Since news has spread that Amazon is setting up shop in Long Island City for part of its second headquarters, so too has some of the fine print in the agreement among the city, the state and the behemoth retailer. City subsidies to lure Amazon to LIC amount to $1.5 billion. The state’s subsidies are around another $1.5 billion, including a $500 million grant. All in all, Amazon has $3 billion reasons to smile.
What about some of the other growing concerns associated with the pending arrival of our new corporate overlords? Will Amazon’s arrival fuel higher rents and further gentrification? How many of the 25,000 promised jobs will go to locals, like nearby public housing residents in the Queensbridge Houses versus new transplants?
Mayor Bill de Blasio loves Amazon, continuing his pattern of subservience to corporations. Readers may remember how he stood down in 2015 as Uber, the ride-sharing company, flooded the city with cars (finally capping its growth this year).
The response from other officials has been mixed. Some, like outgoing Public Advocate Tish James, Council member Jumaane Williams, former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and all of the borough presidents begged Amazon to come to NYC. Still, a few have begun to pile onto a wagon of criticism around Amazon, for reasons ranging from the cost to taxpayers, to simply not being included in the process.
It’s worth pointing out that some of those in the City Council who are now critical are the same ones who gave the green light to the city’s “affordable housing” plans that incentivized developers through subsidies to build luxury developments with a few crumbs of affordable apartments thrown in. Activists criticized that plan as a giveaway to developers that will ultimately furthers entrenched gentrification. The City Council approved the plan anyway.
If enough city officials somehow find the spine to say no to Amazon, the lesson would appear to be that kowtowing to real estate developers is OK, but to Amazon is not.
Of course, it’s in New York City’s DNA to bend over backward for business and money — and often overlook its own residents. Times Square long ago became a shrine to corporations and a welcome mat for moneyed tourists. Meanwhile, poor and homeless New Yorkers struggle to live in a city that only becomes shinier and more expensive.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist.