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What will Amazon HQ2 mean for rents in Long Island City?

Marielle Segarra Nov 13, 2018
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A view of the waterfront of Long Island City in the Queens borough of New York, along the East River.
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Devin Garner has been dying to move out of his parents’ house. His dream location: Long Island City.

“You’re one train stop out of Manhattan. You’re right next to Brooklyn,” Garner said. “You’re literally in the center of everything, but you’re away from everything at the same time.”

So for the past month, Garner, who’s 25 and works in marketing in Manhattan, has been looking at studios and one-bedroom apartments in Long Island City. And he says when he looked again today, rents had shot up. “I can’t afford it anymore,” he said. “I could barely afford it. I mean, Long Island City was already an expensive place. But now, forget about it.”

The Long Island City neighborhood of Queens — just across the East River from Midtown Manhattan — will be one of two locations for Amazon’s new headquarters. (The other: the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.)

The New York City neighborhood has been undergoing a massive transformation over the past 20 years. It started out with a lot of empty lots and run-down warehouses, but now it’s full of new construction — high-rises full of luxury apartments.

The news that the online giant would be landing in Long Island City drove New Yorkers to social media to express concerns about affordable housing in the city:

Real estate brokers say things might not turn out to be so bad. There are a lot of new buildings in Long Island City. And the people who move to Queens to work for Amazon aren’t all going to end up living in the neighborhood.

“I’m kind of personally more worried about my own neighborhood,” said Kyle Carscaden, a real estate broker at Spire Group who lives in Sunnyside, Long Island City’s more affordable neighbor. “I figure that people that don’t want that new construction luxury, people that want kind of the more old-school tree-lined neighborhood streets will definitely end up in Sunnyside.”

A wave of new residents could put pressure on people who’ve been living in Queens for a long time. The borough already has a shortage of affordable housing, said Bob Engel with the Free & Fair Markets Initiative.

“What’s going to happen to the long-term residents, the people who built these communities, that made them what they are today, that developed the culture of these communities?” Engel said. “We know what’s going to happen to them. They’re going to be displaced now.”

And in New York City, there aren’t many affordable neighborhoods left.

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