The following was published in Newsday on November 27th, 2018. You can read the original here.
By Richard Murdocco
While Queens braces itself for Amazon’s pending arrival, young professionals on Long Island dream of the possibilities that the tech giant can bring.
As they polish up their resumes, many millennials ask themselves whether the company really can create the promised 25,000 to 40,000 jobs, and whether salaries for these positions really will average $150,000 — well above Long Island’s average median income of $101,000. The opportunities Amazon presents are tantalizing — and represent some of the best economic prospects this generation has seen.
Amazon’s new HQ2 in Long Island City can very well create possibilities that haven’t existed on Long Island since the days of Grumman, when the thrum of aerospace production gainfully employed thousands in Bethpage and Calverton, while thousands of homes stood ready for affordable purchase on former potato fields.
For years, Long Island’s millennials have dealt with a bleak economic reality — from graduating college and bearing the burden of loan debt, to entering unfriendly job and housing markets defined by low inventory and lower advancement opportunity, there has been little cause for optimism. Even in a relatively strong economy, the ghosts of recession still haunt millennials. Amazon’s arrival can serve as a light at the end of a decade-long tunnel.
For the first time, Amazon can give young professionals in the region the chance to land jobs that start careers and to establish firm roots in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Thanks to Amazon’s decision, millennials can possibly stake their claims to the region’s suburban promise by purchasing the homes they’ve always wanted, repaying their debts and pursuing the creation of personal equity.
Having long written about real estate and development trends, I think it’s easy to get discouraged and cynical about such news — especially as housing costs have continually increased while wages remained stubbornly stagnant. Even with baby boomers downsizing from postwar homes with increased frequency, supply in most communities is far exceeded by demand — pushing prices ever northward. To make matters worse, Amazon is being given more than $1.5 billion in subsidies and tax breaks by New York City and New York State, all while local neighborhood storefronts are shuttered and the subways and commuter trains run poorly.
While the skeptical policy wonk in me questions the mechanics of the giveaways elected officials have promised to the world’s wealthiest company, the optimist within can’t help but think of the bright future that Amazon, and potentially other large companies following in its footsteps, can bring.
Even with Amazon’s arrival, the Long Island that my daughter and nieces inherit will become more expensive. One corporation isn’t likely to reverse the powerful trends that drive such growth, but part of me has hope that Amazon’s investment in Queens is the first of many substantial economic watersheds to come — and our policymakers have the ability to ensure that the prosperity generated by such deals echoes throughout the region.
Richard Murdocco, who writes on Long Island land use and regional policy issues at TheFoggiestIdea.org, is an adjunct professor of economic development and planning at Stony Brook University.