Amazon’s second headquarters in LIC poses great economic benefits — but also challenges

Photo via Shutterstock

The fastest-growing neighborhood in the country appears to be a big winner in Amazon’s search for a second headquarters — or at least a large part of it.

Long Island City and Arlington, Virginia, suburb of Washington, D.C., are nearing a deal to split the Seattle-based retail giants East Coast campus known as HQ2, according to reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Monday night.

More than 200 hundred metropolitan areas across the country have been wooing the project for more than a year in what was billed as the “biggest economic development deals of the century,” with the promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs and more than $5 billion in investment. Long Island City made the shortlist of 20 finalists last January.

The New York Times reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently met with Amazon executives as part of the state’s efforts to attract the retailer.

“I am doing everything I can,” Cuomo was quoted as telling reporters on Monday, as the Times reported. “We have a great incentive package,” he said. The Amazon team also met separately with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“They have not made a final decision that I’ve heard of but I can tell you that it’s been a long, detailed process in which the city of New York has tried to make very clear the reasons why this is a great place for a company to be because we have the talent base here,” de Blasio told NY1 Tuesday. “I think we’re a good fit for them but they have to make their final decision.”

Seth Bornstein, the executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, was not surprised that LIC was a big winner in the sweepstakes.

“I think this demonstrated that NYC, and especially Queens, are attractive to new businesses for all the reasons we know but the main driver I venture to guess in that NYC and Queens have the brain and brawn to fill any position Amazon would ever need,” Bornstein said. “We have the technology, especially now with Cornell Technion, on one side and transportation and a workforce that continues to expand. Despite the effort of some who want to prevent people from moving to the United States, NYC will always welcome those with drive, determination and deal making skills — and it’s been like that since Peter Minuit cut that first deal in 1626.”

Minuit was the Dutch governor who purchased Manhattan from local tribes for the equivalent of about $24.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has represented Long Island City during its unprecedented growth over nearly a decade, sounded a cautious tone about the Amazon deal.

“HQ2 has to work for Queens, not just Amazon,” Van Bramer said one week after the de Blasio administration announced it would invest $180 million in new funding to alleviate Long Island City’s stressed infrastructure, addressing improvements to schools, transportation, parks and sewage and water systems after a series of listening sessions with Van Bramer and civic leaders.

“We already have an infrastructure deficit in LIC,” Van Bramer added. “We must ask how such a complex would impact the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. This isn’t a done deal. The local community must be heard.”

Brent O’Leary, the president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, who announced he would run for City Council in 2021 to replace Van Bramer at the end of his term limit, believes Amazon and Long Island City could coexist.

“Long Island City has become an important tech hub and a great place for businesses,” O’Leary said. “We are hopeful Amazon will bring good jobs to the area and be a good partner with the community.”

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos has declared he would make his decision final by the end of the year.