Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

On Amazon’s decision to move to New York City, then cancel

By J. David Goodman, The New York Times, May 1, 2019

Goodman is a metro reporter covering New York.

“People who don’t live in New York City sometimes fail to appreciate how big it really is. Even some who live here don’t realize how easy it is for the city to absorb change. Take Google: It moved into Chelsea without many people there even noticing.

“Technology companies locating here are not always obvious or easily separated from fashion, advertising, or finance, especially when you’re talking about Chelsea and Lower Manhattan. Are new coffee shops sprouting up because of new tech companies? How much can we blame them for skyrocketing rents? Hard to say.

“Amazon would have been different because it was going to an area that is not a tech hub, [and] 25,000 Amazon workers would have been more obvious — and the changes that followed more easily ascribed to them.

“But those changes are happening anyway. Multiple residential towers have sprouted only blocks away from where Amazon was going to build.

“And Amazon already has a few thousand employees scattered around other areas of New York, including 34th Street in Midtown. Most people who pass by have no idea the company is even there.

Midtown, looking north from the World Trade Center, May 2017. Photo: Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP

“Q. Many venture capitalists like to think of New York as the next Silicon Valley. Is it getting there?

“Yes, but the cultures are not the same. You saw that dramatically with Amazon’s flat-footed rollout. The company thought it would be welcomed because it was bringing so many jobs. [But] the Amazon team was surprised by the onslaught of questions from reporters. Many New Yorkers were equally baffled that the company could be so naïve and so unprepared.

“Amazon’s decision to cancel struck fear in a lot of business and political leaders that other tech companies would decide New York City is not where they want to be. But nothing like that has happened. Google is expanding in New York, as is Facebook.”

Read the full article here.