In November, online giant Amazon announced that it would establish a new headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, and a second in Crystal City, right across the river from Washington D.C. The New York headquarters announcement has drawn a wide range of responses from residents there. A December 2018 poll indicated that nearly 60% of New Yorkers supported the headquarters decision. However, many prominent politicians and activists adamantly oppose the move and are concerned about Amazon’s business practices, the tax incentives used to entice the move, and the effects the headquarters might have on their neighborhoods. However, exactly how will Amazon’s new headquarters affect Queens and the surrounding area? Let’s look at Amazon’s HQ2, and investigate what it means to New Yorkers.
Jobs Jobs, Jobs
When it comes to landing a major company headquarters, one of the biggest things cities and deal-watchers are looking for is jobs; specifically, everyone wants to know how many jobs the deal will bring, and what type of jobs they’ll be. For New York, the jobs are coming, and they’re mostly high paying ones. Amazon expects to create 25,000 new positions at its new Long Island City campus. Those jobs will have an average salary of $150,000 per year, so these new employees will have considerable income to spend in their neighborhoods. If Amazon’s Seattle presence is any indication, many of these new employees will live close to that new headquarters, too; about 20% of Seattle’s population lives in the same zip code where they work.
However, while politicians who supported the deal lauded the job creation impact of Amazon’s move, other experts downplayed its significance. Many noted that even 25,000 jobs is a tiny percentage of the overall picture in New York City’s job market, and doubted that it would have much of an economic impact. Critics of the deal, noting that incentives the state offered equated to roughly $48,000 for each of these new jobs, have further argued that the headquarters wasn’t worth such an investment at the expense of New York taxpayers, who don’t appear poised to benefit significantly from the move.
New York State offered Amazon a package of incentives valued at over $1.5 billion to build its new headquarters in New York, one of the most contentious parts of the deal. However, in return, Amazon has offered several immediate benefits to the neighborhoods that are most directly affected by the move, and many of those benefits are focused on education. For example, Amazon promised to locate a large intermediate school on or near its New York campus, replacing a school that the city had previously planned to build. The new school may help to alleviate the problem of classroom crowding in Queens; however, whether it’ll have an effect is an open question.
Amazon’s relocation will also have a further impact on education and training in the surrounding communities. The company has pledged to support students in the school district by offering fellowships and other career-building activities at its new campus. Students in Long Island City and the surrounding area will have access to educational opportunities and experiences that people living in other parts of the country will not. Seattle schools improved markedly as the Amazon headquarters there grew and matured, and New York will likely see some of the same benefits to its own education system.
Housing and Infrastructure
How easily do you fit a new corporate headquarters and all its workers into an already crowded city? Surprisingly, most experts don’t expect the move to destabilize housing prices in Long Island City and the surrounding area. While mortgages and rent are high there compared to the national average, the area has been experiencing a construction boost over the past decade, as it has transformed from an industrial to a residential area. Experts expect the current housing stock to absorb the new arrivals, with prices rising at approximately the same level they would have even if Amazon hadn’t decided to relocate there.
The New York City subway system isn’t in great shape, and commuters to the new headquarters should expect to have to deal with the system’s numerous delays, train malfunctions, and the like; welcome to New York! However, the city does plan to make improvements to the subway infrastructure that’ll increase the number of trains arriving and departing at each of the area’s stations, which should help ease congestion due to the influx of new people. The city also plans to invest nearly $100 million to improve the city’s water mains and sewer lines, which should further help the area absorb new residents, workers, and businesses.
Big Move, Big Changes
Amazon’s selection of New York City for its headquarters will have a profound effect on the residents, workers, and infrastructure of its chosen new home. The move will bring tremendous benefit to the area, but it’ll also present brand new challenges. In addition to the changes noted here, major corporate relocations often affect communities in ways that experts were unable to forecast. If the past offers any indication, residents of Long Island City should brace for substantial changes, both expected and unexpected, and plan accordingly.