By James Nelson
Principal, Head of Tri-State Investment Sales
This month for The Nelson Report I wanted to explore the implications of the “Amazon Effect” and what exactly attracted the massive commerce company to pick Long Island City out of 238 other places to be the home of its second headquarters.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Elizabeth Lusskin, President of both the Long Island City Partnership and Business Improvement District (BID), and David Brause, President of Brause Realty and Chair of Long Island City BID Board of Directors.
“When we read the RFP and saw what Amazon was looking for, we said immediately, ‘Wow.’ We checked all the boxes,” Lusskin said. She explained that Amazon was looking for a place that could supply and attract a wide range of talent from technology to laborers to accounting. “There’s no more rich talent pool than in the New York City area, let alone what we have in Long Island City,” Lusskin said. Long Island City is home to LaGuardia Community College, with 45,000 students, and Cornell Tech is just to the east on Roosevelt Island. You can also easily access most of the Ivy League from New York City.
Long Island City’s central location was also attractive to Amazon because it will allow employees to easily access all their other sites. It is 15 minutes to LaGuardia, 25 minutes to JFK, and has access to eight subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road.
In 2001, the City of New York decided to up zone the central business district (CBD) of Long Island City, which became the fourth CBD of New York City. The other CBDs are Midtown Manhattan, the Financial District and Downtown Brooklyn. Starting in 2008, the Long Island City CBD became a target for residential development due to tax incentives for building rental apartments.
“It really was clamoring for a big commercial tenant,” Brause explains. “For Amazon to pick New York City and specifically Long Island City—that’s exactly what the up zoning was meant to do.” Amazon will bring large-scale commercial development and most of this money will be as-of-right subsidies. By increasing commercial development, rather than residential, Long Island City will benefit from 25,000 to 40,000 jobs in a variety of sectors.