Queens business leader reflects on what could have been one year after Amazon killed its HQ2 project in LIC

One year after Amazon ditched its plan to build its HQ2 campus in Long Island City, businesses are moving in to Long Island City. (Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)


It was Valentine’s Day one year ago that Amazon scuttled their plans to build its mammoth HQ2 campus at Anable Basin along the East River waterfront in Long Island City.

Queens Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas J. Grech was leaving a meeting about Amazon at the offices of the Long Island City Partnership and heading to his office in East Elmhurst when he got the news.

“I had had a very productive meeting with the 45-member Community Advisory Committee and all of a sudden I was bombarded with phone calls with people asking me what happened,” Grech said. “I still call it the St. Valentine’s Massacre. What happened next is we got up, dusted ourselves off and went back to the business of doing business.”

Grech watched Amazon leave, along with its promise to create 25,000 to 40,000 jobs at the HQ2 campus. The economic development deal would have generated $27 billion in revenue, according to the state, while creating 11,000 union positions — and it fell through because the e-commerce giant lacked a “collaborative relationship with state and local officials.”

“That was one of the saddest days of my life,” Grech said. “I was taking calls for the next five or six months from companies who were asking if they wanted to move their company to Queens would they get grilled by the New York City Council the way Amazon executives were. I was embarrassed by the way they were treated at those hearings.”

Many feared that Queens would no longer be attractive to big business after the breakup.

“The thing of it is, we’re a resilient bunch here in New York City and especially here in Queens,” Grech said. “Now we have Macy’s moving their headquarters to Long Island City, Altice is here and Este Lauder is coming to Long Island City. They’re all moving staff here and that means more jobs.”

And now the Queens Chamber of Commerce has launched an initiative to attract many more businesses to the borough. Earlier this month they rolled out their “Relocate to Queens” campaign that employs robust date technology and CIS to connect businesses to resources that will empower and allow them to be a part of Queens growth.

“A year ago Amazon shocked us all by abandoning their plans to move to our borough, but it’s important that we remember what attracted the biggest company in the world here in the first place,” Grech said while introducing the new website. “We have everything here, from our diverse talent pool, to a thriving arts scene, to top-ranked educational institutions, that businesses, both large and small, need to thrive.

You can take a look at the website here.

“People have been visiting our website scouting locations and it’s beginning to really take off,” Grech said.

Companies are able to search available properties for purchase or lease and easily see which locations qualify for Economic Opportunity Zone tax incentives.

“We call them EOZs and we have 63 of them right here in Queens,” Grech said. “And we intend to take advantage of each and every one of them.”

This story first appeared on qns.com.