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By Jason Abbruzzese
The growing technology scene in New York City was poised to receive a unique momentum in its life: tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.
Now, with Amazon announcing the cancellation of its plans to build a large office in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, the city's technology community – which has been growing for years and remains optimistic – is wondering what she could have been.
"The cost of this rejection will be felt more in 10 years than tomorrow," said Fred Wilson, a partner of New York-based venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, and one of the city's most influential technology investors. , in an email. the next generation of New Yorkers who are the biggest losers today. "
The issues raised by local activists and politicians about Amazon's development reflect a growing national debate about the impact of big tech companies on issues such as inequality, gentrification and housing. – raising fears that New York City will lose jobs and economic development. companies.
"Although we continue to see this growth really good and important and progressive, I'm afraid that big bets are less numerous," said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech: NYC, a non-profit organization that defends the business sector. city technologies.
The office of Amazon would have been the crowning of a city that experienced a rebirth during the 1980s revival fueled by banks, but which also developed a complex complex of inferiority: the The rise of the West Coast technology giants meant that New York would never realize its future. like "Silicon Alley", a term used for the first time in the 1990s. How to build the tech scene and startups in New York has been the subject of numerous publications and debates on blogs, as well as initiatives taken in the towns.
These efforts have been rewarded over the last few years by an increase in venture capital financing for startups as well as investments by technology companies with offices in the city, including Google, Facebook and Spotify. The NYC Economic Development Corporation discovered in 2018 that the city had more than 7,000 startups with an economic value of $ 71 billion.
Data from CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital investments, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have revealed that venture capital financing of New York startups has more than tripled in the last six years to reach $ 13 billion. dollars in 2018.
And while start-up companies in the city have generated a growing number of successful businesses that have become public or acquired, Amazon's departure remains discouraging.
"Squarespace has always been proud to belong to New York City and this story will always be part of our DNA," said Anthony Casalena, founder and CEO of Squarespace, a company that offers web services among more prosperous city. technology companies: "While our thriving technology community, with diverse and diverse talents, continues to grow and will remain very strong, Amazon's decision is a missed opportunity for our big city."
However, some critics of technology believe that the absence of a giant of indigenous technology means that the city has dodged a bullet.
The technological growth of New York and other major US cities – including San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Los Angeles – is raising growing concerns about the impact of technology on society and the impact of technology. these companies on the cities they inhabit.
The concentration of wealth that has accompanied the success of technology companies has helped to place the social issues of New York, such as homelessness, gentrification and inequality, at the center of liberal politics. Critics say tech companies have turned a blind eye to their impact on these issues, concerns that are at the heart of Amazon's unfortunate deal in New York.
Seattle-based Kshama Sawant, where Amazon is located, congratulated New York for pushing back the company.
"A huge bravo to the movement of workers in New York for showing that building a riposte at the base can win!" Sawant tweeted. "Shame on Seattle politicians for repealing the small Amazonian tax to fund affordable housing. The victory of New York reminds us, we must continue to fight here!
These critics echoed by some influential people in the New York tech community who expressed their disappointment at Amazon's departure, but want to find a way to keep the city's trajectory in the field of technology.
Anil Dash, a 20-year veteran of New York's tech scene and CEO of Glitch, a collaborative coding website, said that Amazon had fundamentally misunderstood the city's technological culture, which it described as being connected to his community so that the tech giants of the West Coast are not.
He said that these connections were the key to the city's technological success.
"I think it happened because most of us are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start these businesses, run these businesses, and connect with the community," said Dash.
According to Dash, Google is the example of a large technology company that equated to the city. The research giant announced in December a $ 1 billion investment in New York.
He also noted that the representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., One of the most notable critics of the agreement with the Amazon, had tweeted that Google arrived in New York "very well", indicating that the rejection of Amazon did not concern a problem with technology companies.
"For her, speaking positively about Google is not the story that people are trying to build around this conversation," Dash said.
Lawrence White, a professor of economics at New York University, warned against viewing Amazon's departure as an avant-garde sign. He likened the Amazon situation to New York's rejection of another retail giant, Walmart.
While activists helped the city to reject the retailer, this sentiment did not translate into a rejection of similar stores such as Home Depot and Target. Nor does it mean that Amazon will be totally absent from the city. He currently employs 5,000 people in the greater New York area.
"Activists have prevented Walmart from entering," White said. "It was a symbolic event, but that did not stop the progress of other big-box operations."