The Real Deal New York

AOC says rents went up $200-$300 after Amazon selected Queens. That appears to be untrue

Despite sales upheaval, LIC rents stayed steady through Amazon storm
By Kevin Sun | February 21, 2019 08:00AM

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Credit: Getty Images and Pixabay)

Rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose congressional district borders Long Island City, was one the most prominent politicians to oppose the Amazon “HQ2” deal. Now that the deal has really fallen through, the congresswoman continues to defend her stance against detractors.

In addition to the politics of providing billions of dollars in tax abatements to the world’s richest man, Ocasio-Cortez has cited rising rents as another reason for opposing the Amazon deal. And not just long-term, but right away. “Did people realize that rents started going up two, three hundred dollars a month in certain areas almost right off the bat?” she said in an interview with NY1 on Tuesday. “I don’t think other people are really looking economically at what’s going on.”

In fact, though the internet retail giant’s three-month flirtation with Long Island City did trigger a flurry of real estate activity in the neighborhood, the rental market saw little immediate impact. Analysts expected the move to be a “bailout” of an oversupplied market at best, with the effects spread out over several years as the company gradually moved in.

The median rent in Long Island City in October, just before the Amazon announcement, was $3,092,  according to StreetEasy, and had dipped to $3,066 by January. Rents in neighboring Astoria and Sunnyside also declined slightly overall. Market reports from various brokerages have noted little change in the rental landscape, all while the “Amazon wave” has rolled through sales inventory.

Claims of a rent spike are “fake news,” said Eric Benaim of Modern Spaces, one of the neighborhood’s most active brokerages. “There has not been a single instance of rents going up. [Ocasio-Cortez] needs to learn how to read.”

Of course, StreetEasy does not track rent data for properties with existing tenants, and not all rentals are listed on the platform. The Real Deal, however, was unable to find any examples of substantial rent increases in northwestern Queens that have occurred since November, and which could be attributed with certainty to the “Amazon effect.”

Ocasio-Cortez did not cite sources for her numbers. Her office did not return multiple requests for comment.

On the same day as she appeared on NY1, Ocasio-Cortez also mentioned “immediate spikes in rent” on Twitter, as part of a thread of tweets defending her opposition to the Amazon deal. However, the news article mentioned in her tweet makes no reference to actual rent increases – only a spike in interest in the neighborhood, and residents’ concern over future rent increases.

TRD was able to find a Queens rent hike of a different kind, however. Just a month after 19-year incumbent Joe Crowley was soundly defeated by Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary, RockFarmer and RWN paid $56 million for 82-11 37th Avenue, the Jackson Heights office building that was home to Crowley’s district office. Ocasio-Cortez told NY1 that the new landlords wanted to raise the office’s rent significantly, which is why she is now moving down the street to 74-09 37th Avenue. That office is currently being renovated and has yet to open.

Crowley resigned as chair of the Queens Democratic Party on Tuesday.

Do you live in an LIC apartment that has seen major rent increases over the past three months? Send tips to news@therealdeal.com