BY BENJAMIN FANG
One year after Amazon announced that it would open a second headquarters, the e-commerce and tech giant chose to split its HQ2 between Long Island City and Crystal City, Virginia.
On November 13, the company announced it would invest $3.6 billion to create 25,000 jobs over ten years in Long Island City. Over 15 years, officials said that number could reach up to 40,000 jobs.
The average salary for these positions will be $150,000. Hiring will begin next year.
“These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
Leaders of the city’s five boroughwide chambers of commerce threw their support behind Amazon’s selection of Queens for expansion.
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that the pro-business environment in New York City, as well as the talented and diverse workforce, one of the main drivers of Amazon’s decision, stood out to the company.
“The jobs and economic opportunities that are created will add to our already vital economy in many sectors, from construction to technology to food service to transportation and more,” Grech said. “The benefits will echo across the area.”
Local colleges and universities like Queens College, which produces a high level of computer science graduates, LaGuardia Community College and nearby Cornell Tech, will all add to the talent pool from which Amazon can draw.
“We look forward to working with our local businesses, Amazon and their partners to create mutually profitable connections that help everyone prosper,” Grech said.
Amazon will build a 4 million-square-foot campus on the Queens waterfront near the Anable Basin on Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive. It will have the opportunity to expand to up 8 million square feet.
For the first four years, as their new headquarters is built, Amazon will occupy 1 million square feet at 1 Court Square, which is the CitiBank building. City officials say Citi employees have been slowly vacating the building, which will allow Amazon workers to use the office space.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York’s deal with Amazon represents the largest economic development initiative in the history of the city or state. It will generate $186 billion in economic impact, and will lead to $27.5 billion in revenue over 25 years.
The company will receive $3 billion in performanced-based tax credits, including $1.2 billion as part of New York State’s Excelsior Program. The governor insisted that to get the tax breaks, Amazon will need to create the jobs it has promised.
Therefore, the revenue to incentive ratio is nine to one, Cuomo said, which is the highest rate of return the state has ever offered.
“For us, it’s about being part of the economy of tomorrow,” he said at the November 13th announcement. “Amazon no doubt is an asset in the entire tech space. There will be a positive synergy with other companies.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, estimates $13.5 billion in tax revenue for New York City. He said Amazon’s announcement consolidates Queens as an economic capital, and New York City into an international tech hub.
“We’re convinced this plan will benefit everyday New Yorkers in huge numbers,” he said. “This will be something that transforms people’s lives.”
As part of the deal, Amazon will build 260,000 square feet of light industrial space and 25,000 square feet for nonprofit art uses. It will also dedicate space for a 600-seat public school and 3.5 acres of open space on the waterfront.
Amazon, the city and the state will throw in $5 million each to develop new training programs for “nontraditional” populations. The city will also expand its JobsPlus program to Queensbridge Houses, with the goal of training and placing 1,500 Queensbridge residents in good jobs over the next decade.
The city also promised to launch a new Queens-focused program to train NYCHA residents for careers in information technology, cybersecurity and web development. That $5 million commitment over 10 years will serve up to 300 residents.
Borough President Melinda Katz also expressed her support for the deal. Earlier this year, she unveiled a Western Queens Tech Strategic Plan that offered a roadmap to support equitable job growth in the tech economy.
“Long Island City –– New York’s emerging tech hub –– is ‘primed’ for Amazon,” she said. “With its organic growth, wealth of local talent and inherent global assets to foster innovation, Queens offers a dynamic mixed-use community where workers can live, ideas can synergize and businesses can flourish.”
Finally, the city will dedicate 50 percent of its property taxes from publicly owned sites to create the “Long Island City Infrastructure Fund.” The $650 million fund, over 40 years, will be used to deal with the long-term infrastructure needs of the neighborhood.
A Neighborhood Working Group, made up of representatives selected by local elected officials, will identify areas that need the most investment. The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will also host public forums and meetings on the fund.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who represents the area, said though she would like to see more infrastructure improvements emerge from the process, such as a review of fire services, an additional hospital in western Queens and a new police precinct, she believes the deal is great for Queens.
“No project is perfect, and there will be many changes in this as we move forward,” Nolan said. “But I think this is the way to go. It will be a great positive for Long Island City.”