Monday, January 07, 2019

2035 Amazon Invades Queens

Jeff Bezos is frightened. A multibillionaire frightened? More than likely.  Else Amazon would not be out there courting the residents of Long Island City where it plans a “second headquarters” employing 25-thousand people.

Neighborhood opposition has grown geometrically since the plan was announced along with a $1.5 billion tax break from the city and state. Eat your heart out, Welcome Wagon.

Leading indicator of the fright level:  Amazon has taken out ads promising to work and learn and “grow together” with its “new neighbors.”  That sounds like the company believes the opposition is real and has some clout.

A propaganda campaign similar to those of big countries about to annex smaller ones may be the best way to win the hearts and minds of landlords salivating to turn their buildings to coops. But it does little for the tenants.

Various levels of legislators oppose the incursion.  

Wait a minute.  Why would politicians whose only real job is running for the next term want to chase away the prospect of all those jobs, some of them high-paying?  Easy answer: sometimes working for their constituents is unavoidable.  So they do it.  Granted it’s a distraction from their real work, glad handing and making ridiculous promises from the throne rooms of their air castles. But …

Long Island City lies on the east bank of the East River.  It is fabulously crowded.  And it has few conduits for people heading to or from Manhattan on the west bank, the Ed Koch 59th St. Bridge, several clogged highways and tunnels and an already over-strained combination of buses and subways.

It has long been an industrial area, once bustling with factories that baked bread, bottled milk, manufactured electrical and office equipment. It built watches.  It made chewing gum.  It made household cleaning chemicals.  It prints the New York Times and Newsday.

Now, it has a college, a major magnet vocational high school with excellent ratings, a movie and TV studio and countless smaller product and service businesses.  So the glory days of heavy industry are gone and Amazon proposes to bring them back.

Until recently it resisted gentrification. But it’s a happening place, seven minutes from Midtown on those rare days when there’s no trouble on the Seven Train. In adjacent Sunnyside, and in LIC proper, rents already are rising in anticipation of the Amazon conquest.  And they weren’t exactly low cost housing to being with.  Say the same a short distance north in Astoria.

Does the area need a boost?  Yes and no. 

Does it need more cars and trucks on the road, more people in the buses and subways?  Does it need the kind of rent gouging that’s going on in other parts of the city?

So, Jeff, how about figuring out a way to keep your employees off the roads and subways… use those famous drones for same day delivery.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2019

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