Over the past few years, New York City has become an emerging high-technology cluster as a wide swath of Manhattan stretching from 42nd Street to SoHo has been given the namesake “Silicon Alley,” with the arrival of many tech start-ups such as Foursquare, located near Union Square and the establishment of new offices for corporate titans such as Google in Chelsea and Facebook in Midtown. There are distinct differences between “Silicon Alley” and its West Coast counterpart in Silicon Valley. While high-tech companies are mostly located in sprawling office parks along arterial roads in Northern California, offices of tech firms in Manhattan, both large and small, are situated mere blocks from each other. While start-up companies in Palo Alto are 45 minutes away from the region’s primary financial district in downtown San Francisco, their Manhattan counterparts are a
short subway ride away from Midtown or Wall Street. Given the major presence of financial services, media, and advertising companies in Manhattan, New York City has become a preferred destination for ambitious, forward-looking start-up technology firms.
This past weekend, The New York Daily News reported that numerous start-up technology firms seemed to be oriented around the “R” line of the New York City subway that travels from Brooklyn, up Broadway in Manhattan, and to Astoria, Queens. The Daily News referred to the “R” as the city’s “Silicon Subway,” as many firms have decided that a location with good accessibility to mass transit is appealing out of consideration for how their employees, many of whom live in Brooklyn, commute to work. This map above from The New York Times shows where the hundreds of tech startups that have secured venture capital funding over the past year were located. I drew in the R-train’s route to illustrate how these start-up tech firms appear to be oriented around the subway and along Broadway.
Since 2002, Brooklyn has become a popular place to live for Manhattan’s high-income creative professionals: estimates based on US Census population and worker-household dynamics data reveal that the number of Manhattan workers earning more than $75,000 per year living in Brooklyn has increased by 217%, and the number of Manhattan workers in professional and technical services (a broad category that includes most high-tech occupations) living in Brooklyn has increased by 29%. Since about 4 out of every 5 Manhattan workers commuting from Brooklyn take the subway to work, and this reliance on mass transit in commuting continues to shape where employers choose to locate in New York City, as these maps have illustrated. Just as financial employers migrated to Midtown Manhattan to be closer to major transit hubs that their workers use when traveling to work from the suburbs, these start-up technology firms have also oriented themselves near mass transit, along the “Silicon Subway.”