Amazon’s HQ2 is coming to New York and D.C.—and residents are salty

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As Amazon sales grew by $15 billion year over year, the e-commerce giant launched a nationwide search for its second headquarters, known informally as HQ2. And after more than a year of waiting, New York City and Northern Virginia will split HQ2, according to the New York Times.

These two major locations will house as many as 50,000 full-time employees with more than $5 billion planned investments over the next two decades.

An Amazon insider talked to the New York Times and confirmed Long Island City in New York and Crystal City in Northern Virginia, just south of the nation’s capital, were picked due to their talented labor force, good inter-city connectivity, diverse residents, and vibrant business climate. Future employees can earn more than $100,000 per year. But will it really make the lives of the residents there better?

On Twitter, New Yorkers seem upset that Amazon is moving next door.

New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Brammer and Sen. Michael Gianaris issued a joint statement about their fight against HQ2 in Long Island on Tuesday. Brammer calls for New Yorkers to oppose HQ2 by joining their campaign.

An irate resident from Queens says that #AmazonHQ2 will just make their transportation system more miserable.

Seattle became the fastest-growing city in the country this decade due to Amazon’s continued success. But with a massive project comes the impact on traffic and housing woes.

According to the Washington Post,  the arrival of thousands of tech workers could worsen the inequality in the property market. Philip Tegeler, executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, supported the claim in an interview with the Post: “It’s becoming a much less economically and racially diverse county, and a huge employer like Amazon coming in is only going to increase that pressure.”

While Amazon has created a positive tech boom in Seattle, Amy Liu, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, says there are also tradeoffs. In Liu’s interview with the Washington Post, she shares, “Amazon also led to a rise in homelessness, housing unaffordability and such stark inequality that created a lot of political and community distrust.”

According to the New York Times, Amazon assures that New York City and Northern Virginia would be the “full equal to our current campus in Seattle.” For the tech giant, choosing two cities will be more beneficial as it minimizes housing and traffic problems in one place. And experts say this can be a form of leverage in negotiating tax incentives. In the recent Washington Post report,it’s estimated that HQ2 will get a $2.8 billion tax break.

Will be benefits of HQ2 will outweigh the costs? According to the Atlantic, around $90 billion in tax breaks and grants is annually given to companies to incentivize moves. That’s money that doesn’t go toward government housing, education, infrastructure, and welfare projects. One thing is for certain: The respective futures of these urban hubs will look a lot different. 

Julie Ann Nealega

Julie Ann Nealega

Julie Ann Nealega is a multimedia journalist based in Manila, Philippines. She is a trained investigative reporter with extensive experience in the field as a segment producer and researcher. She’s produced multiple award-winning investigative documentaries with ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs. She's a co-founder of Postcards From Disasters, a social media-driven campaign fighting for the human rights of disaster victims. She's also managing a Philippine organ donation advocacy platform.