Locals Have Mixed Feelings On Amazon's Retreat

February 14, 2019 - 5:30 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- On the streets of Queens, reaction to Amazon's decision to cancel its headquarters differed among the residents and local businesses. 
 
Andrew Ousley, a resident of one of the new rental high-rises near the site Amazon had considered, applauded Thursday's news.
 
"I was afraid that having Amazon in our backyard was going to lead to rent hikes and increased prices in stores and restaurants,'' he said. "Given I both live and operate my business out of LIC, my plan was to move out before they arrived. But now that they're not coming, I'm more likely to stay and see how the neighborhood continues to grow and evolve in a more organic fashion.''

RELATED: Opposition Celebrate Amazon’s Withdrawal From NYC
 
But Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, struggled to express his "sadness and dismay.''
 
"An entire generation will look back at these last few months and ask us why,'' he said in a statement. "I hope those that opposed this Amazon deal have the answers to what we lost today. Queens is one of the best places for a tech firm -- for any forward-looking business -- to expand into, with our diverse talent pool, entrepreneurial spirit, thriving arts scene and boundless energy. It is a shame to lose the opportunity, investment and jobs that Amazon offered, but there are many more ways for businesses in Queens to thrive, and we will be welcoming them with open arms.''

Though, some residents were a little more indifferent to the news. One man said he's been in the area for years and has watched it grow and change over decades.

"Prostitutes would walk here in front of our building,” he told WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz. “This was just… no one wanted to be here. It's just completely isolated, neglected, dangerous.”

He compared the Amazon deal to a divorce: neither partner wanted to break-up, but it may be for the best. He didn't seem too distraught about the news and said he was confident another major corporation will want to move into the area. He just hopes next time, it won't take $3 billion to get them to come.

Eric Benaim, another Long Island City and CEO of the local real-estate brokerage firm Modern Spaces, took the news a bit differently.

His company is handling marketing for Skyline Tower, the tallest residential building in Queens that is still under construction and sits directly across the street from Amazon's planned HQ2. He says the community is losing out on a major growth opportunity.

Benaim says open house traffic rose 400 percent in the last few months. He was making condo sales over text messages. He doesn't think the decision to pull out will be a burden on his business, but he says others will suffer.

"I feel saddened for all the local businesses, the restaurants, who were really looking forward to this. And, you really feel sad for 25,000 people who won't be able to bring groceries home or not be able to get a paycheck and instead, be waiting on the unemployment line." Benaim said.

Benaim says many of those people live in the Queensbridge public housing development and that Amazon promised a brighter future for them.

"What kind of opportunity is that? Queensbridge residents had an opportunity to work for the biggest company in the world where they could have climbed up the corporate ladder and save money and eventually move out of Queensbridge," he said.

Benaim thinks the reversal ulimvately came down to local politicians who didn't understand the enhancements that Amazon could bring to Long Island City. 

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)