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NYC Politicians Jump At Chance To Woo Amazon's Second Headquarters

By Amy Zimmer | September 15, 2017 4:36pm | Updated on September 17, 2017 3:49pm
 The Amazon bookstore located in the Time Warner Center features 3,000 titles and cashless paying.
The Amazon bookstore located in the Time Warner Center features 3,000 titles and cashless paying.
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Scott Heins/ Gothamist

MANHATTAN — As cities across North America vie for Amazon’s second headquarters, New York City officially began its effort to lure the tech behemoth’s $5 billion campus and the 50,000 jobs they say will accompany it.

Given the high cost of living here many experts consider New York a longshot for HQ2, as the Seattle-based company calls the project. But that is not stopping New York from trying to put something together by Amazon’s Oct. 19 proposal deadline — and it’s already spurring some jockeying among the boroughs.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation on Friday issued what’s known as a “request for expressions of interest,” seeking project proposals that could provide at least 500,000 square feet by 2019 and up to 8 million square feet after 2027, all located near mass transit and within two miles of major highways.

It could be tricky finding 8 million square feet in New York City. There are mega-warehouse spaces along the Sunset Park waterfront where the Brooklyn Army Terminal alone has roughly 4 million square feet (though much of it is leased). Development opportunities might include the Sunnyside Rail Yards where the city was eyeing a roughly 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space with up to 22,000 units of housing. The proposed redevelopment of Willets Point in Flushing, known as the Iron Triangle, has 8.94M square feet.

“Like Amazon, New York City is constantly reinventing itself,” EDC’s request stated. “It is the only city in North America that can accommodate the future growth that Amazon shows every intent of achieving.”

The company is looking for a city with more than 1 million people that can provide a "stable and business-friendly environment," and the ability to "attract and retain strong technical talent."

Marcus Moufarrige, COO of Servcorp, which offers co-working hubs in more than 22 countries and major cities, including New York, called the city a “solid choice” for Amazon saying not only does the city attract top employees “aggressively” looking for jobs, but it presents the company with “an opportunity to build the best practice workspace and show how commercial real estate should look in the future.”

The city played up New York’s growing tech force, with more than 50,000 tech jobs already here, as well as how its population — estimated to be 9 million by 2040 —is a fertile and diverse consumer market to test new ideas. It also pointed to the higher education system, including the recent investments in applied sciences at Columbia and NYU, as well as this week’s opening of Cornell Tech.

The Cornell project and the mini-city rising at Hudson Yards show that New York knows how to deliver “large scale, transformational projects,” the materials said.

The city says they are seeking ideas that would limit displacement of industrial uses and connect underserved communities to good jobs. It is also looking for proposals that focus on aspects like walkability, environmental sustainability and diversity in building character.

“New York City is where tech meets the real world. We have the most talented workforce and the most diverse economy on the planet,” mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace said in a statement. “That’s the unique value proposition that has made us a magnet for the world’s most innovative tech companies these past two decades, and makes us a strong contender here.”

Just as New York’s failed bid to host the 2012 Olympics bid had its detractors, some may worry about the idea of giving big public subsidies to one of the highest valued companies in the world, not to mention the potential displacement effects that Seattle residents have experienced.

Those concerns haven't stopped local politicians, who are eager for the tech giant to settle in their respective boroughs, playing up their existing connections to the company.

Staten Island, for instance, already has a massive Amazon fulfillment center in the works.

Sunset Park has an Amazon distribution center.

“With several prime options along Brooklyn’s Innovation Coast already in construction, stretching from Sunset Park to Williamsburg, we can accommodate your immediate and long-term needs,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams penned in an open letter to the company, as City & State reported.

The Bronx has a history of working with Amazon issues like SNAP/EBT use online, according to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office.

“The Bronx has seen incredible progress on job creation and economic development in recent years,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “Amazon would be a tremendous new addition to our borough, and we look forward to discussing their proposal for a new headquarters, and how The Bronx could host them, in the near future. The Bronx is a prime location for Amazon’s next home.”