Let conversation over Amazon HQ2 take off

Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, where Amazon is planning its HQ2.
Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, where Amazon is planning its HQ2. Photo Credit: Noah Fecks

In the aftermath of the debate about Amazon HQ2’s arrival and economic subsidies, the notorious helipad the company requested has led many residents and elected officials to rip into the company, labeling the entire project a corporate windfall.

The antagonism, however, is shortsighted. In fact, much of the opposition may be hyperbole and political posturing from elected officials even though many New Yorkers, including Queens residents, support the project. There are authentic concerns, and Amazon critics can more effectively promote the community’s interests. Here’s how:

Change the messaging from “No” to “Yes, with reservations”: Simply saying “No” is an obstinate response to a company that would help cement NYC’s position as a global capital for technology. However, too much of the misguided debate is discouraging dialogue. Instead, promoting discussion would encourage Amazon to consider what it means to be a good corporate citizen and neighbor.

Draft realistic solutions: Amazon detractors have raised transportation, housing, and local employment diversity as critical issues. Although concerns may be valid, critics lack data or credible solutions to resolve them. For example, a diversity proposal with potential partners such as universities and workforce development groups can provide pipelines for local talent. Queens College graduates more engineering students than NYU, Columbia, and Fordham combined while nearly 40 percent of its students are of lower income backgrounds. A partnership with CUNY would provide opportunities for students.

Participate in the Community Advisory Council: Shouting from a podium may capture headlines, but does little to offer solutions. Elected officials opposed to the project would do more for their community and be more effective if they came to the table with their concerns. And if this is truly about Amazon’s impact on NYC, then their participation is necessary.

While Amazon would be lucky to call NYC home, critics of HQ2 should not act hastily and should focus on communicating how the company can help build an equitable, diverse and prosperous New York.

Emil Skandul is the founder and principal of Capitol Foundry, an innovation and technology firm. He previously worked in the City Council in economic development.