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Could Long Island deliver a new HQ for Amazon?

Construction on glass domes at the Amazon.com campus

Construction on glass domes at the Amazon.com campus in downtown Seattle on April 27, 2017. Credit: AP / Elaine Thompson

A preview: Endless zoning discussions about building height, logo size and the fire department’s ability to handle it all. Questions on traffic, sewers, water, and community benefits agreements. A town board meeting debate just about the signature glass biospheres.

Even if Amazon found a perfect spot on Long Island for its second worldwide headquarters, can you imagine the online retail giant breaking through the cacophony to build its next corporate campus here?

New York officials are taking seriously Amazon’s request for proposals for a new office-retail complex to complement its current Seattle campus. Long Island leaders hope the region will be in the mix.

Amazon’s requirements start off simply: Proximity to a population center, an international airport and major highways. No problem — New York City, Kennedy Airport, the Long Island Expressway. And access to mass transit. Sure, with land near a Long Island Rail Road stop. Then again, have you ridden the LIRR? But service is bound to get better . . .

After that, Amazon’s request sounds a bit like a fantasy world.

  • Up to 8 million square feet of development. For context, the proposed Heartland Town Square in the Town of Islip will amount to 4 million square feet. Land here is expensive, though Amazon could probably afford it, but the shop-worn comparisons that the suburbs are turning into to New York City are inevitable.
  • “A stable and business-friendly environment.” The economy is strong. But business-friendly? Have you seen our taxes? But Amazon is looking for incentives, and state officials and local industrial development agencies plan to work together to offer plenty of financial perks and tax breaks.
  • A location that will “attract and retain strong technical talent.” The Island’s universities pump out young workers with skills. For the right jobs, they’d stay, but there’s not enough housing. Amazon could recruit employees from New York City, but reverse commuting to Amazon Long Island would be tough until the LIRR lays a third track.
  • The region’s “ranking of traffic congestion”: You don’t really need that, right? Because you don’t want to know. If New York ever embraces congestion pricing, traffic could ease. Eventually.
  • “An expeditious timetable.” The Garvies Point mixed-use development in Glen Cove took only a decade to get approvals to break ground, and Heartland has waited 15. Is that expeditious enough? With state land, it could happen more quickly. Care to apply for developing unused land at Belmont Park? Proposals to the state are due next week!
  • “Local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company.” State officials and advocates can’t wait. But local electeds? Have you contributed to their campaigns or handed business to their lobbyists? Hired a bevy of their relatives? No? It might be an uphill battle to get anything done, then.
  • “Overall high quality of life.” Ah, this is where Long Island wins. Good schools. Beautiful beaches. Plenty of parks and open space.

Let’s face it. Amazon’s not coming to Long Island. Not right now. But perhaps Amazon’s request is a roadmap for us to attract the next big company, and the one after that. 

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