Columns, Opinion

Modern Musings: New Yorkers should be enraged about the Amazon deal

It was officially announced last week that Amazon’s new headquarters — known as HQ2 — will be split between Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, and Long Island City in the New York borough of Queens. Amazon plans to spend over $5 billion on construction and says that these headquarters will employ as many as 50,000 people.

As a New Yorker, the news that half of this mega-corporation’s headquarters will be coming to my state is highly concerning, and it is hard to see the bright side when the construction and operation of HQ2 will have so many negative effects on people living in the area. Not only should we resist Amazon on the grounds that it is one of the most detestable companies in existence, with a depraved CEO whose exploitation of his workers is well-documented, but HQ2 will put a massive strain on New York’s already crumbling infrastructure and make the Long Island City area unaffordable and unlivable for many New Yorkers.

The biggest argument in favor of HQ2 is that it will bring 25,000 jobs — but this will come at a massive cost to New Yorkers. Placing the headquarters for one of the largest companies in America in Long Island City will place a strain on New York’s already crumbling infrastructure. Any New Yorker will tell you that the subway system and the Long Island Railroad are constantly dealing with a barrage of issues and delays, so it is worrying to imagine how our transit systems will handle increased traffic caused by the headquarters. It is clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have utter disregard for the lives of New Yorkers, as they chose to pour money into HQ2 instead of finally remedying the problems with our transportation that have been going on for years.

Even worse to think about is the cultural and community changes that will occur with the construction of HQ2. Long Island City is currently diverse in every sense of the word: ethnically, socially, occupationally. HQ2 poses a huge threat to that diversity. The area will now become home to mostly white-collar, higher-paying jobs, and the neighborhoods will rapidly become gentrified, as we’ve seen happen in other New York neighborhoods over the past few years. Housing prices and rent will skyrocket, and the area will become unaffordable for many of the working-class families that already live there. As many of those workers don’t have tech backgrounds, HQ2 will provide them no new job opportunities. Those people will be forced to move elsewhere and may even face homelessness.

Aaron Terrazas, an economist for the online real estate company Zillow, estimated that up to 830 New Yorkers could become homeless because of HQ2, and it’s expected to have an impact on rent prices. People’s lives could be potentially ruined by this move, and the communities that have existed in Queens for decades will become obsolete. The area will no longer be the picture of a culturally diverse New York neighborhood, welcoming to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Now it will be transformed into a homogenous, white-collar, “techie” culture, which is what happened when Amazon took base in Seattle.

Even if you are willing to ignore the way Amazon exploits their workers and don’t care how it will affect New Yorkers’ lives, the way in which New York won the bid for HQ2 should enrage you. Cuomo and de Blasio awarded the company $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives for their bid to win the headquarters, and not once did they confer on this enormous decision with the New York legislature.

With people’s very livelihoods at stake, it is an incredible abuse of power for Cuomo and de Blasio not to confer on these issues with lawmakers and New Yorkers themselves, many of whom have been against this deal since its very inception.

Though plans with HQ2 are likely to go through no matter how much resistance is put up, New Yorkers must still push back against the corporation and our leaders who failed us in the process. We must hold Cuomo and de Blasio accountable for not listening to the voices of New Yorkers who spoke out against this development, and we must ensure than Amazon does not receive massive tax breaks that will injure New York communities. New Yorkers must ensure that Amazon doesn’t take over our city like it did Seattle, and to do so, we must challenge our authorities and ensure that our leaders do what’s best for our people.

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