NEW YORK — Facebook will open an engineering center in New York City early next year, its first such office outside the West Coast, the social network giant announced Friday.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg joined elected officials for the announcement at Facebook's existing New York office on Madison Avenue. Sandberg would not say how many people Facebook would hire in New York, only that the company plans to add "thousands" worldwide in coming years.
Sandberg said the company will stay in its current location at Bank of America Plaza for the time being. The building overlooks Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
"Both New York and Facebook share this kind of energy that's really hard to describe, and both make you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself," said Serkan Piantino, who will head up the engineering unit.
Facebook's New York office currently focuses on advertising sales and employs about 100 people. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has about 3,000 employees; its engineers are based in Palo Alto and Seattle.
After arriving at Facebook's office, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York's U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wrote messages in magic marker on a wall, the real-world equivalent of Facebook's "Wall" messaging area.
"Facebook loves New York," the senator wrote.
Schumer said the city has been striving to bring in computer engineering jobs.
"We have turned the corner," Schumer said. "New York is pleased to call Facebook a friend."
Bloomberg said West Coast tech companies "are finding that New York is the place they need to be."
The two politicians toured Facebook's 17th floor office, where dozens of young employees worked around long tables. Like the offices of other tech companies, it featured snack bars stocked with pizza and other free food. Conference rooms were named after gadgets seen in infomercials, like the Thighmaster Room, the Flowbee Room and the Shake Weight Room.
Facebook joins Google Inc. and a trove of smaller tech startups with offices in New York City. Among them are Foursquare, the blogging service Tumblr, as well as the online marketplace Etsy and Meetup, which lets people organize offline meetings online.
But "Silicon Alley," as it is sometimes dubbed, has not attracted the hordes of engineers that Silicon Valley has and New York startups sometimes struggle to find qualified candidates for these jobs. Facebook, though, could change that.
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, who follows social networking companies, said Facebook's reason for opening an engineering office in the city might have to do with wanting to be close to New York industries like finance or music. It's certainly not an economic decision – Facebook will have to pay its New York workers for the city's high cost of living.
However, payroll shouldn't be a problem for the world's largest online social network. The company is flush with cash and could fetch as much as $10 billion in an initial public offering next year.
Facebook's move to expand its presence mirrors that of Google, which opened an office in New York to tap into Manhattan's advertising, media and finance industries.
Google's office is in a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey building that takes up an entire city block. The building has one of the biggest footprints in the city, and Google workers use children's scooters to get around.
Google has tried to recreate the free-wheeling feel of its California headquarters with ping pong tables, free food and a "Lego room."
The Facebook engineering office will be led by Piantino, who previously managed the team behind Facebook's News Feed and built the infrastructure behind Timeline.
Associated Press Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.