A co-working facility planned for the Wyandanch Rising redevelopment project will seek to increase the number of women and minorities in technology jobs, among other objectives, officials said.
The co-working space, called the Digital Ballpark, will occupy 3,000 square feet on the first floor of one of two apartment buildings near the Long Island Rail Road station in Wyandanch.
The facility will consist of 13 rental offices, a pantry, and a conference room for training programs and weekly events. The space is intended to be used by tech startups.
“Tech companies need techies,” said Peter Goldsmith, founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Long Island Software & Technology Network (LISTnet), which will run the space. “And they won’t grow on Long Island unless they get the right employees . . . We need more women, more minorities pursuing careers in technology.”
LISTnet's other co-working site opened in Plainview two years ago and now is home to about two dozen startups.
Goldsmith said LISTnet is working with the Urban League of Long Island on tech training programs for minorities. LISTnet also hopes to recruit entrepreneurs from Wyandanch.
“Within two months of construction, this place will be filled,” he told the Suffolk County Economic Development Corp. last week.
The development corporation’s board of directors agreed unanimously to oversee two state grants for the co-working facility, which could total $460,000, and approved that LISTnet would run the Ballpark.
Theresa Ward, board chairman and the county’s economic development commissioner, said increasing the number of tech workers is critical. She said Suffolk found when it was competing for the Amazon HQ2 project that “it’s all about talent: attraction and retention.”
The Albanese Organization, developer of Wyandanch Rising, has set aside 3,000 square feet for the facility, but vice president Raymond Czajkowski said there is room for expansion into an adjacent vacant storefront: “It’s there if the success is there.”
Albanese, based in Garden City, has struggled to fill storefronts in its two apartment buildings. Eight stores have opened so far, including a 7-Eleven convenience store, Domino's Pizza, New York Community Bank and a Caribbean foods restaurant displaced by the buildings’ construction.
Another apartment building will begin going up later this month now that the adjacent buildings are fully occupied, according to Czajkowski.
LISTnet president Paul Trapani, who also is a business consultant, said tenants in the co-working space probably will work together on projects. “It’s more than just office space. The people there are collaborating,” he said, adding they get to know one another at Friday happy-hours and tech meetup events.
Funding for the project is coming from two state sources: Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, and the State Legislature.
ESD is providing $210,000, endorsed by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
ESD chief Howard Zemsky, who was raised in Woodbury, said the Digital Ballpark in Plainview "is a proven model for success." Replicating the model, "combined with workforce development training programs and resources for the local community, the project is planting the seeds for a burgeoning tech hub in Wyandanch,” he said.
Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) applied for the $250,000 state grant for the co-working space.
“With young professionals flocking to Brooklyn and Manhattan in search of startup space, I can think of no better location for a technology hub than in the heart of Wyandanch Village," she said.