Residents Of D.C. And Queens Fight Amazon's Decision To Move In
After months of hype and begging, the Amazon Sweepstakes have come to a close: Long Island City – a neighborhood in Queens, New York – and the Washington, D.C. suburb of Crystal City have been tapped to receive the online retailer’s newest headquarters.
While other contenders, like Dallas, Indianapolis, and Biloxi, Mississippi have all frowned upon the result, there were two groups of people who were especially unhappy with the outcome: The residents of Queens and Washington, D.C.
“Can you imagine the traffic?” Queens native Ronald Bloom asked. “You already can’t get to Randall’s Island.”
“How do they think the Metro is going to handle all those extra riders?” Cynthia Brinx, a resident or Arlington, Virginia, wanted to know.
“Man, I sure hope none of those twenty thousand people want to fly anywhere,” Brooklynite Sam Deever said. “LaGuardia’s already a craphole.”
“They realize they’re closing the L train next year, right?” Geraldine Williams asked, referring to the main subway line that runs just south of Long Island City.
“I guess my landlord’s going to think he can double the rent,” D.C. native Heather Montoya lamented. “Again.”
The reaction against the announced plans for Amazon to open up shop in the already dense areas was swift and unanimously negative. While there were numerous concerns – traffic, congested and already failing mass transit systems – chief among them was the concern that the new headquarters would drastically increase rent and housing costs.
Astoria resident Maximus Proctum put it simply.
“Queens is gentrified. What comes after gentrification?”
Urban developers think that they are about to find out, and are looking to another city in the U.S. for an idea of what’s to come.
“The only blueprint we really have for this kind of situation is San Francisco,” said Thomas Jenks, a city planner and professor of urban development at Chicago University. “There, we have high school teachers making $60,000 a year, living in dorm-style houses with other professionals because there’s nothing else.”
And what about the janitors in those San Francisco high schools?
“They’re commuting two hours each way because that’s the closest they can afford to live.”
Amazon’s headquarters in both Crystal City and Long Island City are expected to have a similar effect: Each is expected to create around 25,000 jobs for white collar workers, many with advanced degrees. Once construction has finished building the headquarters, few lower-skilled jobs are expected to stick around. The influx of high-income workers to the areas already known for exorbitant rent prices – New York’s average rent is second-highest in the country, while Washington, D.C.’s is ninth – is likely to send them even higher as developers throw up more and more luxury apartments. In many cases, property owners sell buildings that house lower-income families – like janitors and construction workers – to those developers so they can be torn down and rebuilt with rent prices often more than four times what they once were.
“Saying Amazon’s headquarters will have a trickle down effect is misleading,” professor Jenks admitted. “It won’t be a trickle. It’ll be a rush of gentrification.”