NEW YORK — Shawn Smith has heard the promises before. When new hotels sprang up near the public housing complex in Queens where he’s lived for 17 years, residents were told they would bring jobs and economic opportunity.

He hasn’t seen any of it. So he’s cynical about the announcement this week that Amazon will build a headquarters for 25,000 workers on the Long Island City waterfront, a half mile from his home. Elected officials gleefully promised that Amazon’s presence will buoy all of western Queens. Smith is not so sure.

“The hotels here, they’re not hiring nobody. They’re bringing their own kind,” said Smith, who commutes to a construction job in New Jersey. “That’s how I feel about Amazon.”

His wasn’t the only skeptical voice among the roughly 6,400 residents of the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the U.S.

Residents, most of whom are black or Hispanic, expressed hope that there might be something for them in Amazon’s hiring bonanza to offset the pressures of neighborhood gentrification. But they are taking the promised opportunity with a grain of salt.

“Let’s see if they hire from around here,” said Fontaine White, 54, who has lived in Queensbridge for eight years. “I think it’s a good idea, provided you remember we live here, too. If you put Amazon in Long Island City, we’re part of Long Island City.”


City and state officials promised at least $2.8 billion in tax credits and grants to lure Amazon to Queens, where it would occupy a new campus built around a former industrial boat basin.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, have heralded the deal as good for everyone.

De Blasio, who won office on promises to address the widening gap between rich and poor in the city, said Amazon has pledged to give money for job training programs for public housing residents, provide space for a new school and pay into a city fund that will be used for projects that benefit the community.He said Amazon’s presence would lead to “a lot of jobs for young people coming out of our public schools, coming out of public housing, coming out of city universities. And that’s crucial to addressing inequality.”

The big government incentives for Amazon have sharply split the Democrats who dominate state politics.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement in support of the deal. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted that “one of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet.”

New Yorkers who ride the subway through Queens have wondered how the neighborhood will handle additional commuters. The station closest to where Amazon would be located already has an average daily ridership of 23,672, making it among the system’s busiest.


The area around Queensbridge has already been changing fast. Luxury condominiums have sprouted. JetBlue’s corporate headquarters is a modest walk away. An artisanal brewery moved in. Hotels, once rare in outer boroughs, have sprouted, taking advantage of safe streets and quick access to Manhattan.

Ashley Nieves, who has lived her entire 21 years in Queensbridge, was concerned that Amazon’s arrival would make the neighborhood more expensive, but was hopeful it would lead to job opportunities.

That would be a trade-off she was willing to live with.

“If you hire more people, especially people who live in the projects,” the mother of two said, “it’s kind of like opening doors to live better.”

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