- Amazon has chosen two locations – Long Island City, Queens, and the National Landing area of Arlington, Virginia – for its second headquarters, known as HQ2.
- While National Landing may struggle to accommodate an influx of new residents, Long Island City faces a much bigger problem: the threat of sea level rise.
- Scientists predict that, under the worst climate conditions, Long Island City could be underwater by 2100.
- Even in the next 30 years, more than 2,700 homes in Queens could experience chronic flooding, resulting in $US1.2 billion worth of property damage.
The two winners are expected to split the number of HQ2 jobs, with each one preparing to accommodate about 25,000 new employees.
While this could put a strain on housing and infrastructure in the Washington, DC, metro area, there’s an even bigger concern in Queens.
A 2017 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested that, under the worst climate conditions, parts of New York – including parts of Long Island City – could be underwater by 2100. The image below shows the areas at risk of flooding by the next century due to extreme sea-level rise.
Scientists have singled out Queens as the New York City borough with the most land at risk of flooding. Data from Zillow and the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that more than 2,700 homes, or nearly 7,200 residents, could experience chronic flooding by 2045. If that happens, Queens could end up with $US1.2 billion in property damage in less than 30 years.
That’s concerning for an area still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Though Long Island City escaped some of Sandy’s more devastating effects in 2012, it experienced significant flooding along the East River, where residents were forced to evacuate.
In the six years since, Long Island City has witnessed a major boom in real estate, but not all of the buildings have been able to make adjustments to protect against sea-level rise.
Existing industrial homes “really can’t do much to address this problem until you’re talking about a teardown,” said Christina DeCurtis, a broker at Compass who sold property in Queens in the wake of the storm.
DeCurtis said that even after Sandy, a few high-rises built their electrical grids at ground level, which could cause them to lose power during a storm.
That might not be a problem for Amazon, which will have plenty of funds to fortify its new headquarters, but it could pose issues for the thousands of new residents who will soon occupy the area – and the more than 68,000 people who currently live there.
In recent years, Long Island City has already seen mounting congestion on its subways, overcrowding in its schools, and sewers that are backing up. But these concerns pale in comparison to what might happen if the area becomes submerged in water. Under those circumstances, even Amazon won’t be able to adequately prepare.