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New York Gets Googled

The Big Apple has become an epicenter of tech talent and innovation -- and Google's second home.

Step out of New York's 14th Street subway stop, turn up Eighth Avenue, and there, in the heart of Chelsea -- amid the traffic, delis, pizzerias, and restaurants -- is Google's largest software engineering center outside of Mountain View, Calif. Within the massive former headquarters of the New York Port Authority, Google software engineers and other tech professionals work in small teams on dozens of projects, including the search company's Bigtable storage system, Spreadsheets application, and Google Print Ads marketplace for newspaper advertising.

Why is Google making the Big Apple its second home? Proximity to Madison Avenue and the media companies -- the four major TV networks, Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp., Hearst, New York Times Co., Bloomberg -- is only part of the answer. The New York metro area is emerging -- or re-emerging -- as one of the hottest technology centers in the world. Silicon Valley and Redmond, Wash., may spring to mind as the software havens of the United States, and new hubs like Bangalore, India, are flourishing overseas, but the New York area employs more technology people than any place in North America. The greater New York area employed 813,000 people in technology-related jobs in 2005, according to U.S. government labor statistics crunched by the New York Software Industry Association, compared with 283,000 in San Francisco and San Jose.

New York has the infrastructure -- the telecom networks, office space, lawyers, and other professional services -- and local schools keep the talent pipeline full. Prestigious research facilities such as IBM's Watson Research Center to the north and Bell Labs to the west began employing computer scientists more than 45 years ago, and the area's universities -- the City University of New York, Columbia, New York University, Polytechnic, Princeton -- keep churning them out.

Room with a view: Google engineering directors Alan Warren, Marcus Mitchell, and Craig Nevill-Manning -- Photo by Sacha Lecca

Room with a view: Google engineering directors Alan Warren, Marcus Mitchell, and Craig Nevill-Manning

Photo by Sacha Lecca

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Unlike Silicon Valley, where Stanford-bred entrepreneurs hatch new ideas in search of buyers or IPOs, New York's tech culture is rooted in the business-user community. Financial industry heavyweights such as American International Group, American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, MetLife, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Nasdaq, New York Life, and the New York Stock Exchange employ tens of thousands of IT pros here, while new-media companies such as DoubleClick provide fertile workplaces for building out Web 2.0. Among conventional tech vendors, Arrow Electronics, Avaya, CA, IBM, Information Builders, Lucent, and Verizon call the metro area home.

"The New York thing is very simple," says Google engineering director Craig Nevill-Manning, who got the ball rolling four years ago when Google first opened an engineering center near Times Square. "There are a large number of incredibly skilled computer scientists in the area. That's why we're here."

Google moved its offices to the Chelsea neighborhood about three months ago to make room for more people. When you count sales and marketing staff, the company now employs 500 people in New York, and it's hiring more as fast as it can. Google lists 19 software engineering openings in New York -- in decision support, mobility, Java, and mapping APIs, for example -- and 14 positions in operations and internal IT support. It's looking for a Web developer, interaction designers, and a usability lab coordinator, too. Company officials won't say how many IT people will ultimately work at Google New York, but, with more than 250,000 square feet of space in its new digs, there's room for many more (see story, "Googleplex East: Search And The City").

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Google is trying to lure them with a work-lifestyle environment that combines the best of its perks-filled Mountain View headquarters with big-city surroundings. On a recent morning in Google New York's cafeteria, chefs prepared sautéed broccoli rabe, fish tacos, and tomato salsa, which, along with everything else within reach, including the sushi, are free to employees. An outdoor patio opens to a cityscape featuring the Empire State Building 20 blocks to the north.

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