On Thursday afternoon, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio submitted to Amazon.com its initial proposal for the giant online retailer and technology firm to locate its so-called HQ2 (a second corporate headquarters) in New York City.
Working through the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) — the agency that negotiates strategic partnerships designed to foster economic growth by harnessing public-sector resources to private-sector projects — the de Blasio administration proposed that Amazon consider four locations in three of the five boroughs: the West Side of Midtown, the Long Island City Waterfront in Queens, the Brooklyn area known as the “Tech Triangle” (formed by DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and Downtown Brooklyn), and Lower Manhattan.
The City’s overall pitch emphasizes that New York offers the largest pool of technology talent available anywhere in the nation, as well as America’s largest systems of public transportation and air transportation. The proposal further focuses on New York’s diversity and what EDC calls, “a proven ecosystem for innovation.”
In a letter from Mr. de Blasio to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, dated October 16, the Mayor notes that, “the case for New York City is simple: we are the global capital of commerce, culture and innovation. No city has a greater diversity of talent, of industries, and of collisions that fuel great ideas and companies.”
The letter continues, “the brightest minds and innovators want to live in New York. The people who live and come here experience a quality of life unlike anywhere else, from our incomparable public spaces and cultural institutions to our dynamic neighborhoods. This is the safest big city in America, an open city that welcomes people from every corner of the country and the globe.”
Amazon is seeking a location within 30 miles of a metropolitan area with a population of more than one million, and within 45 minutes of an international airport. The company also wants close proximity (meaning less than three miles) to major highways and arterial roads, access to mass transit, as well as, “a stable and business-friendly environment.”
Finally, the firm is seeking as much as 500,000 square feet of office space by 2019, with room to expand by another eight million square feet in years to come. The first is also hoping for (but does not require) proximity to major universities. Once it settles on such a location, Amazon plans to invest $5 billion locally, and bring some 50,000 jobs to its new headquarters. (The firm says that the average salary for these jobs will top $100,000 per year.)
In some ways, New York would be a natural choice for Amazon. The City’s five boroughs are already home (or shortly will be) to more than 1.8 million square feet of Amazon facilities, divided between warehouses, distribution centers, offices, and retail stores. This is the largest Amazon presence anywhere in the world outside of the firm’s hometown of Seattle, Washington, where the firm owns or leases 8.1 million square feet of commercial space. (The Seattle footprint is expected to grow to 12 million square feet within five years.)
Among the New York City contenders, Lower Manhattan would seem, in some ways, to be the most logical choice. It is New York’s technology center, and conforms almost perfectly to the criteria outlined by the company.
“Lower Manhattan checks every one of Amazon’s boxes,” notes Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, which operates the local business-improvement district and is dedicated to luring more firms from every industry to Lower Manhattan. In recent years, the Alliance has had particular success in enticing firms from the technology, advertising, media, and information (or “TAMI”) industries to the area south of Chambers Street.
In the section of the City’s pitch that focuses on Lower Manhattan, EDC notes that, “tech, advertising, media, information and professional services firms have grown from occupying 18 percent of the area’s office occupancy to 31 percent today,” and cites the potential for Amazon to occupy up to 8.5 million square feet of office space that already exists, or is planned for development in the near future. The EDC also notes that Lower Manhattan offers access to 13 subway lines, and 1.7 million workers within a 45-minute commute.
Among the more intriguing prospects that may pique interest on the part of Amazon’s strategic planners is a note in the EDC proposal that emphasizes the development potential of Governors Island, a ten-minute ferry ride away from the Battery. The Trust for Governors Island (which oversees both the beloved park that has taken shape there in recent years, as well as the development plans that will eventually — it is hoped — make the island finically self-sufficient) recently released requests for proposals that mark the initial phase of plans to develop up to four million square feet of commercial space on 33 acres of the open space. (Another one million square feet of existing space is also available on Governors Island.) Such a parcel could accommodate more than half of Amazon’s long-term requirements, and make an idyllic research-and-development campus for the company.
Ms. Lappin continued, “we have the available square footage, tremendous access to talent, an unsurpassed transportation network and are situated in a thriving live, work and play neighborhood. It is also a absolutely singular opportunity to be the party that finishes the World Trade Center campus. The iconic and historic dimensions of that cannot be overstated.”
More than 100 other cities around the United States have responded to Amazon’s request for proposals, some of which have made offers than New York simply cannot match. (The town of Stonecrest, Georgia, for example, is offering to change its name to Amazon.) And New York may also be at a further disadvantage because it cannot offer one of Amazon’s key requirements: direct flights to New York. All of that noted, Mr. Bezos and his team of advisors will soon begin considering whether Lower Manhattan is the right fit for Amazon’s second home. The company is expected to announce a decision sometime in 2018.