A number of elected officials tweeted “I told you so” when the news came out at the end of last week that Amazon had taken space in Hudson Yards and will move 1500 jobs there soon.
While the question of what kind of public funded incentives should be used to incentivize the behavior of the wealthiest corporations in the world is a conversation that we must have, the truth is we all lost something when Amazon decided not to build their second headquarters in Long Island City and bring 25,000 good paying jobs to Queens.
Where companies locate does matter. Sure you can take a subway from Jamaica Queens to Hudson Yards and some people will.
But NYC’s large and rapidly growing tech sector remains largely white and asian and centered in lower and midtown Manhattan.
I dream of a day when communities like the South Bronx, Jamaica Queens, Brownsville Brooklyn, and St George in Staten Island can have tech companies as residents and tech jobs will be readily available to the residents of those communities.
A good start is NYC’s groundbreaking CS4All program in which computer science teachers and classes are being made available in every public school building in NYC. Another good start is CUNY’s emphasis on making high quality computer science majors available at many of its twenty five campuses around NYC.
We are well on our way to training the tech workforce of tomorrow which can and should be as black and brown and female in the future as it is white and asian and male today.
But we also must connect the tech sector to the vast part of NYC that exists outside of lower and midtown Manhattan.
And the best way to do that is to create incentives of some sort for large and small tech companies to spread out into the outer boroughs.
There is a fantastic building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard called Dock 72. I have suggested to many of the tech companies that I work with that they move there. Some have taken a subway over there to take a look. But many have told me “I’m happy here in Manhattan.”
Locating in Manhattan is easy. You can recruit employees from New Jersey, Westchester and Connecticut. Moving to the boroughs is a harder decision.
So we need to encourage that behavior. If not tax incentives, then let’s try something else.
But if we leave this to the market to sort out, we will see the next 250,000 jobs created by the tech sector located in places like Hudson Yards and not Industry City.
And that will be a loss of all of us.