Yesterday Amazon announced its decision on where to locate its new “second headquarters”; and as you no doubt already know, it chose to divide between two locations, one just outside Washington, DC, and the other in a part of Queens, NY, known as Long Island City. Each is to become the site for some 25,000 future jobs.
For those unfamiliar with New York geography, Long Island City is the neighborhood that you see over there on the opposite shore when you look across the East River from Midtown Manhattan. When I moved to New York in the 1970s, LIC was a very dreary and forgotten industrial area, known for small factories and a lot of truck traffic. But over the last 20 or so years it has gained traction as a location for residences and offices that are (somewhat) cheaper than Manhattan but very close and accessible. Four different subway tunnels connect LIC to Midtown. Most of the former industrial sites have by now been replaced with multiple dozen new large apartment towers.
Also in Long Island City, toward the northern end of it, is something called the Queensbridge Houses. According to the New York Times, Queensbridge Houses is “the country’s largest public housing project.” About 7000 people live there. Also according to the Times, most of the residents of Queensbridge Houses are either African American or Hispanic, and the median household income is “well below the federal poverty level.” This project is approximately one-half mile north — easy walking distance — from the spot where Amazon is proposing to build its new complex. Here is a picture of the housing project:
So, perhaps your first reaction is, the Queensbridge residents and other New York locals should view these new jobs are the best possible thing that could happen to the people of this enormous project. What better route could there be for them to improve their lives than to go out and get hired by Amazon? You’re not yet qualified? Get out and take some courses — you have a few years before the big hiring will take place. But if that’s what you are thinking, you just don’t understand the progressive brain. In fact, the progressive New Yorker views the residents of these projects as helpless children who have no agency of their own and no ability to do anything but sit around and wait for government handouts. To this way of thinking, tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs will not improve the Queensbridge residents’ lives at all, but will only serve to deepen the divide between the poor and the rich in New York.
Do you not believe that progressives really could think that way? Let me give you several quotes from the New York Times piece from yesterday, already linked above. The headline is “Amazon’s New Neighbor: The Nation’s Largest Housing Project,” and the author is Corey Kilgannon.
Here, where livings are eked out on meager paychecks, or social service assistance, with nearly 60 percent of its households relying on food stamps, the new neighbor will be one of the world’s most profitable high-tech companies, bringing what could be a work force of 25,000 people making salaries upward of $100,000. The stark contrast amplifies some of the social and economic tensions coursing through American society — a widening income gap, a lack of access to high-paying jobs for many minorities and a technology sector struggling to diversify.
I like that part about “lack of access to high-paying jobs.” If 25,000 new jobs paying “upward of $100,000,” all within about a one-half mile walk, is not “access to high-paying jobs,” I can’t imagine what is. But then, of course, these people also live one subway stop away from the 2 million or so high-paying jobs in Midtown Manhattan, and that hasn’t done them any good either.
[T]he explosion of jobs [from Amazon and also Google] has helped propel the local economy. But it has not mitigated the “tale of two cities” narrative of economic disparity that Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to address in a city where the poverty rate in 2016 was 19.5 percent, significantly higher than the national rate. That stratification is keenly felt in Queensbridge, a gritty complex just across the East River from the East Side of Manhattan and some of the wealthiest neighborhoods and real estate in the country.
Could it really be that none of these people have any ability over the course of the next few years to go out and learn what they need to learn to qualify for one of these jobs? I don’t believe it, but that’s what the Times is telling us. And then there is the obnoxious and disdainful attitude of the ultra-progressive head of Amazon and his minions:
A spokesman for Amazon, Sam Kennedy, declined to comment on its plans in New York, but said that the company has a proven track record of funding and creating programs for the needy in Seattle, where Amazon has its main headquarters. This includes donating tens of millions of dollars, creating affordable housing, opening a shelter in its office complex for homeless families and creating a training program for the food service and culinary industries for less-advantaged residents.
That’s right, disadvantaged people: We don’t want you, but we are willing to “create a training program” for you to learn about the “food service” industry. Maybe then we’ll let you work in our cafeteria!
Frankly, if that is what the big boss is going to think about me, I would not want to have anything to do with Amazon either. But for God’s sake, in this booming economy, there are plenty of other high paying opportunities. Go out and find yourself one! (Unless, of course, you are already making good money in the underground or illegal economy. In that case, I say, by all means continue, but stop whining about fake “poverty.”)