In a surprise move, Amazon HQ2 may be split between two cities.
One of those is the Long Island City neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens, according to The New York Times. (Amazon hasn’t confirmed the reports, but a formal announcement is expected soon.)
I’ve been a New Yorker for over a decade and lived in Long Island City for nearly two years. It’s one of the most unusual and fastest-growing neighborhoods in New York, thanks to its proximity to Manhattan and a boost in residential development over the last several years.
Here’s an overview of what Long Island City is like and what Amazon would be getting into if it moves one of its new offices there.
Long Island City isn’t just in transition. It’s being completely rebuilt.
Historically, Long Island City was home to warehouses, strip clubs, dive bars and other seedy venues. But today, much of that has been torn down and replaced by high-rise luxury apartment buildings.
My apartment building, which is located in the still-developing Court Square area of Long Island City, is surrounded by some of the heaviest construction. Bloomingdale’s is getting ready to move into a 550,000-square-foot office right up the street. JetBlue has a massive office nearby, too. And there are new residential buildings being constructed along every block.
When I moved into the Court Square area about two years ago, much of the surrounding area was full of empty lots. Now I see nothing but the frameworks of large hotels and luxury co-ops.
Apartments are a great value, too. Unlike most spots in Manhattan, you can find a newly constructed apartment building full of amenities like a gym, in-unit washer/dryer and rooftop swimming pool. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment typically goes for about $4,500 per month. That may sound expensive, but it’s a bargain compared with what you’d have to pay for something similar in Manhattan. Plus, since there’s so much open inventory on Long Island City these days, most buildings will give you one or two months’ free rent on a one-year lease, bringing the net effective rent for the year much lower.
Long Island City is a really convenient location, too. It’s only a stop (or two or three, depending on where you live) away from Manhattan on the subway. LaGuardia airport is about a 15-minute taxi ride away, and you can get to Citi Field or Arthur Ashe Stadium in less than 20 minutes by subway.
The infrastructure isn’t ready for 25,000 weekday workers
But there’s a downside to all that development.
The 7 train, the subway line that runs through much of Queens, is already straining to service the influx of new residents in the Long Island City area. That would only get worse with 25,000 Amazon workers commuting into Long Island City every day.
Meanwhile, there aren’t many shops, restaurants and other hot spots in Long Island City, like you’d find in Crystal City, Virginia, the other location Amazon is said to want for the second part of HQ2. My part of the neighborhood just got its first pharmacy earlier this year, for example. In fact, a lot of Long Island City doesn’t have sidewalks because of all the construction going on.
Luckily, a lot of that construction should be wrapping up by the time Amazon opens up its HQ2, which will probably be no earlier than 2020. And there will be plenty of new housing units for Amazon employees to snag if they want to avoid a troublesome commute on the overcrowded train system. I imagine Amazon would have to encourage its employees to live in Long Island City and make it to work on foot, or start some sort of neighborhood-wide shuttle service to compensate for the poor train service.
Long Island City may not seem like an ideal location today to house a main office of one of the most valuable companies in the world, but it seems to be the best suited part of New York for a home base for Amazon. And the neighborhood’s transformation will only accelerate if Amazon ultimately decides to go there.
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