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Not Welcome: ‘Petulant Child’ Amazon Cancels New York HQ Plans

A protester holds up an anti-Amazon sign during a coalition rally and press conference opposing the company's new headquarters in Long Island City, New York. (Bebeto Matthews / AP)

More than 200 cities across the U.S. fought for the prize of being Amazon’s second headquarters. As Erin Durkin wrote in The Guardian, the courting process included promises of “lavishing tax breaks and other goodies for the chance to host the tech giant’s HQ2.”

In the end, the company split its affections between two winners, New York City and Arlington, Va.

On Thursday, however, amid fierce opposition from local advocacy groups and politicians, one of whom called the promised $3 billion in tax breaks “obscene,” Amazon announced it canceled plans to build a 4-million-square-foot corporate campus on the Queens, N.Y., waterfront, The New York Times reported.

Amazon said the deal would have created 25,000 new jobs, with an average salary of y $150,000 per year. “It’s by far the biggest number of new jobs this city has ever seen,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supported the deal, told MSNBC when it was announced in November 2018.

While De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to reassure skeptical Queens residents that New York “will come out on top, getting $9 back in revenue for every dollar spent,” as Durkin reported in The Guardian, local advocacy groups and elected officials didn’t buy it.

Critics, The New York Times explained, “object to the lack of a public review of the deal, the potential impact on immigrant and low-income areas of Queens that are already facing gentrification and, most of all, the incentives from the state and city that could total $3 billion — all for one of the world’s richest and ubiquitous companies.”

“Today is a great day to be a real-estate broker in Long Island City,” Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, an organization opposing the deal, said in a statement in November, adding, “Today is a horrible day to be a tenant struggling to make rent.”

New York City Councilman James Van Bramer, a Democrat who represents the area Amazon was planning to build in, told The New York Times, “They want to crush unions. They want to work with ICE. They want to bypass community review. They want to take giant subsidies. I don’t see them changing one bit and so, yeah, they’re not welcome here.”

The opposition was unusually broad. “We were surprised,” Deborah Axt, the co-executive director of the immigrant advocacy organization Make the Road NY, told The Times. “This is so far above and beyond a traditional coalition effort — it’s broader, it’s crazier.”

The opposition included longtime residents and newcomers alike, some of whom, as the Times pointed out, are fresh off of helping to elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to represent the area. She was one of the first politicians to oppose the deal.

Aside from the more well-known Ocasio-Cortez, state and local elected officials quickly responded to activist uproar. State Sen. Michael Gianaris, also a Democrat, not only spoke at rallies against the campus, but canvassed with organizers seeking petition signatures against the deal.

In response to news of Amazon’s decision, Gianaris told the Times, “Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” adding, “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.”

In its statement announcing the decision, Amazon wrote that “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.”

The company, which already has 5,000 employees in New York City, also says it plans to continue growing its presence in the city, despite not building the new campus.

Ilana Novick
Blogger / Editorial Assistant

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