It was a Thursday morning and from the Little Theatre there was a heartbeat. Breasted drums filled the air as the people in attendance made their way to their seats with an orange hue from the stage lights highlighting their faces. The chatter in the theater was its own song competing with the rhythm of […]
Long Island City, home to a little over 68,000 residents will soon be the home to one of two new headquarters for the online shopping megastore Amazon, a development that has already caused a stir among CUNY students, many of whom vigorously oppose the move.
Ranking number one as the biggest online shopping site by Business Insider, Amazon, spearheaded by its CEO Jeff Bezos, announced the expansion in November. Both Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia were the designated locations to house its HQ2. Expanding the headquarters allows for 25,000 jobs open to those in the area, who have degrees within the technological field. The starting salaries are expected to be over $100,000 per year. Though, the requirements were not mentioned.
While the new structure is envisioned to bring more jobs, the assortment of jobs is rather finite. “ Job opportunities aren’t as large. It’s really for people who work in tech, making the job opportunities that much more limited,” says Luisa Madrid, a commercial photography major at LaGuardia Community College.
The set location is to be near Court Square, just a few blocks from LaGuardia. The surrounding area is a mix of both residential and industrial locale. As of now, rent for an apartment in the area is averaged at $3,000 per month and condos begin anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000. With this new move rents could increase all around Queens and well into Brooklyn and according to Forbes magazine, “A 0.1% uptick sounds small, but for some residents, it could have a major impact — especially for renters.”
A few of the agreements in the proposal Governor Andrew Cuomo presented to Mr. Bezos to influence the move included $1.7 billion dollars in subsidiaries and as said on the LaGuardia website, “We’re very proud that LaGuardia was a key player in the proposal process to bring Amazon here, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that LaGuardia’s diverse and talented students were a big plus for LIC.” In return, Amazon has agreed to build an educational institute, invest in unidentified infrastructures and improve parks in the area.
While the extent to which the involvement of LaGuardia and Amazon remains unclear, it is mentioned on the LaGuardia website that the college wishes to join forces with Amazon to establish a “workforce development programs and internships.” They would also like to create a paved road for LaGuardia graduates to become Amazon employees.
On December 3rd at 3:45 PM, the CUNY Board of Trustees held a public hearing in LaGuardia’s Little Theatre. With the Amazon’s move to the neighborhood being a hot topic, security was heightened within the school. Students and faculty alike were directed to take specific stairwells and hallways to get to their destinations, and officers were posted at every corner.
The increased security and metal detectors at the entrances made some wonder what was going on. “It wasn’t this crazy when the Mayor was here,” says Molly Rosner, who works on education programs at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives.
Outside the College a group of 20-30 students, faculty and staff from various CUNY campuses, protesting the Amazon move, were hoping to create just enough commotion to be heard. Shouting in unison, they declared “Amazon is a scam. It’s time CUNY gives a damn!” Standing in nearly 45-degree weather without a microphone or bullhorn, they were heard by anyone in the vicinity. Some of the main concerns they brought up were the facial I.D. software used on many of Amazon’s tech products, the risk it poses to LaGuardia’s undocumented students, and whether or not Immigration and Customs Enforcement would have access to that.
Their list of demands included “fund ethnic studies departments across all CUNY campuses, pay adjuncts a minimum of $7,000 per course, provide adequate and affordable housing resources for CUNY students, make CUNY free for all students rather than using resources to support Amazon and provide adequate support and protection for undocumented students.”
While Amazon’s move to the booming metropolis of Long Island City serves as a potential collaborator for LaGuardians after college, and creates more jobs in the city, both students and residents in the area are most affected by the financial aspects invested into HQ2. “It sucks because there’s just so many other things we could be investing in within the school,” says a political science major who wishes to remain anonymous. She continued, “When does the financial corruption end?”