AOC says Amazon HQ2 deal caused rental spike in Queens: Fact check

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of the fiercest critics of Amazon's plans to expand in a New York City neighborhood that bumps up against her congressional district, cheering the company’s eventual exit from Long Island City.

In the one week since the e-commerce giant reneged on its $3 billion deal with New York to build half its second headquarters (HQ2) -- which it said would create 25,000 high-paying jobs and invest tens of millions of dollars in the local community -- Ocasio-Cortez has been forced to defend her stance against detractors.

The self-described Democratic socialist slammed the deal not only for offering $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives to the world’s richest man, but also for adversely affecting the Queens neighborhood that would have become home to HQ2.

“Did people realize that rent started going up $200, $300 a month in certain areas almost right off the bat?” she said during an interview with NY1 on Tuesday. “I don’t think other people are really looking economically at what’s going on.”

However, while Amazon’s interest in Long Island City did in fact spark a rush of real estate activity, rent prices did not actually appear to substantially change during that roughly three-month period, according to data published by StreetEasy.

In October, less than one month before Amazon selected New York to host one half of its HQ2, median monthly rental prices were $3,092. In December, after Amazon made the announcement, the median price was little unchanged $3,094. It fell to $3,066 in January.

As first reported by The Real Deal, however, StreetEasy does not track rent data for properties with existing tenants, and not all properties are listed on the website.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

To be sure, the median price of sales rose exponentially during that same time period. In October, the median price of home sales in Long Island City was $975,000, according to StreetEasy. By January, that spiked to $1,230,000.

Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the “immediate spike in rent” in a tweet on the same day of her NY1 interview.


“There’s no CHANCE that the speculative insider real-estate buys that were creating immediate spikes in rent in one of the most rent-burdened communities in NYC could have possibly been unpopular?” she said, referring to Amazon employees who bought property in Long Island City before the HQ2 deal was officially announced.