia University, CUNY, The New School and other partner institutions in order to push the bounds of technological advance in these fields and create the breakthroughs from which new ventures emerge.
- Build VR/AR Community. Convene investors, university researchers, cross-industry leaders, and civic and cultural partners through programming and events.
- Spur Corporate VR/AR Innovation. Offer membership and consultative services to companies, including access to startups and projects, and corporate innovation programs designed to prototype new solutions and launch new ventures.
The move is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger New York Works initiative, which aims, the press release quotes the mayor, “to spur 100,000 good-paying jobs in ten years,” many of those in tech and related sectors. Per the press release and declarations repeated ad nauseam throughout the event, “the lab will directly create over 500 jobs over the next ten years.” First, of course, it has to open; that’s scheduled to happen near the end of 2017.
Deputy Mayor Glen was not the only city official to speak. Councilman and Chair of the Committee on Economic Development Daniel R. Garodnick—who represents a motley mass of mid-Manhattan neighborhoods that includes what many say is the city’s unequivocal pit, Murray Hill—appeared in Brooklyn to tout “silicon alley,” a uniquely grim bit of dad-joke marketing coined, of course, in the ’90s. One struggles to imagine it attracting anyone to New York in 2017. Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin kindly refrained from using the term during her remarks.