Long Island City

An Engagement Process to Match the Opportunity: Amazon HQ2

In fall 2018, New York City, the State of New York, and Amazon made a monumental announcement: Amazon’s much-hyped HQ2 would be built in Long Island City, Queens.

The news was met by equally strong responses both for and against the plan.

Stepping in at the height of public debate, Public Sentiment developed a City-wide engagement effort in coordination with the NYC Mayor’s Office and Empire State Development Corporation. The goal: Provide City residents with adequate time to evaluate the plan, and real opportunity to shape its parameters.

Over the course of three tense months, our team mapped community stakeholders, facilitated City and State inter-agency coordination, and conducted outreach to the Amazon Public Policy team responsible for negotiating the HQ2 terms of agreement.

Amazon HQ2 protesters organize outside NYC City Hall

Ultimately, only 12 weeks following its unveiling, the HQ2 deal fell through. Amazon withdrew, announcing the relocation of HQ2 to Washington, D.C.

“Out of nowhere, they took their ball and went home.” 

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

In retrospect, closed-door negotiations bred mistrust between City partners, outrage from residents, and frustration from Amazon executives. 

Looking forward, the HQ2 episode stands as a powerful demonstration of the capability and consequences of community engagement, and what can be lost or gained by its inclusion at the outset of the planning process. 

Read about the 3 Lessons Learned from our HQ2 experience.

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