Amazon has finally confirmed that Long Island City, Queens, and the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, have both earned the dubious honor of hosting glorified branch offices for the e-commerce giant. Hiring is slated to begin next year.
The Long Island City office is set to occupy 4 million square feet, with the option to expand to 8 million square feet in the future, and employ 25,000 Amazonians. According to the company’s own estimation, New York State will pay $1.525 billion in performance-based incentives for the privilege—nearly as much as Amazon has received across all prior subsidies combined, according to watchdog group Good Jobs First. Arlington’s footprint and workforce are predicted to be about the same, albeit the city is only on the hook for $573 million in incentives.
Salaries are still expected to average around $150,000 annually, which is around double the median household income in New York City—a metropolitan area currently struggling with rising rents and failing infrastructure.
“These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities,” Bezos is quoted as saying in his own Day One blog.
Despite the massive year-long bake-off that preceded this announcement and mundane results, many are wondering if the requests for HQ2 bids weren’t a sly ploy to collect data on cities for other purposes.
One such ancillary project was revealed by today’s press release: a new base of operations for “customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other similar activities” expected to employ 5,000 Tennesseeans.
Amazon’s maps for these three locations do not have street names included. The Long Island City headquarter appears to be on Vernon Boulevard between 45th Avenue and 45th Rd.; the Arlington headquarters looks to be on Jefferson Davis Highway near South Hayes Street; and the Nashville center correlates to the intersection of Church Street and 10th Ave. North.
Congrats to all the cities that were not selected.
Protests in New York City kick off tomorrow.
Update 11/13/18 1:41pm EDT: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio held a joint press conference—along with Amazon’s VP of Real Estate, John Schoettler—to laud what the former called the “largest economic development initiative that has ever been done” separately or jointly by the city and/or state. “It’s something that everyone should be very proud of,” de Blasio said, dangling the possibility of union construction and building services jobs related to the famously anti-union company’s new campus. In the mayor’s estimation, Amazon’s new branch office “is going to benefit everyday New Yorkers.”
The governor, who recently joked that he’d change his name to Amazon Cuomo “if that’s what it takes” to win the bid, claimed the outlandish $1.5 billion in incentives (plus another $1 billion or so in REAP and other benefits) would result in a 9:1 rate of return in revenue, based on projections that do not appear to be public. He called the package the “highest rate of return for an economic incentive program that the state has ever offered.”
New York’s generous subsidies stand in stark contrast to Arlington’s, and when asked about the discrepancy Cuomo was without a considered response. “I don’t know how they calculated it and what they actually calculated,” he said, suggesting perhaps a difference in income tax rates may have somehow contributed to Virginia’s smaller offering.
In the wake of confirmation that Long Island City will be one of Amazon’s selected locations, Assemblyman Ron Kim announced an intent to block these subsidies and redirect the funds towards buying up student debt. New York politicians including Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Senator Michael Gianaris, and Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been highly critical of the deal.