After more than a year of deliberation, Amazon has decided to divide its second headquarters between New York City and Arlington, Virginia. The campuses will play host to more than 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $150 thousand, and hiring begins next year.
Amazon’s announcement comes after months of state and local governments vying for the business giant’s new offices, and much speculation about where it might land.
Though the new sites mean billions in incremental tax revenue and investment, locals in Long Island City, Queens, have taken issue with Amazon’s choice to move into their already teeming neighborhood. Other critics have focused on the company’s dramatic, year-long search that ultimately ended with headquarters near the country’s two major political, financial and media hubs: Manhattan and Washington, D.C.
Politicians celebrate ‘big win’
Before Amazon announced the locations of its second headquarters, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joked, “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo, if that’s what it takes.” The company has been promised more than $1.5 billion in incentives from New York state and plans to apply for more incentives through the city.
“Today, with Amazon committing to expand its headquarters in Long Island City, New York can proudly say that we have attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Economic opportunity and investment will flourish for the entire region.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed Cuomo, tweeting “New York City is about to get tens of thousands of new, good paying jobs and Amazon is about to meet the most talented workforce in the world in one of the most diverse places on the planet.”
In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam touted “a big win for Virginia” in a video with a “Virginia is for Amazon lovers” screen as its background.
“All of Virginia will see the benefits,” Northam said.
Locals worry about housing, transportation
As concerns mounted that the Amazon headquarters might land in Queens, journalist Elizabeth Sile took to Twitter.
“The thought of even 10 more people riding the 7 train makes me want to pass out,” she wrote. “RIP to my neighborhood(,) which has already been dying with all the rich people moving here anyway. I guess its death will be swifter.”
Sile is not the only one who is worried about overcrowded subway cars or rising housing costs. One Twitter user wrote, “There goes my rent.”
Community groups aware of how the influx of high-paid employees will affect the area have recommended Amazon pay a gentrification tax, according to The New York Times. Zillow estimates that rent has gone up by almost a third over the past five years in Amazon’s original host city, Seattle, and Manhattan is already infamous for its oversaturated real estate market that constantly crowds into other boroughs and suburbs.
Local politicians have denounced Amazon’s plans to move into Queens. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a U.S. congressmember-elect, wrote on Twitter that her community found the decision “extremely concerning,” especially in light of the tax incentives the government has offered Amazon.
“Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer released a joint statement saying they “were not elected to serve as Amazon drones.”
“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” they wrote.
In September, Amazon briefly joined Apple as the only companies with a $1 trillion market cap.
“Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world,” New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote in a statement. “But you can’t put a price on community input, which has been missing throughout this entire process.”
Critics take issue with location choices
When Amazon announced its plans for a second headquarters, it invited applications through a public process and had few qualifications for its new site. Cities across the United States and Canada, including Dallas and Nashville, made the short list.
But when it came down to the decision, Amazon chose two of North America’s most booming areas that critics say did not need the company’s business.
“Bringing economic opportunity to the prosperity-starved environs of (checks notes) … New York and … (looks again) … Washington … D.C. …,” tweeted Alex Burns, a New York Times national political correspondent.
“Think of what they could have done in Detroit or Newark,” another Twitter user wrote.
Still, others suspected Amazon’s hyped public process for selecting the location of its new headquarters was a strategic move.
“Dozens of cities have shared reams of data with Amazon that their own citizens do not have access to,” tweeted Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Amazon will use this data to build out its empire: To site stores, warehouses, etc. To get in early on the right real estate. To beat out competitors because it knows things they don’t. In other words, America’s city leaders are accomplices to a monopolist.”