Green Tech Wants Its Say in the Race for New York’s Next Mayor

Last night while ballots were cast in the mayoral primaries, part of the New York innovation community gathered at the Green Spaces coworking and event venue to display and discuss ideas for creating a greener cityscape.

In addition to being a shared space for startups, Green Spaces, which also has a site in Denver, wants to see new ideas and action to address climate concerns. The devastation wrought last year by Superstorm Sandy and other shifts in the environment have prompted some members of the green community to seek new dialogues for change—especially as New York gears up to choose its next mayor.

So at the soirée held last night in conjunction with Green Drinks NYC, local companies such as GoGreenRide, whose app lets people book livery drivers in hybrid cars; healthy snacks maker KIND; and Young’s New American Food plied the room with refreshments and talk of ways to be more environmentally conscious. Amid the chatter about green living, independent mayoral candidate Jack Hidary got on the proverbial soapbox to try to drum up support for his campaign. (This past summer Green Spaces, not playing favorites, hosted then-mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner who also sought the backing of the green crowd.)

The race for the next mayor has gotten special attention from the overall New York innovation community including interviews conducted by the New York Tech Meetup with candidates as well as musings about the race by venture capitalist Fred Wilson on his blog. With a new mayor in the offing after 12 years of Michael Bloomberg, whose administration has inked a number of initiatives to support  innovation, New York faces an undetermined future.

The $2 billion Cornell NYC Tech engineering campus to be built on Roosevelt Island, for example, is still years away from completion and plans to expand technology education at other local universities and schools are in the works—but a lot can happen when a city’s administration changes.

With the results of last night’s primaries in, Republican candidate Joe Lhota clinched his party’s nomination while Bill de Blasio took the lead among the Democrats with a runoff still possible. Meanwhile independent Hidary told Xconomy he plans to continue his grassroots efforts emphasizing a desire to support innovation of all types, including green tech, in the city. “It’s very important we invest and nurture in our entrepreneurial space,” he says. “That’s not just Silicon Alley or tech companies; we need all kinds of sectors including the green space.”

Part of Hidary’s pitch is to see the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a former ship building hub turned industrial park, and other areas evolve as research and development centers for green companies. This could include the development of energy efficient lighting and solar panels, he says. Coworking space such as Green Spaces and the NYC ACRE incubator, Hidary says, offer room for green technology startups to flourish. “It’s important that we [also] connect these startups with larger companies such as Johnson Controls, Honeywell, General Electric, and others some—some who have very big offices in New York City—so they can distribute their products,” he says.

A Brooklyn native, Hidary emerged from the city’s entrepreneurial trenches co-founding EarthWeb, an online service for tech professionals that went public and acquired career website Departing from EarthWeb, which later became Dice Holdings, Hidary joined economic development advocacy group the Partnership for NYC and is currently chairman of Samba Energy, a software and services provider for clean energy and energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

Discussions of green ideas may seem a little out of place in a metropolis of steel, concrete, and asphalt, but a variety of startups in New York have been nurturing flora amid the bricks. From Hidary’s perspective, moving to a city such as New York can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint. “The density is your friend when it comes to green,” he says. The combination of public transit, reduced energy usage in buildings, car sharing, and other forms of collaborative consumption, Hidary says, offer efficiency and lower costs. “I want to [see] on-street car sharing just as San Antonio, Austin, and Paris have done,” he says, “so you can use a smartphone to reserve a car that is right there on the street.”

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