Google New York: Scooters, Slides, And Legos -- Oh My!

Before Craig Nevill-Manning became Google’s first engineer in New York in 2003, he had to get Google (GOOG) cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as well as CEO Eric Schmidt to sign off on the idea.

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All three were reluctant to expand Google New York beyond a sales office. They didn’t imagine the New York area had the engineering talent Google would need.

When we visited Craig at Google’s New York offices last week, he told us Larry, Sergey, and Eric finally told him he could set up an engineering outpost in New York, “as long as I found at least fifteen good software engineers.”

Six years later, Google employs between 700 and 800 software engineers in New York, housing most of them in the old New York Port Authority. (It is, by square-footage, the largest office building in the whole city.) Craig, now an engineering director, says he drew talent from Wall Street, IBM Labs, and Bell Labs.

Larry, Sergey, and Eric’s worry that New York may lack engineering talent — relative to Silicon Valley — is a fairly common one held out west.

But while its huge sales force probably remains Google New York’s biggest contribution to the company, engineers from the office are responsible for some of the products consumers most closely identify with the brand, including Google Maps, Google Docs, and Google Finance.

Really, though. Don’t worry about Google’s New Yorkers developing an inferiority complex. From what we can tell, they’re not pining for Mountain View.

“We’re much cooler,” says Craig. “I mean you walk outside the Google campus, Mountain View, it’s kind of a parking lot.”

“The fact that we’re actually in this building with Chelsea Market and the High Line next door, [we’re located where] people [can] live close by and so on — I’m totally biased I think but on average the people we end up with here are a little more interesting than the average in California.”

We also talked to Google New York’s director of product management Brad Bender and he put Google New York’s superiority in terms that would reverberate with any Googler — in Mountain View or elsewhere.

“I personally believe we have the best cafeteria of all the Google cafeterias,” said Brad. “That’s a closely guarded secret among the New York staff.”

When we stopped by Google New York last week, we brought our camera.

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Google's office is the huge brown brick one on 8th Avenue in Chelsea

It's the old New York Port Authority. By square-footage, it's the biggest office building in New York.

It's in Chelsea, where the walls are glass and they write the specials in chalk

Step off the elevator and here's what you see. The water bottles are for guests only.

Apparently Googlers read USA Today and Informationweek

Why not brush up on your Java skills when using the urinal?

Google's famous snack selection.

The requisite schmancy espresso machine

The company keeps maps on its walls in case Googlers get lost

One hallway is full of old computers…

…and old video game consoles.

I found my first PC, an Amiga by Commodore

An early predecessor to Google Docs

Here are the founders, Lego-ized.

Googlers really love their Legos

We saw this on a white board, but it wasn't the droid we were looking for

Google New York has a satellite office across the street above Chelsea Market

The smaller office feels more like a startup

Yes, that's a slide in the background

Lounge chairs for those who want to get a little tube light?

The Chelsea Market office has startup-y graffiti on some of its walls

That table doesn't actually have kerosene in it. We think.

Google colours are everywhere

New York Googlers hold meetings with their Mountain View counterparts using videoconferencing, which is hooked up in almost every room.

Real living people do work at Google New York, but PR asked us not to take pictures of them

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