Now that the deal for Amazon’s second headquarters has been struck, it’s worth asking if this is a package that its recipients should never have ordered.
Amazon announced that its “HQ2” will be split between two locations, Long Island City in Queens, New York, and Crystal City in Northern Virginia. Amazon says it intends to employ more than 25,000 workers at each site. But that does not mean that Amazon will be employing many residents from either the Washington, DC, metropolitan area or the boroughs of New York City. Rather, it will be attracting people from elsewhere to work on its new campus for more than $150,000 a year. Indeed, this is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s stated reason for siting the headquarters in two of the US’s richest and most rapidly gentrifying cities, according to its news release: “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come.”
In exchange for a subsidy of over $1.5 billion, New York has been promised a donation of land for a single new school, a “tech startup incubator” and “new green spaces.” In exchange for a subsidy of almost $800 million, Arlington, Virginia, of which Crystal City is a part, will apparently not receive anything.
What the politicians who negotiated these deals will receive is a richer population. Not for their current population to become more financially stable, more secure or more fulfilled – but for a new population, which will push out many of the previous residents. They will govern a richer community, and the old community will be forced to move somewhere else.
The much-touted investment from Amazon is not in the existing communities in Arlington and Queens. It is in the communities to come — wealthier, less demanding of services like health care and housing. The people pushed out by rising housing costs in…