By Rachel Lerman

The Seattle Times

Amazon.com will donate land for a new grade school near its new Long Island City campus in New York City, the company said Tuesday, in what is perhaps the biggest perk it is providing to the communities surrounding its new headquarters — apart from tens of thousands of new, high-paying jobs and real estate investments.

The community benefits it’s offering upfront to the New York neighborhood could be seen as token moves, especially since the company is getting $1.5 billion in incentives for moving to the site.

Amazon carefully laid out the bonuses it will bring Long Island City in its HQ2 announcement Tuesday, including space for artists and a tech-startup incubator in its New York location. There were no specifics provided regarding community perks the company has promised to Arlington County, Virginia, its other new headquarters location.

Amazon’s often-stressed relationship with Seattle over the past eight years — as it grew from 5,000 local employees to 45,000 — likely informed these perks, and the decision to choose two cities that are centers of industry.

“We’re a different company than we were 10 years ago,” said Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president who oversees Amazon’s communications and government affairs group.

Amazon has been criticized in the Seattle community for years of avoiding philanthropy and civic engagement in the city.

In recent years, it has reversed that trend somewhat, offering a permanent home to a women’s shelter and hosting several job training opportunities for homeless people on its campus. Still, not everyone in Amazon’s hometown appreciates its presence in downtown Seattle, blaming the company for rising housing costs. Other defend the economic growth Amazon brought.

Economic benefits were the focus of Amazon’s headquarters announcement Tuesday, when the company laid out the prospect of tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment and tax revenue it pledges to bring to each region.

In its Arlington County location, the perks mainly come from the state not the company. The commonwealth of Virginia will invest $195 million to improve infrastructure in the neighborhood, Amazon said, including a pedestrian bridge linking the site to Reagan National Airport.

Virginia Tech said it would invest $1 billion in a graduate “innovation campus” near the site, as part of the higher-education benefits Virginia pledged to Amazon.

Amazon will spend $5 million on job training and other workforce development for people living near its new site, and will hold job fairs and workshops at Queensbridge Houses. Some critics, concerned about the impact on the neighborhood of one of the world’s largest companies and its highly paid employees, are vowing to protest.

As community groups considered the pros and cons of Amazon’s headquarters news, the persistent message sent to Long Island City residents on social media Tuesday, from Seattleites and others: “Good luck.”

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