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Amazon HQ2 heats up Long Island City's already hot housing market

Historic Pepsi-Cola neon sign on the  Long Island City waterfront in Queens, New York City.
Karlheinz Irlmeier | Getty Images
Historic Pepsi-Cola neon sign on the  Long Island City waterfront in Queens, New York City.

Amazon hasn't even moved in yet, but Long Island City's housing is already seeing a surge of interest.

Locally, the retail giant's decision to build two new headquarter locations has been controversial, and met by growing backlash over the incentives provided by the city and state.

Yet in the weeks following the announcement, the Queens waterfront neighborhood — lined with shiny glass condo towers — has experienced growing demand in what's been an already hot market. An influx of would-be residents appear to be trying to get a head start on Amazon's expected move.

Real estate in Queens has been booming over the past decade, but startups have increasingly taken up residence in Long Island City (LIC) over the last few years. Conveniently located directly across the East River from Manhattan, LIC has become a home for people who've been priced out of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

As a result, it's also been deemed one of the hottest spots for young people to live in — and that's helping to drive up residential prices. The area's "extensive development" has propped rental prices well above Queens' median, according to StreetEasy.

Silvette Julian, an agent with Compass Real Estate, characterized a recent open house event in LIC as "a madhouse," with requests for showings and offers surging in the last 2-3 weeks.

Amazon's arrival would have a tremendous impact on the neighborhood and others nearby, according to Stephen Albonesi, an urban planner with Localize.city, a real estate analysis platform.

"If any area in New York is poised for a major influx in residents, it's Long Island City," Albonesi said, citing a "building boom [that's] already remaking much of the area and where residents have been grappling with how to meet the demands of thousands of new people."

A view of the waterfront of Long Island City in the Queens borough of New York, along the East River, on November 7, 2018. 
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
A view of the waterfront of Long Island City in the Queens borough of New York, along the East River, on November 7, 2018. 

Shawn Avazeh, a Long Island City-based real estate agent with Compass, was on his own honeymoon during the Amazon announcement. At that moment, Avazeh said he was flooded with phone calls from clients who'd decided on options they'd had seen with him months prior.

"I was caught off guard, essentially because most buyers on the market this year were trying to 'get a deal' as opposed to trying to actually 'make a deal', having seen this firsthand with a couple of my own listings," Avazeh said.

Though these buyers were initially hesitant earlier this year, when the housing market gave them more leverage in negotiating, Avazeh said he's since submitted three offers on behalf of those former clients, two of them being at ask and one slightly over, with a few more still to come that he's currently in the process of preparing to present.

However, current residents of the neighborhood aren't as excited about Amazon moving into the neighborhood. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the recently-elected Congresswoman of a district which borders Long Island City, has led the charge against Amazon taking up residency in the neighborhood.

In a recent tweet she wrote, "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."

While community members have called on New York City to use Amazon's HQ site for other purposes such as a community center for locals, Amazon has agreed to donate a school site, in addition to a space dedicated to artists and a startup incubator.

Regardless of Amazon's impending move-in date, Avazeh is confident in LIC's ability to flourish.

"I truly believe we would've still continued to flourish without the news of Jeff Bezos bringing his company here, but this definitely did help in bringing more attention to this one-of-a-kind, wonderful neighborhood I myself call home," he said.

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