Pursuit founder and CEO Jukay Hsu explains partnership with Amazon in Queens

Pursuit co-founder and CEO Jukay Hsu
File photo

Of the 45 community members who gathered at the Long Island City Partnership on Jan. 24 for the first full meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for the Amazon HQ2 project, perhaps nobody had the perspective of Jukay Hsu, the founder and CEO of Pursuit, the nonprofit once known as the Coalition for Queens.

It was Hsu and his team that originally had the vision of the Long Island City Innovation Center, the massive mixed-use project the city was going to build with TF Cornerstone at Anable Basin.

“When Amazon came along with its HQ2 site, Pursuit is now playing the role as co-developer, community partner, and operator,” Hsu said. “We’re excited that Amazon will be a good long-term partners in achieving this joint vision. Amazon is coming to Queens, and Pursuit is bringing Queens to Amazon.”

And yet, Hsu is profoundly aware of the thought split among residents, elected officials and business owners in western Queens regarding Amazon coming to Long Island City especially with the nearly $3 billion incentive package that lured the richest corporation in the world to the shores of the East River.

“Yes, we are now a long-term business partner with Amazon but we want to make sure it benefits Queens and the community,” Hsu said. “And we are here to make sure it’s done in the right way. We want to make sure this works.”

A new HarrisX poll released on Feb. 5 revealed that a solid majority of registered voters in New York City approve of Amazon coming to Long Island City. Roughly seven in 10, or 69 percent, approve of the proposed campus. In Queens, the poll shows support for the project is even higher at 80 percent who think it is likely Amazon’s HQ2 campus will raise property values and boost the city’s economy.

Hsu is more concerned that members of his burgeoning tech community is western Queens, including Pursuit’s Fellows and graduates, will have access to the 25,000 new jobs, space for training, and offices for entrepreneurs. Since launching in 2011, the nonprofit has enabled close to 500 graduates work their way out of poverty through computer programming training.

“The industry has created more wealth and jobs than ever before, but these opportunities weren’t reaching everyone, so we set out to give talented people the opportunity they deserved,” Hsu said.

Raised in Flushing, the Taiwanese immigrant joined the Army following his graduation from Harvard and commanded a rifle platoon in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where it conducted patrols and raids. Hsu also led economic development and governance initiatives for two Iraqi districts, which culminated in the founding of the first private provincial radio station with Iraqi reporters.

Hsu was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest individual military award, for his service. Upon his return to Queens, Hsu founded Coalition for Queens to cultivate Queens’ diversity into a hub for technology and innovation.

Now known as Pursuit, Hsu believes a partnership with Amazon will ensure their “talented adults with the highest need and potential” will seize opportunities so they can launch meaningful tech careers and start companies of the future.

Still, Hsu is mindful of the opponents of the HQ2 campus.

“We understand that some of or stakeholders have genuine concerns about the impact that Amazon HQ2 may have on our community and while we appreciate those concerns, we believe that having a seat at the table — and by partnering with the city, state, Amazon and others — we will be better positioned to deliver positive value to our community,” Hsu said. “We are long-standing leaders in the neighborhood and our community. As such, it is our role and responsibility to ensure that Amazon’s move to the city creates life-changing benefits for Fellows, graduates and others.”