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NEW YORK CITY—It's not something that many would have thought possible in the circa-2000 aftermath of the dot-com bubble, but Silicon Alley is now second only to Silicon Valley. A decade ago, few would have imagined Google having a strong presence here, let alone having 22,000 square feet to spare for CornellNYC Tech to use free of charge, as it will do beginning July 1. The university has the option to expand to 58,000 square feet at 111 Eighth Ave. while it builds an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island.

The city's tech sector has now surpassed that of the longtime first runner-up, Boston, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future, funded by AT&T New York and the Association for a Better New York. That it's now home to leading tech firms such as Google—which paid $1.8 billion in 2010 to buy the 2.9-million-square-foot 111 Eighth—is only part of the story.

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