Ivan Soto and his wife are the proud parents of a one-month-old boy, but they're having a difficult time making ends meet.
"The rent is pretty tough," said Soto, who resides in the Queensbridge Houses with his family. "Because right now, they keep denying me and my wife. We're heading to the public assistance building to apply for food stamps. They keep denying it because they say I make too much, but my wife is on maternity relief at the moment now, so it's pretty hard. We've been living in Queensbridge for roughly two years now.”
They say they live on more than most of their neighbors in the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the nation, a sprawling complex with 6,500 residents.
It's a seven-minute walk to the site of Amazon's planned secondary headquarters, announced Tuesday, where 25,000 workers will be hired at salaries eventually averaging $150,000 a year.
April Simpson is the president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association. When asked how she feels about Amazon coming to the area, she said she was looking forward to it.
"I'm excited. Always change and welcoming job opportunities into the community," Simpson said. "We have a lot of young people in here that are positive young people that can benefit from having jobs, or even train them."
Amazon has agreed to invest $15 million in workforce development and technology training programs, targeting public housing residents, among other groups of people. The company also promised to hold job fairs and resume building workshops twice a year for at least three years in the Queensbridge Houses.
"They were guaranteeing job training and job security and to the jobs that will be developed after they're here, and that comes in the future," Simpson said. "But we've heard too much lip service in the past. I want to make sure that this is definitely implemented."
Still, there is no guarantee anyone from public housing will be hired.
"A lot of people need the jobs. These are supposed to be low-income apartments. It's still super expensive for us families," Soto said.
Ivan Soto says he works as a chef and goes to school at City College. He’ll graduate in two years when those job fairs start, so he can’t help but hope.
"Amazon is a great company, and I'm pretty sure they have great benefits, so why not?” Soto said.
But Simpson’s skepticism may be justified. She says, in the last 10 years or so, dozens and dozens of hotels have been built in this area, and only a handful of jobs have gone to the residents of Queensbridge Houses.