- Following the November announcement that Amazon selected the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, NY and the National Landing area of Arlington, VA as new headquarters locations, the cities have ramped up efforts to engage their respective communities and prepare residents for the projects.
- This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), designed to share information regarding Amazon HQ2 and solicit community engagement through various subcommittee efforts. The three subcommittees to be formed under the CAC will work to develop onsite public amenities at the headquarters location, will help to invest in surrounding neighborhood infrastructure, and will develop training and hiring programs to push local talent into the available job positions at the headquarters.
- In Arlington, local officials have taken to Facebook for a "community engagement strategy" consisting of live town hall sessions to educate the public. "Our goal is to just answer their questions and alleviate a lot of those fears of what folks think this could mean for the region, and what reality really is," Christina Winn, business investment director for Arlington Economic Development (AED), told Smart Cities Dive in a recent interview.
While city governments across the U.S. made efforts to dazzle Amazon with compelling bids and incentives to win the coveted HQ2 placement, many residents in the finalist cities lamented at the thought of what Amazon's impact would be on local housing and traffic congestion. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, professor and author Margaret O'Mara acknowledged these concerns and wrote, "Growth challenges are already familiar ones in New York City and metropolitan Washington, D.C., where once-affordable neighborhoods have morphed into upmarket enclaves, and aging and overloaded transit systems create daily headaches for their millions of riders ... This doesn't have to happen. HQ2 is an opportunity to do things differently."
Through these community engagement efforts, local officials in New York and Arlington are showing they are trying to do things differently and more strategically than residents may have originally thought. AED Director Victor Hoskins told Smart Cities Dive that efforts to communicate with constituents — whom Hoskins describes as "very bright" — have gone well so far, resulting in "a pretty positive set of reactions."
"There's some people who still have an emotional reaction, but that's fine. We view any of the challenges that people have articulated as just things to be, you know, dealt with," he said.
While New York is a bit behind Arlington in its community engagement strategy, the new CAC is bound to significantly shape the development of HQ2 to the benefit of local residents. "Robust community engagement is critical to ensuring that the investments and resources generated from this project serve the needs of everyone in Long Island City and beyond," de Blasio said in a statement.