The corporate lottery for the new Amazon headquarters has finally come to an end. About 230 cities played and lost. The official winners have been announced. They are NYC and a little place in Northern Virginia. But instead of champagne and ticker tape parades, there are protests and calls for Amazon to kindly go someplace else. According to the Verge, Kirsten Gillibrand has decided to break her silence.
“Alongside fellow New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand was silent all yesterday and today following the announcement while backlash built against the decision to cut Amazon more than $2 billion in tax breaks to expand its presence in the fast-growing borough. Now, Gillibrand says she’s ‘concerned’ about how little input local community leaders and politicians were given, as well as the idea of giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet. Other concerns include the gentrification effects and displacement Amazon might bring to Queens, an area of New York City already experiencing breakneck growth as Manhattan and Brooklyn continue to crowd.”
Gillibrand is not the only person expressing concerns about the deal. Engadget asks, “Why are Long Island City residents upset about Amazon HQ2?” For starters, they see the deal as a sign of government incompetence. New Yorkers are having a hard time understanding why they need to pay any company $1.5 billion. NYC is an extremely desirable area for any company to be for any number of reasons. The residents are feeling a little sold out.
Community leaders have picked up that theme noting that big companies have moved in before without hiring a single person living in the nation’s largest housing complex. Despite agreeing to hire 25,000 locally, residents of the community are not reassured.
That also means a higher likelihood of more gentrification where high-paid workers move in at inflated prices and displace long-time residents who will no longer be able to afford rent. Beyond rent, residents complain that the city cannot fix the housing crisis, transportation infrastructure, or schools. But they can give another billion dollars to the richest man in the world.
Not everyone is protesting. Some have expressed delight in the way things are turning out. There are many who will benefit from a large influx of middle-class jobs. Besides the people Amazon hires directly, new goods and services will need to be made available for people moving into the area.
This represents an entrepreneurial opportunity. It will take some time before we know if Amazon’s new digs will be an overall net gain for the people who currently call it home.