Paul Trapani is mixing what he calls a citrus cooler, a rich blend of lemon-lime, orange mango, and seltzer.
He is standing behind a makeshift bar in a room shaped liked a baseball diamond as he completes his homemade blend in a high-tech building at the end of an otherwise drab street in Plainview.
As he blends, several people who work in the building, young women studying to become accountants and software designers, gather about the bar, waiting for their drinks.
This might all seem to be some after-work party, but it is actually part of the weekly Thursday afternoon routine at ListNet, an organization that was founded in 1997. Long Island Software & Technology Network has spawned several tech companies that are now stand-alone, self-sufficient entities that employ dozens of people in Nassau and Suffolk counties. ListNet is Long Island’s largest technology organization.
The building ListNet now occupies — its latest incarnation after briefly using spaces at a former Grumman Corporation building in Great River and at Briarcliffe College — is called, simply, the Digital Baseball. That’s because the main room, where the bar is located, is shaped like a diamond, and when the facility opened in 2015, there were only nine offices, like the nine positions on a baseball team. There are now 30 offices.
“Most people go to their offices and they are by themselves,” said Peter Goldsmith, a ListNet founder and now the organization’s chairman. ListNet is Long Island’s largest technology organization, he said. “But we wanted to have a place where people could feel like a family.”
Goldsmith said the offices — all 30 of them — filled up quickly, with tech companies and law offices. There was no advertising for space, Goldsmith said. “It was all word of mouth.”
Ed Eisenstein, CEO and founder of United Network Associates, a full-service IT company, decided to locate at the Digital Ballpark several years ago after a few discussions with Goldsmith, “I felt he was here to help me,” said Eisenstein. He also enjoys the weekly happy hours.
“It relieves the pressure of having to talk about work,” Eisenstein said. “You understand who the other people are. All of us here are trying to find out what we should do in life.”
Raj Mehta, owner of the Digital Ballpark building and founder of a tech company himself, Raj Technologies, said he worked with Goldsmith and Trapani to create the tech environment.
“I wanted to create an incubator,” Mehta said. We talked about putting this together for a long time. The key is to help people succeed.”
There is a cost for all of this. Depending on the size of the individual office, and the amenities – whether it is equipped with kitchen facilities – rents can range from $600 to $1,500 per month.
Goldsmith said ListNet has never had trouble making its rent. Aside from the 30 offices, there are three high-tech conference rooms, and high-speed internet access throughout the facility. There is another facility, in Huntington, that caters to tech companies. But the Digital Ballpark is the only one of its kind in Nassau.
Mehta said he sees the need for more such centers on Long Island as tech becomes more and more a part of Long Island’s economy. “We need more organizations to help us do this,” Mehta said.
In the meantime, the people who work at the Digital Ballpark have few complaints on a hot summer afternoon as they enjoy Trapani’s drinks and the special bread and cookies he sometimes bakes.
“You get to meet with a lot of different people” during the Thursday happy hours, said Lidia Orellana, who is studying to be an accountant and now works for the firm Anthony J. Cassar, in the building. “We learn about each other’s business, and we get a little break from work.”
Her co-worker, Jeisenia Carrion, also studying for the certified public accountant exam, said she finds working at the Digital Ballpark exciting.
“There’s a lot of different conversations going on all of the time,” Carrion said. “I look forward to all of them.” Through these talks, she said, she has learned about government tax programs others are working on. “These happy hours open the door to things,” Carrion said.
Trapani, ListNet’s president and owner of the tech company PassTech Development LLC, likes serving as bartender and host of the weekly happy hours. The events used to be once a month, he said. But they became so popular they are now weekly. Sometimes, a large crowd shows up. At other times, only a few gather around the bar. But, he said, there are always smiles.
“It’s just a fun event,” she said.