Marrying investments in two of the biggest economic development deals to ever hit both Queens and the city at large makes perfect sense – especially if the two projects intersect in Long Island City.
Thus Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (D) yesterday floated the idea that Amazon, which is moving its second headquarters (HQ2) to LIC, invest some of the infrastructure money it is planning to spend for the move on the proposed Queens-Brooklyn Connector (QBX), a 16-mile mass transit trolley spanning the Queens/Brooklyn waterfront with stops in the heart of LIC.
“Amazon’s pick of Long Island City is a game-changer for Queens,” said Katz. “That said, the community’s significant concerns about capacity, equity and already-strained infrastructure needs are certainly valid, especially given the substantial tax incentives offered to Amazon.
“First, Amazon should help pay for the Queens-Brooklyn Connector, also known as the Brooklyn-Queens Connector. A substantial and meaningful investment by Amazon that helps ensure the feasibility of QBX would be a fair investment into its new home, and a welcome opportunity for a good corporate neighbor to directly benefit the existing, impacted communities of Western Queens. The company and the public sector must work together to make investments in necessary transit improvements that will support Queens residents.”
Under the HQ2 plan, Amazon plans to bring 25,000 high paying jobs that will include investments in infrastructure thanks in part to up to $3 billion in city and state subsidies.
The proposed $2.5 QBX would run from Astoria through the heart of LIC and the Brooklyn waterfront to Sunset Park connecting residents and workers along the outer borough waterfront as well as create thousands of more working class jobs.
Katz also said the QBX should include a free transfer to MTA subways and buses, as well as reduced ‘Fair Fares’ for lower-income New Yorkers, but didn’t specify if she thought Amazon should foot the bill for it.
Both the city and Amazon welcomed Katz idea and support of both projects, but stopped short of endorsing her idea of Amazon investing in the construction or subsidizing ridership of the QBX.
“We welcome the borough president’s support and agree that infrastructure investments are critical to making the project successful,” said the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Spokesperson Stephanie Baez.
“We are excited to work with New Yorkers over the coming months and years to bring a new Amazon headquarters to Long Island City and help support the community. We expect our new headquarters to generate more than $20 billion in new tax revenues for community improvements and the people of New York,” said Amazon Spokesperson Jodi Seth.
However, critics like Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) are still firmly against Amazon coming to LIC.
“It is not clear if we really need [Amazon]. It is not clear how many of these high-paying tech jobs that were promised will actually go to New Yorkers as opposed to workers from out-of-state,” Tony Cao, a spokesman for Kim told QCP. “How much is it benefiting people living in Queens in the first place?”
“We already have some many great companies [in Queens such as our] incubator programs, start-ups [sic] that we have not heard much about. Google and Facebook came without incentives and they set up large offices. Why should Amazon be treated any differently?,” Cao added.