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Amazon ditches New York headquarters, blames local pols (Updated)

February 14, 2019 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

Amazon says it will not be building a new headquarters in New York. In a blog post this afternoon, the company blamed local elected officials for their decision.

(Update: This is a breaking news story originally published at 12:03 p.m. It was updated with more information at  1:08 p.m., and we will continue to add information as it becomes available.)

“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,” Amazon posted to its corporate blog.

The company, alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced in November that it planned to build its so-called “HQ2” campus in Long Island City after a nationwide, yearlong search.

The deal included nearly $3 billion in state and city subsidies. The development would be shepherded by the state’s Empire Development Corporation, allowing the project to sidestep City Council and the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and a coalition of community groups in Western Queens led the opposition to the deal and called on Amazon to renegotiate, undergo community review or leave.

“Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” Gianaris said after Amazon canceled the deal, according to The New York Times.

Gianaris’ district covers the Long Island City development site. He emerged as an unexpectedly powerful opponent to the plan when, earlier this month, the leader of the new Democratic majority in the state Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, nominated him to be appointed to the Public Authorities Control Board. Any voting member of that board could scuttle a significant portion of the deal, though his appointment was pending Cuomo’s approval.

The nomination still frustrated Amazon executives, according to reports.

Though de Blasio championed the Amazon deal, which he helped broker, he now says Amazon’s reversal reflects the company’s failure to work with the community.

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City,” said de Blasio in a statement. “We gave Amazon the 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. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.”

City Council Speaker and Acting Public Advocate Corey Johnson said, “I look forward to working with companies that understand that if you’re willing to engage with New Yorkers and work through challenging issues, New York City is the world’s best place to do business. I hope this is the start of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent. I know I’d choose mass transit over helipads any day.”

Several labor unions, including the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) criticized the deal, citing Amazon’s resistance to organized labor. Other opponents condemned Amazon for marketing facial recognition technology to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers, Amazon says, ‘You do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers’ — that’s not what a responsible business would do,” said RWDSU spokesperson Chelsea Connor.

Jeremy Rosenberg, a member of Queens Community Board 2 and a vocal Amazon opponent, said the city and state could use the subsidies it saved on the Amazon deal to fund public housing, subways and local businesses.

“Amazon made this call and decided they’d rather be anti-union and ICE-complicit than change bad business practices,” Rosenberg said. “This is a step in the right direction in combating economic inequities that hurt working people in Queens. Now let’s invest in NYCHA, the subway and small family owned businesses.”

Amazon said Thursday it does not plan to look for another location and will continue to build out offices in Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Additional reporting by Mary Frost and David Brand of the Eagle, and Joseph Pisani of The Associated Press.

 

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