As reports emerged this week that Amazon.com Inc. was close to an agreement to set up a new office hub in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, the prospect of all those jobs, shoppers, and potential tenants or homebuyers drew cheers in the fast-growing neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan.
“We’ve got a lot of buildings coming here, but no one’s actually working here,” said Patrick Donagher, who runs Alewife Brewing Company and a local taproom. “There’s no real jobs around here. So something like that coming here, it’d be a great economic boom.”
A stop away from Manhattan on the subway, Long Island City is largely residential, with strong demand for high-rise apartment and condo units, thanks to its proximity to Manhattan and its comparatively affordable prices. If Amazon moves into the neighborhood, local restaurant owners say they would welcome the business growth likely to follow.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity wherever they put it, especially with their type of employee,” Richard LeFrak, chairman and chief executive officer of the LeFrak Organization, developer of the LeFrak City apartment complex in Queens, said in an interview. “Many prefer to live close to where they work.”
That prospect is music to the ears of Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica, an Italian restaurant that’s had a community presence since 1977.
“We’re looking for people not to be so transient, that are coming in and out of Long Island City, but people to spend money in Long Island City,” she said. “Some people are against Amazon because I think in their minds they’re thinking that Amazon is eating the world up. But if we actually work with Amazon in the community and help build and stabilize this community — what we were hoping it was going to do — that would be freaking amazing.”
Some residents are concerned that a sudden influx of so many people could put the neighborhood’s already stressed infrastructure to the test.
New York City Mayor de Blasio last week announced $180 million of investments in the neighborhood for improvements that would help support that demand, $95 million of which is set aside for sewer and water main improvements alone.
Cerbone-Teoli doubted that would be enough money to fix all the issues, especially those that have been building since Hurricane Sandy hit the city in 2012. Others said they expect the funding is the first of several rounds from the city.
Whether the Amazon workers choose to live in Queens or elsewhere, Long Island City is easily accessible, said Rebecca Trent, who has run The Cave and the Creek, a comedy club in Long Island City, since 2006.
“We’re adjacent to Manhattan but we’re close enough that you’re never more than 20 minutes away from anything, you know, if traffic’s moving,” she said.