Amazon’s stunning announcement that it will no longer build a new headquarters in New York City could have ripple effects on city schools, especially those in Long Island City, where the corporate campus was to be located.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who referred to himself as “Amazon Cuomo” — pushed hard for the deal. The retail giant said Thursday that uproar against the company’s plans to set up shop in Queens played a role in its sudden Valentine’s Day breakup.
“State and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City,” Amazon officials wrote.
Amazon’s commitments to city schools were vague from the outset, and it had announced few specific plans, so it’s unlikely the about-face will have big consequences for the system at large.
Still, here are four education issues we’re asking about:
1. Amazon promised to pay for a new public school. Is that still happening?
Amazon had agreed to build a 600-seat middle school somewhere on, or near, the company’s campus. It’s unclear now whether that school will still go up.
Even before the Amazon deal was announced, plans had already been in the works for two schools on or near the site that Amazon had eyed in Long Island City, said Meghan Cirrito, a member of the Gantry parent Association, an advocacy group. With the Amazon deal scuttled, will those plans will be revived, or will they also get shelved? The education department did not immediately say.
Parents have clamored for more school seats in the neighborhood. Queens is home to some of the most overcrowded districts in the city.
Originally skeptical about the Amazon deal, Cirrito had been named to a committee of local officials and advocates appointed by the mayor and governor to work through locals’ concerns. Cirrito said those meetings had been “productive,” and that she was hopeful the retail giant’s arrival would serve as a vehicle for addressing long-standing concerns about school infrastructure in the neighborhood.
“Now my fear is that the community is going to suffer as part of political retribution for this deal falling through,” she said.
2. What will happen to the education department’s plan to move its own Queens offices to make way for Amazon?
Hundreds of education department staffers were notified that they were going to be displaced to a new location. It’s not clear whether those plans will be reversed; officials had not given a firm timeline for moving those offices. The education department didn’t immediately respond.
Some parents had hoped the building would be converted to a much-needed school and community center.
3. Will Amazon honor its commitment to fund computer science classes?
Just two weeks ago, Amazon announced that it would agree to invest in computer science classes at roughly 100 public schools. At the time, the company said the move was not related to the decision to open up shop in Queens, and a spokeswoman said Thursday the company planned to move forward with the initiative.
Still, the program is not likely to have a huge impact. Most of the public schools Amazon chose were already participating in the mayor’s Computer Science for All program, and it appeared most of the coursework would be through digital instruction with supervision from a classroom teacher.
4. What about the other indeterminate education provisions in the initial agreement?
As part of the deal, Amazon was expected to provide internships and “work-based learning opportunities,” along with activities such as career days and mock interviews — though the terms of the agreement were hazy.
It seems likely that’s off the table, but the company did not immediately say.