Queens became a real estate paradise overnight when Amazon announced that half of their new headquarters would be located in Long Island City. But, in a shocking turn of events and much to St. Valentine’s dismay, the major corporation decided to pull out of their cozy new digs leaving hundreds of New Yorkers celebrating.
What’s All the Hubba Ballo?
Money, or possibly the lack thereof. You might have been hearing the number three billion a lot and that’s what Amazon was going to be given in tax breaks and subsidies. Many people opposed the deal for cutting companies, like Amazon, too much slack without any real checks and balances in place. Cities need to be tougher when it comes to taxing businesses and making sure that they actually benefit the town by contributing to schools, public transportation, and jobs.
According to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Amazon ‘took their ball and went home’ once the backlash from New Yorkers became too much. In short, Bezos felt the heat from local and state politicians, as well as American citizens about their unwelcome eresence in the Big Apple. Moves like this play into the bigger picture of how people are thinking about structuring cities for the future.
Tell me the price again
Affordable housing has been on the mouths of almost every state — cities won’t stop growing, businesses won’t stop working, which means housing prices won’t stop soaring. Originally, Amazon was planning on taking over land that was going to be used to construct 1,500 affordable housing units in Queens, but now what? Affordable housing can help those who make at little as $15K a year in New York — which was part of the deal with the tech giant, but the specifics weren’t really worked out.
So if Amazon’s plan did come with affordable housing, that would mean a lot more housing in the tight city. Which beckons the question of this being done in time with the incoming employees and property owners. What still remains is that gentrification is inevitable, especially with the real estate value of Queens.
Locals are excited to see that Queens will still be Queens. The concern of some housing organizations in the area believed that Amazon would replace families that have been in the town for decades who would be unable to afford the soon-to-be gentrified community. Instead, it would become another Seattle where city natives wouldn’t recognize their previous streets once mom and pop shops were replaced with soul cycle classes, avocado toasts bars, and basically anything that really defines what’s trendy.
The 25,000 new jobs that would’ve come to Queens could’ve brought chaos to the city’s public transit lines. Lena Afridi, the director of economic development policy at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, showed concern for NY’s subway system being able to withstand the thousands that would commute “Along the 7 line, it’s already so intensely crowded. The sheer number of people in Queens is [unprecedented], and the infrastructure that is there hasn’t been kept up,” she explained.
It was part of Amazon’s plan to improve the existing public transit infrastructure, but many were worried about the timing of everything… would the subway catch up to the building process and new workers, or would it lag behind meaning people could be spending an hour waiting to actually get on a train?
The city might’ve just lost out on a huge growth opportunity. Some Queens and New York residents were looking forward to the possibility of more jobs, like one local who said that “…it would’ve been good for people that need jobs — if they would’ve given us jobs.”
Tech leaders in the state are also disappointed with the deal falling through, focusing on the fact that thousands of jobs have just been wiped off the table. The tech industry thinks that this could send a bad image to other companies who might’ve been looking to grow in New York. There were companies planning to work with Amazon, including non-profits, that would’ve been excited to really transcend Queens. Pursuit, an educational nonprofit, was going to help the tech giant by providing tools to educate the community on technical jobs, hoping to grow Amazon’s workforce from current residents.
What loomed over supporters was the major “if”… Amazon didn’t come into town with a fully laid out plan that people could point to and have an indication of each milestone. And the biggest if concerning jobs is that no one said the company had to hire locally, so who’s to say how many jobs were going to come from current residents.
The end game
Supporters will say that there was a lot of promise — not just for job creation and growth, but for the housing market, local business, and New York’s blossoming tech scene. Anti-Amazoners are happy that they were able to get local and state government behind the citizens, taking a stand against big business by not allowing them to come in with incredible tax cuts and subsidies that taxpayers would have to cover some of.
You also have to keep in mind that New York already has some major tech names like Google and Facebook, with Apple looking to gain some real estate down the road. Even with Amazon moving out of town, New York still has the bones to compete as a tech hub on the East Coast.