A Year After Amazon Fled, Queens Applying Lessons Learned

(THE CITY) Christine Chung, February 16, 2020

In the year since Amazon scuttled its deal to build a new headquarters in Long Island City, supporters and opponents of big development have zeroed in on new projects that raise some of the same tensions over Queens’ future.

Prior to Amazon’s sudden breakup with the borough last Valentine’s Day, its proposed arrival etched a faultline dividing the borough’s communities and local elected officials. Arguments raged over issues that included Amazon receiving billions in city and state tax credits and incentives,  and the potential for the project to accelerate gentrification.

Activists and grassroots groups representing neighborhoods along the No. 7 train corridor celebrated the tech giant’s departure as a testament to the power of community organizing. Meanwhile others, including in the real estate and business industries, said they mourned the loss of new jobs and opportunities for Queens.

Both sides appear to agree on one thing — that Amazon provided a lesson in how to navigate the conflicts around the borough’s growth.

“I think that what’s become clear with the Amazon fight is that people expect more transparency and that their community concerns need to be addressed up front,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of RWDSU, one of the key unions opposing the deal. “I think part of the lesson was that these things cannot be done in secrecy while ignoring the needs of communities.”