Bridge in the Bronx
By Angie Kamath
Executive Director, Per Scholas
The last decade has seen an upsurge in innovative companies and start-ups transforming many areas of New York, notably Brooklyn’s Navy Yard and Dumbo neighborhoods. These communities – once considered downtrodden – are now vital seed beds for young businesses and opportunistic entrepreneurs. This trend has positively altered the socio-economic landscape of those areas by creating countless jobs and providing a huge boost to local businesses.
Yet somehow, the same innovation renaissance that continues to redefine boroughs like Brooklyn has not made its way to the Bronx. A number of factors have played a role in this, including a lack of infrastructure in some of these areas – but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
For nearly 20 years, Per Scholas has been working to bridge the broad digital divide separating low-income communities in the Bronx and elsewhere in the city from the more fortunate neighborhoods. Which is why we were genuinely excited to learn about New York City’s partnership with CityBridge to launch LinkNYC, a free Wi-Fi network offering high-speed internet across the five boroughs via de-commissioned telephone booths.
Under current plans, LinkNYC would transform the city’s existing payphone kiosks into public hubs for the world’s fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network. While everyone in the city will benefit, the access and opportunity here will greatly impact areas such as the South Bronx, where this type of technology is not readily available to or financially feasible for most households and businesses.
Until now, parts of the Bronx and other underdeveloped areas of the city have lacked any sort of technological infrastructure for growing jobs and attracting new business.
Connectivity is a powerful tool that will give overlooked and underdeveloped parts of not only the Bronx, but other parts of New York City an invaluable boost, paving the way for innovative and tech-savvy businesses to begin transforming these neighborhoods. A surge of tech-enabled businesses will bring new, higher-wage jobs to the Bronx and communities across the entire city.
As an integral part of this community for 20 years, Per Scholas is heartily encouraged to see this initiative taking shape and we look forward to the use of a free network of high-speed Wi-Fi across the boroughs, bringing greater opportunities to the city as a whole. It will be our job to ready this growing workforce to help rollout the technology and take advantage of all the system has to offer for both the immediate future and long-term development. With an improved infrastructure in place, it is clear other areas of the city have similar potential for growth.
For more information on Per Scholas, please visit www.perscholas.org.