September 27, by Nathaly Pesantez
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is urging the city to enter Long Island City as the next potential location for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America, joining the nationwide scramble for Amazon to bring its offices to one select location.
In a Sept. 20 letter to mayor Bill de Blasio, Katz describes Long Island City as the New York City neighborhood with the “best chance” of attracting Amazon’s second headquarters there. The E-commerce company announced earlier this month that it was accepting requests for proposals for a new site earlier.
Amazon’s RFP lists several considerations for cities to keep in mind, all of which are met by Long Island City, according to Katz. One of them is ensuring that an area of 500,000 square feet of office space is available for the first phase of their expansion, along with an eventual area of 8 million square feet after 2027.
The RFP says Amazon prefers greenfield sites, or undeveloped land followed by infill and existing buildings. Additional site requirements involve closeness to an international airport, major highways, and on-site mass transit.
The e-commerce company also prefers building in a metropolitan area with a population of over one million, a business friendly environment, connections to a tech talent pool, and being part of a community that thinks “big and creatively” in brainstorming locations.
In all, the company expects to create 50,000 full time jobs at the second headquarters location and invest over $5 billion in construction.
The Borough President lists five key features of Long Island City that could attract Amazon to the neighborhood based on the RFP, among them availability of space for the expansion, an educated labor pool, and a strong transportation system.
“As the City’s leaders in economic development come together to propose a location to submit to Amazon for its HQ2, it is clear LIC is the only choice,” reads part of the letter Katz wrote.
The neighborhood, according to Katz, has 7 million square feet of commercial and industrial space available, with close to 4 million square feet of space to be built by 2020. Available retail space is marked at 265,000 square feet, and an additional 425,000 square-feet is “on its way,” Katz wrote.
The available space for the project, according to Amazon, does not have to be contiguous, but should be close to one another “to foster a sense of place and be pedestrian-friendly.”
“LIC has the ability of meeting the building requirements (current and future) outlined in Amazon’s RFP,” Katz wrote.
The information provided by Katz, including 7 million square feet of commercial and industrial space and the incoming 3.7 million square feet of space, is consistent with data released by the Long Island City Partnership. Most of the existing square feet of office space provided in these numbers has been leased, however, according to an LICP spokesperson.
Furthermore, Katz says the tech talent labor pool Amazon seeks can be found through the multiple tech institutions near Long Island City. The newly opened Cornell Tech campus at Roosevelt Island, coupled with the 45,000 students graduating in tech disciplines from LaGuardia Community College and six tech-related neighborhood high schools (like Aviation High School and Queens Vocational and Technical High School) are all reasons for de Blasio to add Long Island City to the city’s eventual proposal.
Katz vouched for the neighborhood’s “strong and varied transportation system,” and listed eight subway lines, 13 bus routes, ferry service, and LIRR stations in the area as incentives for Amazon. The neighborhood’s location to JFK and LaGuardia, along with the proposed Brooklyn-Queens light rail connector, still in the infant stages of planning, could further attract the company, according to Katz.
In wrapping up the letter, Katz spoke to the neighborhood’s decades-long reputation as a site for innovation and technology along with the increasing residential activity and “live/work/learn/play” culture of Long Island City.
“LIC is at a pivotal moment in its history for New York City,” reads part of the last paragraph.
Katz’s proposal has received support from local leaders, but not without a few caveats.
“With this proposal, should it be successful, obviously [it] has to come [with] an equal commitment to additional mass transit options,“ Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer told NY1 News.
Van Bramer has yet to comment for this article.
Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, says Amazon’s headquarters in Long Island City would be an overall positive for the neighborhood, but proper implementation is required.
“We need to make sure that the local residents have the opportunity to get these jobs, and that infrastructure is handled appropriately for new business,” O’Leary said, noting that transportation was the neighborhood’s “number one problem”, including 7 train problems and car congestion.
Concerns about where exactly the site would be located were also raised, given the lack of open space in the rapidly developing neighborhood.
“There’s a number of large sites that were formally factories and large developments,” O’Leary said as potential areas for Amazon. “If they were trying to take over any of the public land or the Sunnyside Yards, then I think there would be some objections the that.”
Katz’s letter does not mention Sunnyside Yards, the 180 acre site eyed by mayor Bill de Blasio for building over 18,000 residential units to the area, according to a feasibility study. An article written by StreetEasy, the real estate blog, said Sunnyside Yards could fit within Amazon’s RFP.
The city says it has received proposals from 23 neighborhoods all interested in housing Amazon’s second headquarters. “We’ve gotten strong responses from all five boroughs,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the Sept. 23 statement. “There’s no question New York City will make a powerful case to bring these jobs here.”
In all, at least 101 places around the U.S. and Canada have expressed interest in Amazon coming to their areas, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The deadline to submit proposals is October 19, after which Amazon will select one or more proposals and negotiate with developers before announcing their pick in 2018.