Silicon Valley 2.0 in the heart of Queens?
That’s the dream of one young veteran and businessman: to turn Queens into the next hub for innovation and technology.
Jukay Hsu, 26, grew up in Flushing and Bayside and graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan graduating from Harvard University with a degree in economics then, in a rare move for an Ivy League graduate, joining the U.S. Army.
And now he hopes to help facilitate the inclusion of a campus of a top-tier university such as Stanford or Cornell in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $3 billion plan for the redevelopment of Willets Point.
After commanding a 39-soldier infantry platoon during dozens of patrols in Iraq, he moved in 2009 into a position where he directed the Army’s economic development and governance initiatives in a 4,400-square-mile section of the Middle Eastern country with 600,000 people.
“In college, you look at a lot of things at the macro level. The experience in Iraq was the opposite. They said here’s a bunch of money, see what you can do with it,” Hsu said in an interview. “It was amazing. That’s what led me to what I’m doing now.”
Jen Friedberg, a spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., did not offer a detailed response to Hsu’s proposal, but said the agency is keeping its attention on the 12-acre first phase of the project.
“We are focusing on Phase One,” she said.
Last month, Hsu returned to his Flushing stomping grounds, where he heard about Bloomberg’s effort, announced Dec. 16, to attract a leading research university to build a satellite campus in New York City. Bloomberg issued a request for proposals from colleges interested in being that school and more than two dozen responded.
Hsu thinks the 62-acre Iron Triangle is an even better choice than the sites Bloomberg suggested in the RFP: Governor’s and Roosevelt islands, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Farm Colony in Staten Island. Willets Point’s proximity to a wide range of transportation options makes the site’s location ideal, but Queens residents are who really make Willets the place for innovation to take root, according to Hsu, who says he has “no commercial or political interest” in the proposal.
Hsu, who moved to America from Taiwan when he was 3 years old, also said the fact that Flushing is an immigrant community means it has a strong talent pool, as the original Silicon Valley in California has.
“We have the ingredients here to spur the next Silicon Valley. Our work force is highly skilled and educated. There are very few places in the world where we can foster this entrepreneurial opportunity,” he said. “It’s the best place in the city to do this.”
And it appears he is convincing others to follow his lead. He has met with and received encouragement from supporters of the Willets Point redevelopment plan including City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and former Borough President Claire Shulman.
He also convinced his friend of many years, Stacy Chen, 27, to help him pursue his goal until the fall, when her first semester pursuing an MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology begins. Chen, who met Hsu as a teenager in Flushing and recently reconnected with him, said she is driven to see her neighborhood succeed and is assisting him in the push to bring a university to Willets Point.
“Even though we all walked different paths after high school, we’re coming back to give back to the community and generate opportunities for the next generation,” she said. “I would love to see this community take the right approach toward its financial future.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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