New York Wins Amazon, but do New Yorkers Lose?
After a yearlong search for Amazon’s next headquarters, out of 238 submissions and 20 finalists, Amazon has selected Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City, VA as the twin sites of its next HQ, known as HQ2. The project is set to create thousands of construction jobs, 25,000-40,000 high paying tech jobs in each city, and at least $5 Billion in investment. However, with Amazon moving to the Big Apple, how do New Yorkers actually benefit?
First, let’s start with the positives. With a plethora of new, high paying tech jobs (the average annual salary for an employee at HQ2 is $150,000), the local and broader regional economy should receive a boost. Small businesses across the region should receive a marginal influx of new customers. Land values, depending upon the proximity of the area to Long Island City, should increase. Land values in Long Island City and neighboring communities such as Greenpoint and Astoria have already seen their land values skyrocket. That, in combination with the ongoing development of new high rise condos in LIC, creates one of the best real estate markets in the Nation thanks to Amazon’s arrival.
However, with the benefits, there are also numerous drawbacks. Firstly, New York State is giving Amazon $1.8 Billion in tax benefits via multiple programs. This means that even people as far as Buffalo, and even those here on Long Island, will be paying Amazon with our tax dollars. Another drawback is that with increased land values in already the second most expensive real estate market in the nation, it may force out longtime residents who could no longer afford rent in their neighborhoods. Many people, because of this fact, are clamoring for affordable housing in LIC; however, it would serve far fewer people than those who are projected to leave.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, our infrastructure in LIC and the city as a whole is crumbling, particularly our subway. The lines that are to serve the new HQ (E, M, 7, G at Court Square) are among the most delayed and already at capacity lines in the system. And with no funding as of now to the plan to retrofit these lines with improvements that will increase their reliability, the subway system may not be able to handle the addition of 25,000+ jobs.
The right plan, that will improve our infrastructure, mitigate the rising real estate prices for long-time residents, and maybe get some sort of benefit for the billions NY is giving Amazon, the HQ2 plan will benefit all involved. However, as of now, New York won, but its New Yorkers lost.