When I read Tuesday that Amazon had officially chosen Long Island City as one of two locations for its next headquarters, I flashed back a few years to a play I had produced in Florida. When the play was in NYC, I had the luxury of picking from hundreds of top-notch actors. In Florida, I had to settle for a lead actor who couldn’t remember his lines.
Sure, talented actors who long to work on stage flock to NYC. But it’s not just the entertainment field — the most impressive performers in every industry seem to wind up here.
And no one knows that better than Amazon. While a number of heartland cities in red states were eager to lure the tech giant, they never had a chance. For Republican strongholds overrun with anti-science, anti-immigration sentiments and regressive ideologies, the chickens were coming home to roost.
Whether it’s leading actors, scientists, or techies, New Yorkers don’t mock “elites,” we treasure them. Young, well-educated, open-minded people simply don’t want to live and work in areas with the values and attitudes of the 1950s, but rather in cities where diverse people and lifestyles are welcomed.
Rapidly evolving LIC, previously known more as a place to get high in scuzzy bars and strip clubs than for high tech, has become unrecognizable to longtime locals, with a massive rebuild underway long before Amazon even set sights on it.
Now that Amazon, headed by Jeff Bezos, is on its way, can the neighborhood accelerate its development? Perhaps some future Amazon employees will live in the residential units springing up all over LIC. Will they sample local restaurants? Amazon already offers free food to employees to encourage them to eat at their desks. Will many of them walk to work and never leave the building?
Meanwhile, New Yorkers have suffered from a lack of affordable housing as well as antiquated, overcrowded subways for years, and the massive influx of new workers — some 25,000 at least — won’t help.
Will Amazon offer its strategic planning expertise to help solve these ongoing problems? The innovative thinking needed to resolve them has been sorely lacking from our politicians.
Hmm, maybe Bezos can run for mayor?
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.