Chhaya Opposes the Arrival of Amazon Headquarters

Chhaya Community Development Corporation works to build the housing stability and economic well-being of low-to-moderate income (LMI) South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers. It is because of this mission that we unequivocally oppose the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.  

Three billion in taxpayer dollars were committed to the land use of our city, ignoring the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In doing so, the government denied the voice of the community and the 14 Community Boards which represent Queens residents. Behind closed doors, an agreement was made to hand out public funding and federal tax exemptions to enable a multi-billion-dollar company’s headquarters to be placed adjacent to the country’s largest public housing development. The only pledge to the community is less than one percent of this public subsidy on workforce development – a workforce who face great social and educational barriers.

In a city that is enduring an ongoing affordable housing crisis, this move has already spurred predatory speculation and laid the foundation for further gentrification and displacement in our communities. According to the latest census tract of the neighborhoods that stand to be most impacted, 40% of tenants pay over half of their income in rent each month. And although housing stock in New York City is on the rise, it continues to be unaffordable for the 70% of LMI New Yorkers. While income remains stagnant, annual median asking rent increased by nearly 20% between 2015-2016 in Queens. Families are being priced out. As wealth disparity continues, the effects of Amazon’s presence will be felt far beyond Long Island City: from Jackson Heights, to Corona, to Richmond Hill, to Jamaica – neighborhoods that are still recovering from inequality, neglect, and redlining.

What’s more, a ripple effect of a pressurized rental market will worsen the instability already being experienced by small businesses. There is currently no penalty in place for landlords who intentionally leave storefronts vacant, in the hopes of attracting a higher-paying tenant; with Amazon, they will be further incentivized to do so. Small businesses anchor the cultural fabric of our city, and are the livelihoods of many families who decide to lay roots here. An Amazon headquarters in Queens risks destroying these distinguishing characteristics of our city.

Our community members want investment in affordable housing, homeownership opportunities, transportation, manufacturing, and local businesses. We envision an alternative plan for Queens, one that involves our government directing resources to building our local economy from the ground up – a vision based on equity and opportunity for immigrants, working families, and entrepreneurs. We believe it is possible to preserve the diversity of Queens, while also creating a local economy that works for all.