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In Long Island City, mixed reactions to Amazon’s abrupt HQ2 about-face

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“I think they were pennywise and pound foolish”

After Local Opposition, Amazon Cancels Plans For Major Campus In New York Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With the sudden end of the Amazon era in New York, city and state politicians either pinned blame, took credit, or tried to figure out how the city once had a deal, and then didn’t have a deal, to be one-half of the tech giant’s new North American headquarters.

But on the streets of western Queens the day after the company’s sudden pull out, life went on as normal, as people walked their dogs, fixed their mopeds, and waited for the bus. Plenty of neighborhood residents had opinions about Amazon’s decision, but true to form for a controversial development project, there was no one answer as to whether the planned corporate campus would have been worth the money, or what the best next step would be for the land that development would have occupied.

In a plaza at the Queensbridge Houses, just blocks from where a pro-Amazon press conference was held last Monday, resident Joan Jordan told Curbed she was ready to welcome Amazon. “I think it was a good idea to have that come out here so that people could get jobs,” she explained.

“I didn’t see anyone up here against it,” she said, noting that she missed canvassers in the massive housing project last weekend. “Down by Hunter’s Point, I saw those people complaining about it, No one from up here.”

On Jackson Avenue near MOMA PS1, LIC resident Ninand Faterperkar, who was walking his dog, told Curbed the city’s elected officials didn’t do enough to preserve the deal. “It comes down to the political leadership around here,” he said. “They didn’t take into account the future and how it should be built around this amazing neighborhood.”

Faterpekar wasn’t the only person who blamed politics for the end of the development. “I think they were pennywise and pound foolish,” an employee at Citigroup, who asked for anonymity to avoid workplace retaliation, said as she left the Citi building, where Amazon was due to take over about 1 million square feet of space. “There was ego involved because they weren’t included to begin with, so I think it was more political posturing,” she said. And the tax breaks, while not ideal, “should have been a negotiating point, not a shut it down point.”

For supporters of the project, the tax breaks that went into luring Amazon were just a fact of life. “One hand washes the other,” Jerome Hopkins, a Long Island City native, said about Amazon getting offered a cash grant, and being eligible for tax breaks in exchange for meeting certain hiring goals.

“I think [the tax abatement] is sort of normal; companies of that magnitude come into communities, they usually get some tax incentives,” Prince Evans, a Queens native who works in e-commerce, told Curbed. “The employees are gonna generate taxes on that end, it’s kind of a tradeoff.” As for whether there was anything that could have been done to save the deal, Evans said that the city could have “opened our arms a bit more,” but also that Amazon could have been more interested in bargaining with area residents

Of course, not everyone was ready to roll out the red carpet of course. “$3 billion in tax breaks was kind of a big, big deal,” Bardie Cunie told Curbed while waiting for the bus on his way back from work. “We pay a lot of taxes in New York, you know that. You can find other ways to create new jobs.”

Luxury goods manufacturer Ally Rosson, who is leaving her LIC manufacturing space this spring because her landlord was likely going to upgrade the building before Amazon’s arrival, said she was “pissed as hell” about the tax breaks the company was getting. “I didn’t like how they made the deal behind closed doors,” she said. “I don’t like that kind of politics.“ She did, however, tell Curbed that she thought the corporate campus would be an upgrade for the area, and that she was hopeful the next plan for the land would lean business over residential. Previously, the campus site and the nearby land in Anable Basin were earmarked for mixed-use developments that would have added 6,000 apartments to the neighborhood.

That wasn’t the case for Joseph Genkins, a Queensbridge Houses resident who was working on his moped on Vernon Boulevard. “We’ll find jobs somewhere else,” he said. “We can always find jobs, there’s so many factories around here already. There’s FedEX, UPS, we’ve got stuff like that around here.”

He believes the neighborhood needs better housing and neighborhood services. “We need more residential, less industrial,” he said. “We’ve got Con Edison right across the street from us, all down there is factories until you hit 44th Drive. You cross the Pulaski to Greenpoint, it’s so beautiful out there. It’s all residential, clean beautiful living. We have nothing around here. The closest pizza shop to us is down Vernon.”