NEW YORK — Amazon’s plan to move at least 25,000 employees with annual salaries averaging $150,000 into skyscrapers in Long Island City cemented the Seattle-based tech titan as one of the most powerful new players in Queens, N.Y. Ten miles away and 72 years ago, a more humble structure became home to a man whose power would expand far beyond the neighborhood.
Amazon is moving into the borough where President Donald Trump and his empire were born. His father, Fred Trump, constructed properties throughout Queens and Brooklyn, creating a fortune he would pass onto his son Donald Trump, largely avoiding taxes through a series of complicated and shrewd financial maneuvers. Decades ago, Trump and his siblings sold off most of the properties their father built.
The tech company is receiving tax breaks to build half of its highly publicized “HQ2” in Queens. The company is eligible for $1.5 to $2.5 billion in tax incentives and construction grants in New York. Trump’s current home, the Washington D.C. region, will play host to the other half of Amazon HQ2. The company will receive more than $550 million in incentives for creating another 25,000 jobs in Arlington, the D.C. suburb in Northern Virginia.
Trump was critical but measured when asked about the two HQ2 winners by The Daily Caller on Wednesday.
“I think they’re paying a very big price,” he said of the two cities. “It was a competition. I know all about those competitions. I’ve been in those competitions — a lot of cities were competing for it. They took the best deals, you know?”
Trump’s comments strike a decidedly more measured tone than he’s taken toward Amazon in the past. The president has been highly critical of the company and its CEO Jeff Bezos — accusing them of everything from antitrust issues to ripping off the U.S. Postal Service to using The Washington Post (which Bezos independently owns) as a “propaganda machine.”
Ironically, Amazon could benefit from a new provision of the tax code Trump signed into law earlier this year, as the New York Times has noted. If Amazon creates a real estate company in one of the many Queens neighborhoods designated “Opportunity Zones,” the tech giant could buy property and avoid paying capital gains tax on the appreciated value of those buildings.
New York lawmakers have celebrated their victory landing Amazon in the days since the company revealed its two HQ2 cities. Former New York mayor and business leader Michael Bloomberg called the decision “an affirmation not only of NYC’s growing tech talent, but also of all the investments — in housing, schools, parks, transportation, and culture — that have turned LIC into such a thriving neighborhood” on Twitter. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Queens would benefit from the “economic opportunity and investment,” in a statement released with Amazon’s announcement.
But other elected officials and Queens community members are concerned about the Amazon HQ2 price tag.
New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents the Queens neighborhood Amazon is moving into, organized a protest in the neighborhood Wednesday. Speaking before a large crowd, he said, “Amazon was coming here without all this money anyway.” New York Assemblyman Michael Blake later added, “We should be investing in housing and hot water, not in helicopters,” in reference to a helipad New York agreed to allow on the new Amazon campus.
Amazon plans to begin construction on its two new headquarters in early 2019.