Flatiron BID expands public access to WiFi

Argo Tea on Broadway is one of the businesses that has a device for public WiFi installed as part of the new program. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Argo Tea on Broadway is one of the businesses that has a device for public WiFi installed as part of the new program. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Flatiron Partnership/BID announced the completion of a wireless corridor in the district on Monday, offering access to public WiFi on the street and in various businesses throughout the neighborhood.

The recently-announced expansion is bringing public WiFi to additional streets throughout the district, strengthening the signal from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue South along 23rd Street and adding service on Fifth Avenue from 25th to 21st Streets, on Broadway from 24th to 21st Streets and on 21st Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

The BID partnered with 13 businesses, including Alan Tanksley, Inc., Argo Tea, Flatiron Green Café, Marimekko, ilili BOX and others to install equipment for the expanded network.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially announced a program to bring free public WiFi to various commercial districts throughout the city in the fall of 2013. The Wireless Corridor Challenge was led by the city’s Economic Development Corporation and was awarded to five organizations in the city, including the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership. Sky Packets, a company that focuses on providing WiFi for retail businesses, worked with the Flatiron Partnership to implement the network.

Flatiron Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Brown said that the district actually implemented limited free WiFi in the area prior to that initiative in 2011, which was solely sponsored by the BID but was only available on the public plazas. The initiative by Bloomberg expanded the coverage to 23rd Street from Sixth to Third Avenues.

The device is set up in the back part of Tanksley’s office at 186 Fifth Avenue in a closet and he said that while the equipment takes up more space than a personal wireless setup, it doesn’t affect the day-to-day for his business.

“Assuming it’s not radiating some kind of gamma rays, it’s just back there doing its thing,” he joked. “It’s workable for us. I’m a civic minded person and if it helps the greater public, there isn’t a reason I wouldn’t say yes to giving it some space.”

Two Trees Management at 50 West 23rd Street offered space in their building for one of the devices and Director of Special Projects David Lombino said that the company is looking forward to helping foster the growing tech community in the district.

“We know how important it is for those working in the industry to have the right tools to see their creations come to life,” he said. “Partnering to bring a wireless corridor to this flourishing neighborhood, we’ll make sure everyone stays connected.”

The Flatiron Partnership will be recognizing the contributions of the property owners and commercial businesses that participated by honoring them at the Partnership’s annual meeting on Thursday, June 11.

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