Seattle Council Reveals Possible Effect of Amazon Expansion to New York

Miguel Moreno
By Miguel Moreno
January 7, 2019New York

Council members from the West Coast visited New York to discuss the impact Amazon has had on Seattle, and what Amazon’s new headquarters in New York City might hold for residents.

The briefing took place at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) on Jan. 7, where discussions revolved around the $1.5 billion in incentives and other assistance to Amazon, and the corporation’s impact on the workforce.

Incentives, Grants, and Assistance

Amazon HQ2 Briefing with Seattle Council.
Amazon HQ2 Briefing with Seattle Council and Union on Jan. 7, 2019, in Manhattan, New York. (Miguel Moreno/NTD News)

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum commenced the briefing by expressing concerns about Amazon’s treatment of its workforce, and thanking people for attending the briefing. Good Jobs First executive director Greg Leroy—a resource center that focuses on corporate incentives—took to the stand.

Leroy explained New York had invested about $2.8 billion into Amazon through incentives, grants, and other assistance according to Leroy. In real terms the investment is worth $112,000 per job, for the estimated 25,000 staff Amazon will hire in New York by the year 2028.

Leroy compared the amount of subsidies the company had gained, and the average yearly wage of its workers, which is $28,446 on a minimum wage of $14 according to Leroy. He implied the company did not provide employees just paying jobs in contrast to the benefits it received.

Amazon raised its minimum wage for all employees to $15 an hour working full-time, part-time, and on a contract basis, on Nov. 2018.

Leroy is calling for subsidy caps in order to prevent large corporations from taking advantage of taxpayers. He warned if the HQ2 project is measured by European Union standards, it would receive zero percent in subsidies.

Seattle-ization: Bringing In, Pushing Out

Amazon HQ2 Briefing with Seattle Council.
Amazon HQ2 Briefing with Seattle Council in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Miguel Moreno/NTD News)

Seattle Council Member Teresa Mosqueda (D) focused on Seattle-ization, a wave of 1,000 people moving in per week and boom in tech jobs. Mosqueda agrees that tech companies are coming but low-wage workers are being pushed out.

“In Seattle you see that the majority of the population that was living in Seattle, who were low-income working families, has been pushed out,” she said. “[They were] pushed to areas where they are still having to commute one and two hours into their jobs”

Mosqueda believes the company must offer good paying jobs to 7 percent of Seattle that it employs, as it should in New York to prevent families from being pushed out. Amazon owns about 20 percent of office space in Seattle, spanning eight million square feet with future plans to expand by an additional five million square feet.

She also encouraged New York to not feel intimidated by corporations when they “flex their muscles, threaten to run out of town, tries to say that they will cut jobs or construction.”

Project Will Be Built in Two Sections

Amazon’s headquarters has been split in two: one will be settled in Arlington, Virginia, and the other in Long Island, New York. The Long Island headquarters will cover an estimated area of 4 million square feet.

The new headquarters is estimated to create 25,000 new jobs, and offer an average wage of $150,000 annually within 10 years according to the Long Island City Development Plan. By 2034, the project is estimated to create 40,000 new jobs, and the headquarters will expand from 6 million to 8 million square feet.

A previous version of this article misstated the amount of money New York had invested into Amazon, according to Good Jobs First executive director Greg Leroy. The amount is $2.8 billion. NTD regrets the error.

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