What Amazon’s new headquarters means for Long Island City residents

Photo by Li Cohen

The announcement that Amazon will be opening a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens has thousands of New Yorkers in an uproar, and it may be for good reason.

While the company has promised that the move will bring 25,000 new jobs to the city, an investigation published in February shows a different scenario. The Economic Policy Institute found that Amazon’s fulfillment centers offered no net growth in jobs overall after being built. While there are new jobs offered, the displacement caused by the development of the site itself is practically devastating to the community and makes the new jobs offered essentially negligible.

It is also essential to factor in the cost automatically associated with the state allowing Amazon to move its headquarters into Long Island City. New York officials offered the company more than $1.5 billion in tax credits and $500 million in construction funding, as well as funding for a helipad.

Residents of Long Island City and surrounding areas have already expressed concern over gentrification. LIC is a minority-majority neighborhood, with 41 percent of residents being immigrants. The cost of living in the city has most families paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent and 19 percent of residents living in poverty.

Despite the city’s original plans to use the headquarter location around Anable Basin for much-needed apartments, public education services and tech jobs, Amazon will occupy the four-million-square-foot area directly on the East River. They hope to double that area over the next decade, displacing more people, more jobs and more businesses within the area.  The recently upgraded Anable Basin includes 335,000-square-feet of space for creative purposes, 4,995 housing units – 25 percent of which is affordable housing – a public school, water recreation, and numerous small businesses.

Protests about the plan flared up within 24 hours of the announcement. ABC 7 reported one LIC resident saying that if Amazon wishes to make its way to her city, they need to invest back in the area’s infrastructure. She told reporters that having a new and large distribution center from a major company is going to cause a spike in rent and basic goods. Others are saying that the money spent on Amazon should be spent on fixing New York’s transportation issues, housing, schools and small businesses.

Long Island City was selected for Amazon’s new location along with National Landing in Arlington, Virginia out of 238 bids from cities last year. The exact logistics of the move to New York have not yet been announced, but Amazon expects to begin hiring people in early 2019.

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