Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, Amazon announced that
“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.”
Amazon’s move to Long Island City would have brought 25,000 jobs to the area, but the company would have received $1.7 billion in incentives from the state and another $1.3 billion from the city, including a taxpayer-funded helicopter pad, just for moving in. That didn’t sit well with local lawmakers and residents of Queens who said the change would negatively impact the neighborhood.
In its statement, Amazon said it backed out amid criticisms from state and local politicians.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) was one of those politicians opposed to Amazon’s plan.
“The dollars are pointed in the wrong direction,” Gianaris told Reuters on Wednesday. “Amazon is trying to take, take, take. There’s no consideration of the devastation they would wreak on the surrounding community.”
In a statement yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) took aim at Amazon for abandoning the project.
“You have to be tough to make it in New York City,” de Blasio said. “We gave Amazon an opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the New York State Senate has “done tremendous damage” by voicing concerns over the project.
I agree with Mayor de Blasio, Amazon threw away an opportunity to work in our city.
Below is a New York Times editorial that presents further opinion on this matter.
New York Times
New York Returns 25,000 Jobs to Amazon
As the company cancels its plans for a major Queens campus, anti-corporate activists got what they wanted at a great cost.
By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
Feb. 14, 2019
“You have to be tough to make it in New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio boasted, choosing to jeer at Amazon as it canceled its plans on Thursday to build a new headquarters in Queens, after some local officials angrily criticized its proposal.
What a strange thing for the mayor to take pride in. It’s certainly true that you have to be tough these days. But that’s because the subways don’t work, the streets are gridlocked, the housing is unaffordable, the shelters are overcrowded, and the schools are segregated and often inadequate. Now think how much tougher it’ll become for the typical citizen — not the ones who ride in chauffeured government cars — if New York gets a reputation for the smugness of its politicians and their hostility to business.
There were all sorts of problems with the deal New York cut to bring Amazon to the city, and Amazon is no paragon, but its abrupt withdrawal was a blow to New York, which stood to gain 25,000 jobs and an estimated $27 billion in tax revenue over the next two decades. This embarrassment to the city presents a painful lesson in how bumper-sticker slogans and the hubris of elected — and corporate — officials can create losers on all sides.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, in a rare fit of comity, rolled out the red carpet for Amazon, for what would have been one of the biggest economic deals ever in the state. They offered the company $3 billion in tax benefits to build a campus in the Long Island City neighborhood. But it was clear as soon as the company, governor and mayor announced the deal in November that not all New Yorkers felt welcoming.
Politicians and activists had good reason to criticize the size of the tax breaks and the secrecy of the negotiations. After years of rapid development in New York that has come with soaring real estate prices, many rightly feared Amazon’s arrival could accelerate already costly gentrification.
Things quickly got out of hand, though, and reasonable criticism of the deal was overwhelmed by opposition to the company itself, even as polls showed wide support for Amazon’s move to Queens. Elected officials who identify as progressive painted Amazon as a rapacious engine of inequality. It seemed that few were interested in having a constructive conversation about how to improve the deal and make it work for the tech giant and the city.
Some berated the company’s executives in a City Council hearing and at rallies. That kind of tough talk is par for the course in “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” New York. But in grandstanding, they missed an opportunity to try to get the company to help address housing and infrastructure problems that the development, for all its benefits, would exacerbate. Perhaps they thought the city’s pool of skilled workers and many other attractions made it so irresistible that there was no need to negotiate.
“We have the best talent in the world, and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone,” the mayor said. “If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.” Because, you know, Amazon’s competitors have a great track record of seeing the future more clearly than Jeff Bezos.
Last week, the State Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, nominated a critic of the deal, Senator Michael Gianaris, to a state board that had veto power over it. Mr. Gianaris, who represents the district where the campus would have been located, had legitimate concerns over the arrangement and wanted more investment from Amazon in the city. Though his staff was engaged in discussions with Amazon, he refused even to meet with anyone from the company. His appointment could only have helped Amazon decide to call New York’s bluff. The governor seems to think so.
Blame also needs to be assigned, of course, to a system in which powerful corporations can milk billions in tax benefits out of cities and states to locate facilities, without any added investment in infrastructure, schools and other benefits. Amazon, one of the richest companies in the world, run by the richest man in the world, had held a nationwide contest in which governments scraped together enough entitlements to satisfy it, even as those same cities struggled to fortify corroding infrastructure and stave off a housing crisis that has pushed the middle class to the brink and forced the poor into homeless shelters.
Amazon’s initial offerings to New York — like a $5 million commitment to work force development — were meager. The company displayed arrogance of its own and seemed to have little respect for greater public scrutiny and review, and little interest in salvaging the deal once it became vulnerable.
Mssrs. Cuomo and de Blasio should have better prepared for what was in store, since their constituents are maybe more worried about housing, subways and the cost of living than in job creation alone. In fact, it’s partly thanks to the failure of these elected leaders to seriously address the subway and housing crises that Amazon was met by some with such visceral anger and anxiety. If they’d better anticipated that reaction, they might have worked with the company to address these issues, and win local buy-in before things went off the rails. Then, together with Amazon, they could have helped the city diversify its economy and leverage the power of a tech giant to help solve big problems. It’s an opportunity lost. May it also be a lesson learned.