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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Amazon headquarters in Queens is 'extremely concerning'

After months of speculation, Amazon has officially announced that the locations of its much-anticipated second headquarters will be Long Island City, New York, and Arlington, Virginia.

Many cities were eager to attract Amazon's additional headquarters. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently elected to represent the 14th Congressional District of New York, which borders the district that includes Long Island City, is not excited about the company moving into the neighborhood.

"We've been getting calls and outreach from Queens residents all day about this," she tweeted on Tuesday. "The community's response? Outrage."

She continued, "Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here."

Housing displacement is a major concern of Ocasio-Cortez's. She is a vocal advocate for affordable housing and says she fears that Amazon's decision to set up shop in Queens will hasten gentrification, increase housing prices and displace current residents.

According to The New York Times, American cities and states spend roughly $90 billion a year in cash and tax incentives to attract companies like Amazon. Because Amazon required each city to sign a nondisclosure agreement, citizens may never know what their elected officials offered the company.

For months, cities across the country eagerly wooed Amazon, which had promised to spend $5 billion developing the new headquarters that would employ some estimated 50,000 people. Local politicians insisted that each of their cities had the workforce and infrastructure necessary for the business partnership that promised to bring tens of thousands of jobs.

Philadelphia business leaders spent $85,000 wrapping public buses and trains in Seattle, Amazon's home-base, with ads for Philadelphia, in an attempt to attract the company to The City of Brotherly Love.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to questions at a town hall event, September 19, 2018 in The Bronx borough of New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to questions at a town hall event, September 19, 2018 in The Bronx borough of New York City.

Ocasio-Cortez argued that there are several factors that communities should think about before being lured into these kinds of partnerships with major corporations, among them, a commitment to hiring within the existing community, the quality of work conditions, wages, benefits and the ability for workers to bargain collectively.

The Congresswoman-elect stressed that government officials need to keep the concerns of their constituents as their highest priorities. "We need to focus on good healthcare, living wages, affordable rent. Corporations that offer none of those things should be met w/ skepticism," she wrote on Twitter. "It's possible to establish economic partnerships w/ real opportunities for working families, instead of a race-to-the-bottom competition."

She's not alone in her concerns. Local officials like Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Mike Gianaris also came out against the deal with Amazon. The pair released a statement detailing their "serious reservations."

"Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong. The burden should not be on the 99 percent to prove we are worthy of the 1 percent's presence in our communities, but rather Amazon to provide it would be a responsible corporate neighbor," write the representatives. "We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones."

Ocasio-Cortez made it clear that her concerns are not just about Amazon specifically, but rather about the relationships that the government has with its citizens and corporations.

"This isn't just about one company or one headquarters. It's about cost of living, corps paying their fair share, etc," she wrote on Twitter. "It's not about picking a fight, either. I was elected to advocate for our community's interests - & they've requested, clearly, to voice their concerns."

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the location of Long Island City. It borders the 14th Congressional District of New York but is part of the 12th District.

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