Google is doubling the size of its New York City operation, a $1 billion expansion that will result in Google taking 1.7 million square feet in Hudson Square, the Manhattan neighborhood directly to the west of the more famous SoHo, the Washington Post reports.
Google already has 7,000 employees in New York, mainly in Chelsea (Google bought the Chelsea Market, across from its flagship New York building at 111 8th Ave, in February). The employees work on major Google projects like Drive, search, AdWords and Maps, and there’s a large ad sales division, according to Google’s careers page. Google is taking three more buildings — at 315 and 345 Hudson Street and 550 Washington Street — and planning to add another 7,000 employees.
Google’s announcement — which involved no public competition between cities and, CNN reports, no tax incentives from New York — is drawing favorable comparisons to the recent Amazon HQ2 announcement. Just last week, the New York Times opined that while Chelsea residents believe Google could be opening its wallet a bit more to help the neighborhood, in general, many think Google is a “good neighbor.”
Google’s expansion into New York started in 2000, with one salesperson working out of a Starbucks, CNN said. By 2006, it had leased space at 111 8th Ave, which it later acquired. The building, once the home of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, famously has more square footage than the Empire State Building.
Google — and startups hoping to ride Google’s tailwinds — have led to a gentrification of Chelsea, according to the New York Times. The median income, $78,000 in 2000, is now $104,000, the Times said. College graduates outnumber those without a degree three-to-one. And local restaurants say that Google employees, supplied with free food in their gourmet “Googleteria,” aren’t buying food in the neighborhood anymore.
Yet many New Yorkers have praised the work Google has done. Google has provided free wi-fi in Chelsea, including to public housing complexes, The Villager reports.
“Google was the only company to ever offer free Wi-Fi to buildings in this area,” Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer said, according to The Villager. Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker and a resident of Chelsea, has called Google “a good neighbor.”
The company has provided turkeys at Thanksgiving to public housing residents, held a prom-dress drive in the spring, and donated space and free IT support to local nonprofits.
In contrast, Johnson has excoriated Amazon, most recently in a hearing last week that ended as Amazon vice president of public policy Brian Huseman said he could not “commit today” that Amazon would continue to show up at a planned series of (mainly symbolic) public hearings.
Johnson argued that the council would plan them around Huseman’s schedule, and said that the evasion was, “… insulting. It’s unacceptable. It’s not how you be a good neighbor.” He also reminded Huseman of Amazon’s memorandum of understanding saying they will attend the hearings. “And I don’t understand the level of tone deafness in trying to give an acute, evasive answer on this,” he said, CNBC reported.
Huseman apologized, according to CNBC, and said that he only meant he could not commit to a specific date. Johnson said they will plan for hearings in January and February.
The first two of Google’s buildings, on Hudson Street, will open in 2020. The Washington Street building will open in 2022.
Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.