What happens when one of the world’s largest companies decides to move in next door? Sana Malik spoke to residents of New York’s Long Island City to find out.
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A giant at your doorstep
Once considered a barren industrial wasteland in Queens, New York, Long Island City is one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods in the US.
That's likely to continue – after a 14-month contest that attracted hundreds of bids from cities across North America, online retail giant Amazon this week announced it will build one of two new headquarters there.
The company has promised to create as many as 40,000 jobs and invest more than $3.6 billion over the next 15 years. In return, New York’s city and state governments have offered performance-based incentive packages that could top a combined $2.8 billion.
The announcement has caused a stir of emotions among long-term Long Island City residents, many of whom remember a quiet neighbourhood with few places to live. Some locals believe Amazon’s investment will bring jobs and improvements in infrastructure. Others say they are being overwhelmed by all the development and unsure where they will go as rents increase.
These prices are not likely to drop – Amazon’s news has created a spike in web traffic to property listings websites, and Modern Spaces Realty CEO Eric Benaim saw a 400% increase in foot traffic to his open homes in the area. Estimates vary, though, on how the move might affect New York City as a whole. One report estimates Amazon’s move will cause a 1.4% rise in annual rents for all New Yorkers, while another puts the increase at less than 0.1%.
'My cellphone started blowing up'
‘There’s a wall being built around us’
Amazon will have another longstanding Long Island City neighbour: Queensbridge houses, the largest public housing project in America.
The complex is made up of 26 buildings, housing a majority Hispanic and black population with a median income below the federal poverty line. Although Amazon has stated it will open up opportunities to residents of public housing, some Queensbridge tenants wonder if Amazon will really do anything for the community.