The prodigal e-commerce giant returns – with a considerably smaller footprint.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Amazon has leased 335,000 square feet of office space in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan, where it will have the capacity for more than 1,500 jobs. The news set off a social media firestorm, as the politicians who opposed the plan to create an Amazon headquarters in Long Island City celebrated the news as proof that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had to come crawling back to New York – without the $3 billion in tax incentives once offered to the company. A chunk of those subsidies were contingent on certain conditions, including that HQ2 would create 25,000 jobs. Skeptics have rightly pointed out that the new office space represents just a fraction of what HQ2 promised to create.
But Amazon – which always said it would continue to expand in New York, even after dropping out of plans for HQ2 in February – is not the only Big Tech giant growing its New York footprint. Facebook signed a lease for 1.5 million square feet at Hudson Yards and is reportedly looking at more space that would add capacity for 14,000 jobs. Google and Netflix are also expanding in the city.
But much of the new space being snapped up by these companies is in Manhattan, with a few exceptions, like space for Netflix sound stages in Brooklyn. HQ2 would have been built in Queens, and some say it’s the Queens tech community that’s been left behind by the cancellation of the deal. Emil Skandul, founder of digital innovation firm Capitol Foundry, also noted that HQ2 would have been an economic driver for western Queens in general. “It’s certainly a tragic ending for the people of Queens, and hopefully it’s not an ending; hopefully, there is something to come out of this,” Skandul said. “It’ll be close to one year in February (since HQ2 was canceled), and I haven’t seen any of the local elected officials push for more tech companies or more tech jobs in Queens. There was a Queens tech meetup about two weeks ago, and not one elected official who was part of the anti-Amazon movement came to support the Queens tech community. I think that says a lot.”
Among the arguments against HQ2 leveled by those opponents, however, is that Amazon would have exacerbated gentrification in Long Island City and raised housing prices. “Long Island City is growing – some would say it’s growing too quickly – and the affordability of housing is a serious problem that we have yet to deal with adequately,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said during an interview on CNBC on Monday, adding that Queens residents can get jobs in the city’s growing tech sector and easily commute to them in Manhattan.
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