My deepest condolences to Queens, New York and Arlington, Virginia, both of which are soon to welcome thousands of lanyard-wearing, Solowheeling-ridng, tech-money-making Amazon employees into their environs.
In Arlington, Amazon will be headquarted in the Crystal City neighborhood, although according to Amazon's press release announcing the decision, Crystal City is now known as "National Landing." In Queens, it will be headquarted in the Long Island City, and while some state and city leaders in both places are crowing Amazon's decision ("Think of the jobs," etc) not everyone is so pleased, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Socialist darling who will soon represent the Bronx and Queeens in Congress.
On Twitter, she said that she's been hearing from constituents all day, and they are, in her words, "outraged." And for good reason. "Amazon is a billion-dollar company," she tweeted. "The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here."
Actually, she's mistaken. Amazon isn't a billion dollar company. It's a trillion dollar company, and they didn't receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, they received $2.2 billion from New York and Virginia, as well as Tennesee, where they will soon to open a giant new fulfillment center (which they are calling an "Operations Center of Excellence.")
She is, however, right about one thing: The residents of those cities didn't have any input, even though their neighborhoods are about to change forever. And that change, if what happened in Seattle is any indication, is not necessarily for the better for the people already living there. These future tech jobs aren't necessarily going to locals, and according to Redfin, interest in housing in those areas has spiked in recent days, and with 25,000 jobs and workers coming to town, prices are sure to soon follow. In Queens, the median household income is less than $60,000. The average Amazon worker will make over $150,000.
Of course, none of this is surprising. Plenty of cities and states care more about catering to business interests than residents. It is, however, heartening to see that at least a few politicians are standing up to corporate welfare and crony capitalism. As rumors swirled that Amazon would choose Long Island City, New York's Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he will be introducing a bill to cut the state's corporate subsidies and economic incentives and spend the money they would be giving to companies like Amazon to buy up and cancel student debt. This, he says, would benefit locals more than bringing in Amazon, and it would cost less.
"If Amazon indeed locates a substantial part of its business in New York, serfdom is the style of 'partnership' the city should expect,'' Kim wrote in a recent NYT opinion column. "Despite the familiar promises, Amazon is not a good partner. Not for the cities it occupies, not for the merchants who depend on it, not for the workers it employs. The company does not seek partnership; it seeks control. Seattle’s experience shows that becoming dependent on Amazon did not lead to broader wealth; it has pushed up home prices and led to increased homelessness. Amazon also threw its political weight around in the city, spending millions in a brutal campaign to resist corporate taxes in Seattle."
It's too late to save Seattle from the march forth of Amazon, and it's probably too late for Queens and Arlington too. But Amazon's expansion won't end with just three locations. As Amazon claims a larger share of the American economy, the company will keep spreading—not unlike cancer—until some cities and states decide to do what is best not for Jeff Bezos's business, but for its actual people.
In the meantime, some advice for the denizens of Queens and Arlington: Invest in property now if you can. If HQ1 is any model, you soon won't be able to afford it.