By Zoe Fanzo
“An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites,” Bronx resident and Hunter College freshman Andrew Shkreli told the Meridian. Shkreli opposes the call from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and several other elected officials for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to select the Bronx as the location of the company’s next headquarters.
“If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe.”
- Bronx resident Mary F. Smith
In an open letter published on Oct. 15, officials advocating for a Bronx headquarters boasted of the borough’s central location, noting, “We are six miles from LaGuardia Airport, [and] 20 minutes from Kennedy Airport…The Bronx is the only borough attached to the mainland United States, and we offer easy connections to Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey by car. In addition, we are in the midst of constructing a new Metro North commuter rail spur in the East Bronx.” The letter also documents the borough’s recent economic growth, citing $3.27 billion in total development in 2016. Diaz asserts that since 2009, unemployment in the Bronx has been reduced by more than half, making it a prime location for corporate investment.
Some Bronxites, though, dread the consequences of corporate influence, and fear that Diaz is accelerating gentrification in their communities. “I think the main issue is that Diaz cares more about people coming into the Bronx and improving the Bronx’s image rather than those who already reside here,” Shkreli said. “There is a blatant attempt to facilitate gentrification because the main people who will benefit from this are college-educated professionals, which the majority of the Bronx is not. Consequently, Diaz isn’t looking out for the Bronx now, as it is, he is looking out for what it could be. An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites.”
However, Diaz’ plea has some Bronxites celebrating urban renewal and economic stimulation. “I think it would be a cool idea. It would bring more jobs to the Bronx, and also more publicity to the borough,” said Lehman sophomore Ngozi Fisher.
Bronx resident Mary F. Smith, 63, who grew up during the era of burning buildings and urban decay, praised the potential headquarters. “I looked into it, and I found that at Amazon, even the entry-level jobs pay $12 an hour, which is more than the minimum wage. You can work your way up, and we don’t have those kinds of jobs here; they’re full-time and they’re benefit jobs. I do think the Bronx economy is transforming, there are more and more positive things happening. If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe,” said Smith.
While Bronxites are divided about the placement of the headquarters, plans for its location remain undetermined. Some New Yorkers believe that, regardless of economic consequence, the city is not equipped for an Amazon headquarters. Veronica Vanterpool, board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, rejected the plea to make New York the home of the next headquarters in her recent Daily News opinion piece, “Mayor, get behind progressive congestion pricing,” citing Amazon’s preference for “proximity to major highways and arterial roads,” and “access to mass transits.” The city, according to Vanterpool, “has traffic-choked streets and an imploding transit network--both of which will remain that way until we make a long-overdue fix.”
“It will definitely inject a lot of growth into the Bronx, but it will also bring a lot of traffic,” agreed Lehman graduate student Jeldin Colberg.
Ultimately, as many cities attempt to make a case for Amazon’s next headquarters, it remains unclear as to whether or not the Bronx will be chosen by the corporate giant, or if the borough is even in the right condition for such development. Regardless of the outcome, Ruben Diaz Jr. insists, “Amazon belongs in New York.”