DNA info: Bronx Startups Flex Their Tech Muscles at the Old Borough Courthouse


SOUTH BRONX — Robots and startups filled the second floor of the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse on Thursday during an event meant to show off the area's burgeoning technology scene.

Projects ranging from an online platform to help Bronx artists sell their work to video games about climate change helped demonstrate that while people may not commonly think of the South Bronx as the next Silicon Valley, the neighborhoods are no strangers to tech enterprise.

Companies had booths set up throughout the courthouse to display what they were working on, including one from Mass Ideation founder Miguel Sanchez, who said he has been developing a series of video games focusing on climate change, ocean pollution and land use for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"You have to choose what route to take to fish, and if you fish in the wrong areas that have ocean pollution, you’re not going to get as much fish," he said. "So you’re going to understand what real fishermen have to deal with because we litter so much."

Sanchez is still trying to determine how to tackle the land use game.

"That's a tough one," he said. "We're trying to figure out what's fun."

The company is also working on a program that takes people through a tour of different NOAA satellites and lets them see what each one does.

Tech company scenyc was at the courthouse as well to show off NYCNAK, an online retailer where people can purchase a curated selection of art and music.

The site focuses on artists from The Bronx, in hope to help get the borough some more recognition for all of its contributions to the art world.

"Katy Perry or whatever is not going to be on here because we’re small but also because we’re not interested," said Chanez Baali, director of scenyc. "It’s really about fostering relationships with Bronx artists."

"Hip-hop, street art has been used and used and used time and time again, and The Bronx hasn’t seen any money from this," she continued.

Products on the website can range in price from $1.50 to $10, and the platform currently has about 100 users, according to scenyc.

Although the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse had stood vacant and derelict for decades, it has recently seen a huge burst of activity.

In addition to the technology showcase, the courthouse hosted a massive art show in the spring, and the television series "Gotham" filmed there in August.

Henry Weinstein, one of the owners of the building, said he was now looking to turn the building into a museum, a workspace for artists, or some combination of the two.

Sanchez predicted The Bronx would be the next big tech hub in the city and that the borough was a perfect fit for such a boom.

"The Bronx is known for its extraordinary creativity, and the people here don't lack work ethic," he said. "It’s just opportunity they lack."

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"Diversity brings so much more to the table - and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech - we can only make it better. #YesWeCode is doing exactly that."
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple