NYC Mayoral Hopefuls Share How They Will Keep Techies Happy
New York mayoral hopefuls are talking tech—sometimes—while trying to capture the vote of Silicon Alley entrepreneurs.
Four of the candidates, former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, Sal Albanese, former Bronx borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. and city Comptroller John Liu, spoke at the Mayoral Candidates Tech Policy Forum on Monday evening, sharing their stance on tech-related policies.
New York is second to only Silicon Valley when it comes to a burgeoning tech industry, but a shortage of a talented workforce and rising costs threaten to put a damper on its growth, the candidates said at the event, which was hosted by the Coalition for Queens, a advocacy group that promotes technology focused entrepreneurship in Queens.
One of the most immediate challenges facing the tech community in the city is finding affordable commercial property for start-ups, said Albanese, a former NYC councilman and Democratic mayor hopeful. This issue is caused by poor zoning regulations where too much of an area is zoned for residential real estate, Albanese said.
"In Williamsburg, that community has really been revitalized in a sense, but when I talk to young people, I guess they call them 'hipsters,' they tell me that they would love to have their start-ups in Williamsburg, but they have to go to SoHo, they have to go to Manhattan because it's not zoned for office space," Albanese said.
If elected, Albanese said that one of his priorities would be to work with the city planning commission to develop zoning that would free space up for start-ups and that would also be discounted.
But it's not just expensive commercial space ailing the tech community. Expensive housing costs are also keeping talent locked out of the city, said Weiner.
"We could improve the housing environment here in the city. It's very difficult to attract someone to come to a city, as much as they would want to live there, if it's getting harder and harder to find an affordable place to live," Weiner said.
Carrión, who is running as an independent, and Democrat Liu said they saw education as an integral part of the solution when it comes to meeting the tech industry's growing demand for skilled workers.
Carrión suggested a partnership between growth industries like tech and the city's education system as a possible way to help bridge the knowledge divide. Growth industries should be "infused" into the city's education system so that students are better qualified for in-demand jobs in the city."
The candidates also had a chance to weigh in on 3-D printing, although none of them seemed to know what the technology is.
(Read More: 3-D Printers and the Cool Stuff They Make )
When asked about their plans to encourage more growth in the industry, which already includes big companies like Makerbot and Shapeways, the candidates seemed dumbfounded.
"Makerbot? Sounds like a beer they serve in a Williamsburg bar," Weiner said.
To be fair, this isn't the first time Weiner has had a technology gaffe, so at least he had a good sense of humor about it.
(Read More: Weiner-Gate and the New Media)
Albanese and Adolfo admitted they were just as stumped on the matter. Liu wasn't present when the question was asked.
—By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.