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Net Set: Sili City

New York's Net sites get new domain names.

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Back in the mid-nineties, "Silicon Alley" meant something -- loft buildings on lower Broadway and in the Flatiron District where twentysomethings slept under their desks. But as the Net became a mall, the neighborhood became a moniker. And now that those downtown warehouse spaces rent for increasingly lofty prices, the mayor wants to make the Alley run all the way from the Bronx to the Battery and beyond. His solution? "Digital NYC: Wired to the World," a clumsily named initiative aimed at drawing digital dollars to catchily named neighborhoods. The city plans to dole out $2.5 million to landlords, ISPs, and community nonprofits to lure start-up tenants to wired buildings in "Broadband Brooklyn" (around Red Hook and dumbo), "SI Hub" (St. George, Staten Island), "BronxSmart" (the South Bronx), "HI Way 125" (125th Street in Harlem), and the not-yet-nicknamed Long Island City High Technology District. But while the plan -- the next generation of the city's "Plug 'n' Go" program, which leased more than 550,000 square feet of lower-Manhattan office space to Net companies -- is certainly auspicious, it's drawing some error messages from New York's digerati. Now that "Silicon Alley" is as much a part of the vernacular as "Wall Street" or "Madison Avenue," will ambitious entrepreneurs want to set up shop in BronxSmart -- complete with its inevitable B.S. initials -- even for rents of $10 to $18 a square foot? "I commend the mayor's office for trying to broaden the boundaries of Silicon Alley," says Omar Wasow, executive director of the African-American community site blackplanet.com, "but I think there are some very difficult challenges they'll face that having catchy neighborhood names isn't going to solve." For example? "People don't want to come to Brooklyn for a meeting."


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