Skip to main content

Six months ago today, Amazon canceled plans to build a major campus in Long Island City, Queens. Since then, many have rightfully grieved missing out on tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and what would have been an incredible economic boon for the area and region. Nonetheless, there are silver linings: Most New Yorkers—and an even larger percentage of Queens residents—approved of Amazon’s second headquarters in LIC, showing there is an appetite for development; and regardless of the end result, one of the largest companies on the planet identified this neighborhood as an ideal place to expand its business.

The key now is to create a comprehensive plan for the area to ensure the site that Amazon targeted is used intelligently to better Long Island City, the borough and the entire region. To develop this blueprint, all stakeholders must come together—the private owners, city and state officials, and, of course, the local residents. It is essential that the community is involved throughout the entirety of the planning process to ensure that whatever is built benefits the people and businesses that call the neighborhood home.

Clearly, this site represents an incredible opportunity. Amazon and countless others have seen the potential. Now we have to capitalize on it.

For LIC, Queens and New York City to thrive, we must return to a spirit of aspirational planning and building. Just imagine: LIC could be the home of what would be New York’s only dedicated soccer stadium, creating a new, vibrant cultural landmark in Queens. It could include other venues and amenities as well, such as a new museum, a much-needed second convention center (to complement Manhattan’s Javits) or a modern park or public space.

The location’s features make a variety of transformative developments possible.

LIC has transformed into a mixed-use district—one where people can live, work and play. Just as Amazon was enticed by it, other companies should be as well. Building new office space in the area and attracting businesses to move there would create jobs and economic activity. As our population grows, we will require more housing, and this site could make a significant impact on that front as well; the pre-Amazon proposal for Anable Basin alone included up to 1,250 units of affordable housing. With housing could also come state-of-the-art schools that prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow.

Speaking of those jobs, this could be the perfect place to continue the growth of New York’s life-science sector, including new lab and incubator spaces. Leaders in Queens have been pushing this idea, attracting companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and biomedical tech fields. According to the city’s Economic Development Corp., the metropolitan area has one of the largest bioscience workforces in the country, and LIC could be the center of it. The neighborhood is not only very close to Manhattan’s medical corridor, but its proximity to Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island presents a perfect partnership opportunity. Building a pedestrian bridge would help link their uses.

Anable Basin, combined with the adjacent land to the north, totals over 20 acres and would create a footprint to rival districts such as Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center. The area boasts some of the best transportation access in the city: It is walking distance from eight subway and Long Island Rail Road stations, a mere 15 minutes from Midtown Manhattan, less than an hour from Nassau County, accessible from Brooklyn with the G train and from the rest of Queens, and about 15 minutes and 35 minutes by car from LaGuardia and JFK airports, respectively.

Another reason Amazon chose LIC is the talent pool. When businesses set down roots in New York City, they’re sharing a massively diverse, well-educated and growing employee base, with 38% of the workforce having a bachelor’s degree or higher—6 percentage points above the national average—and 36% of graduates have degrees in STEM fields. And our labor force shows no signs of shrinking. The state reached an all-time high this April of over 8.3 million workers, and the metropolitan region’s labor force has added 1.5 million workers since 2000. Regardless of what type of commercial development occurs, employment programs must be established to connect local public housing residents with these jobs.

Given the chance to move to metropolitan areas across the country and beyond, Amazon chose LIC over Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, Dallas and many other cities. The deal’s demise doesn’t change the fact that this is a prime location for a myriad of commercial, mixed-use and other types of development. A stakeholder-generated blueprint would inspire confidence that such a proposal would be welcomed. It’s time for Plan B.

Carlo Scissura is president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, an industry group.

Published on

Aug 14, 2019 by New York Building Congress