One year after HQ2 announcement, Queens still wants innovation jobs

The historic steel railroad gantries at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens.
The historic steel railroad gantries at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens.
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The historic steel railroad gantries at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens.

One year after HQ2 announcement, Queens still wants innovation jobs

The waterfront of Long Island City is still primed for development.
November 13, 2019

On this day, one year ago, New York City was celebrating the announcement that Amazon would build a new headquarters on Long Island City, bringing 25,000-plus jobs along with it. It didn’t take long, however, for progressive lawmakers and community groups to denounce both the company and the plan, calling it an exemplar of egregious corporate welfare. Just about three months later, Amazon had pulled out of the plans for a New York HQ2.

But the area in which that headquarters was to be built – the waterfront of Long Island City – is still primed for development. New York City is still moving ahead with plans first made prior to the Amazon HQ2 announcement, tentatively including the creation of office, residential and recreational spaces. Pursuit, a nonprofit jobs training program in Queens, was a partner on those plans, and continues to be a community partner and co-developer on the waterfront site. Jukay Hsu, Pursuit’s founder, said that the Amazon debacle holds lessons for how to coax jobs in technology and innovation to Long Island City.

“It seems that everyone is still thinking about why there has been this backlash and what it means,” Hsu told City & State this week. “Really I think it’s about distrust, unfortunately.” Pursuit aims to train low-income adults for their first tech jobs, addressing criticisms that the technology sector has historically left behind disadvantaged groups. Many opponents of Amazon’s HQ2 plans claimed that the site would have accelerated gentrification in the area without providing adequate support for low-income residents. “We want to think about a new way of doing economic development that has some principles in mind. It's inclusive, it’s progressive, and it actually benefits local workers and families,” Hsu said, suggesting that other partners on the site ought to come together to define a set of such principles to refer to moving forward. “I think that alignment is important, and it will build a lot of trust. And then it’s not about Amazon or one specific company, it’s about what we agreed to do.”

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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