Editorial Comment

Editorial Board

Seattle can teach NYC about Amazon


On Feb. 14, Amazon.com Inc. announced that it would retract its plans to build one of its sought-after Headquarters 2 sites in Long Island City.

The surprising reversal came after severe backlash to the company’s plans from both state and local politicians.

Freshman congressional representative of New York City’s Bronx borough, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, took to Twitter to express her satisfaction with the outcome, where she said that “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

In its statement about the decision, Amazon stated that it needed “positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term,” a position that sheds light on the mutually dependent relationship that corporations and cities have with one another.

As the New York City public grapples with the implications of the pullout, the controversy provides Seattleites an opportunity to consider our own city’s experience with the tech giant and an opportunity to impart an example to the rest of America concerning the realities of managing a tech giant- driven economy.

According to the Seattle Times, Seattle is the fastest growing city in the country as of 2018.

Our own university openly professes what we call a “Seattle advantage,” a term that is rooted in facts and statistics.

With the title of fastest growing city in America comes an unofficial, additional title of “crane capital of the country,” as Seattle is home to the most cranes out of any other U.S. city, according to the Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Index. According to the Downtown Seattle Association, between 2010 and 2015, retail sales in downtown Seattle have grown more than 19 percent annually — much faster than in nearby cities.

Does Amazon’s over 40,000 employees and subsequent thousands of additional construction, small business and retail jobs have an inseparable relationship to this economic success? Absolutely.

Does Amazon’s success translate into success for local markets who benefit from the increased population with disposable incomes? Of course.

But there is equal strength in the relationship Amazon has to Seattle’s success as it does to its shortcomings.

Rent in Seattle was 63 percent higher in 2017 than it was in 2010, a fact that has caused rampant gentrification.

Additionally, any local can testify to the fact that the 18.7 percent growth rate in population that the city experienced in 2017 only intensified the severe congestion problems Seattle faces.

High paying jobs translate to undeniable benefits for cities, but also an unassailable fact that these benefits will not be able to be translated to all citizens and in fact will cause harm to certain demographics.

While there are New Yorkers who are celebrating victory against unfair corporate tax breaks and toxic inflation, and others who are mourning the loss of 25,000 well-paying jobs whose tax revenues could have funded billions of dollars worth of programs and development, perhaps Seattle can serve as an example to provide answers to the question, is Amazon worth it?

Our city is thriving, but at a high cost for many.

With Seattle as an example, the Amazon question for cities across America transforms from what will we gain to what are willing to sacrifice?