Original photo of LIC by Thomas Hawk

A Trojan Horse Named Amazon

The real issues behind the Amazon - New York City deal, and why this is a threat to everyone, including you.

While New Yorkers were busy voting out Republicans at the polls, their fearless incumbent Governor, confident of a third term, quietly released a bombshell he clearly hoped would be drowned out by the election day hype: Amazon is Coming To Town in the form of a second headquarters in Long Island City. There are plenty of articles briefly giving you the basics of that deal, from the pro-business side to the critical side, so let’s cut right to the chase: allowing Amazon to establish a Headquarters in Queens is a stupid, foolhearted, irresponsible, destructive and moronic move no matter how you look at it, unless you happen to be a greedy, short-sighted real estate developer working in New York City who’s looking to make a lot of easy money at the expense of everyone else.

1. Amazon, the Company.

Most Americans these days are so beaten down by corporate America, they accept behavior that 50 years ago was considered inconceivable by even the greediest of companies. News of Amazon coming into their neighborhood is met with the fatalistic acceptance of aw, shucks- but change is part of life. If it’s not them, someone else will come in and do the same thing. Well… no, actually. Yes, corporate conglomerates in general are pretty bad, and we shouldn’t let any company enter a neighborhood unless it is truly beneficial to the community, but Amazon is an especially despicable- and dangerous- case.

2. Seattle.

Let’s look at how Seattle changed after Amazon took over that city. First, the big one: rent. Between 2011 and 2015, rent prices went up $.11 per square foot every year. In the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of Amazon’s tech workers, that figure was $.60 per square foot. So the cost to rent a meager 800 square foot apartment would have risen $480 in that short time period- and this was in an area much less crowded and in-demand than Queens.

3. Bursting Bubbles

There’s another side to watching our LIC bubble inflate: it eventually pops. Economies always ebb and flow, which is why it’s imperative to build a diverse economy that can withstand such ebbing and flowing. Wall Street traders understand that a diverse portfolio is the key to success. So do farmers- by planting a diverse variety of crops, they build a stronger resistance to bugs and hedge their bets that if weather hurts one crop, a different one will survive. New York City is (as of now, at least) a fairly diverse economy; if the publishing world dies, it only affects one small part of the population. If fashion takes a hit, the rest of us are okay. To put all our eggs in one basket- an Amazon Shopping Basket to be precise- defies all wisdom. There are plenty of cities that are in such dire straits that one could argue that, despite Amazon’s vampiric style, having a dose of Amazon could be considered a boon. Detroit, for one, has nothing but space and desperately needs a boost, even if it’s by Jeff Bezos. More locally, plenty of New York State’s ailing cities up north need help, and if Andrew Cuomo actually cared about the state he supposedly serves, he would be pointing Amazon in that direction.

4. Water

This brings us to our final, and most frightening but least talked-about issue: water. Long Island City rests on the bank of the East River. Specifically, the Anable Basin, which is RIGHT ON the waterfront (it’s a basin, after all.) And that’s where Cuomo, in his hush-hush backroom deals, has worked out the new Amazon HQ to be in. There’s just one problem: human beings have heated up the planet extensively, to the point where our sea levels are rising faster than we expected. There are plenty of great articles explaining how that affects New York City, but the facts are irrefutable: even if we stick to the Paris Accord limits (which our current President is decidedly not doing) we will still see a 10-ft rise in sea levels before things taper off. Not next year, of course, but it will happen. And the reality is we’re not stopping our wasteful habits anytime soon, which means the actual figures are going to get worse, and sooner. Even with extreme carbon cuts, Long Island City- specifically where Amazon plans to plant their flag- will be totally underwater:

  • The FEIS estimated that an additional 99 school seats would be needed by 2010; by 2010, the zoning changes had brought 240 new students to the neighborhood, and just eight years later, more than 3,200 students have been added. Seven out of nine local elementary schools are now overcrowded, with one operating at more than 200 percent capacity.
  • Average ridership at the neighborhood’s three main subway stations (Court Square, Queensboro Plaza, and Queens Plaza) has increased at seven-times the city-wide rate over the last six years.

5. Fight.

Americans get the America they deserve. It was our apathy and complacency that gave us a Donald Trump presidency, and it’s the same thing that will make this Amazon thing a done deal if you finish reading this, grumble a little, and forget about it.

In case you didn’t catch that: Zod = Bezos, Superman = America
click n’ download!

6. Silver Linings.

One upshot of this catastrophe is that the deal is so bad, both the far left and the far right find themselves actually agreeing on the deal, as is the case with the ultra-conservative National Review publicly praising “socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ criticism of the deal, which is the political version of seeing pigs actually fly. This little tidbit of news is monumental, especially in our fractured country where everyone is obsessed with taking sides.

A filmmaker, writer & artist who has directed Public Enemy music videos, coauthored a TED Talk with Brian Greene, and edited Sesame Street, among other things.

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