Amazon Dumps NYC Hq, 25,000 Jobs 02/15 06:40
NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon abruptly dropped plans Thursday for a big new
headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city,
reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3
billion in incentives promised to what is already one of the world's richest,
most powerful companies.
"We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion --- we love New York,"
the online giant from Seattle said in a blog post announcing its withdrawal.
The stunning move was a serious blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de
Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the project, competing against more
than 200 other metropolitan areas across the continent that were practically
tripping over each other to offer incentives to Amazon in a bidding war the
Cuomo lashed out at fellow New York politicians over Amazon's change of
heart, saying the project would have helped diversify the city's economy,
cement its status as an emerging tech hub and generate money for schools,
housing and transit.
"A small group (of) politicians put their own narrow political interests
above their community," he said.
But Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City's new liberal
firebrand, exulted over Amazon's pullout.
"Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their
neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the
power of the richest man in the world," she tweeted, referring to Amazon CEO
The swift unraveling of the project reflected growing antipathy toward large
technology companies among liberals and populists who accuse big business of
holding down wages and wielding too much political clout, analysts said.
"This all of a sudden became a perfect test case for all those arguments,"
said Joe Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy
Amazon ultimately decided it did not want to be drawn into that battle.
Amazon announced in November that it had chosen the Long Island City section
of Queens for one of two new headquarters, with the other in Arlington,
Virginia. Both would get 25,000 jobs. A third site in Nashville, Tennessee,
would get 5,000.
The company planned to spend $2.5 billion building the New York office,
choosing the area in part because of its large pool of tech talent. The
governor and the mayor had argued that the project would spur economic growth
that would pay for the $2.8 billion in state and city incentives many times
De Blasio said that 48 hours before Amazon's announcement, he spoke with a
senior company executive who gave no indication that there was a problem with
the deal. But Thursday morning, he got a call from an executive just as news
started to come out that the deal was dead.
"I was flabbergasted," he told reporters in Boston, where he was taking part
in a forum at Harvard's Kennedy School. "I said, 'Why on earth after all the
effort we all put in would you simply walk away?'"
In pulling out, Amazon said it isn't looking for a replacement location "at
this time." It said it plans to spread the technology jobs that were slated for
New York to other offices around the U.S. and Canada, including Chicago,
Toronto and Austin, Texas. It will also expand its existing New York offices,
which already have about 5,000 employees.
Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining
that the project was an extravagant giveaway --- or worse, a shakedown --- and
that it wouldn't provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.
The list of grievances against the project grew as the months wore on, with
critics complaining about Amazon's stance on unions and some Long Island City
residents fretting that the company's arrival would drive up rents and other
Opposition to the deal was led in the Democrat-controlled state Senate by
Michael Gianaris, the chamber's No. 2 lawmaker, whose district includes Long
Island City. Initially among the politicians who supported bringing an Amazon
headquarters to the city, Gianaris did an about-face after the deal was
announced, criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the
Earlier this month, Gianaris was appointed to a little-known state panel
that could have ultimately been asked to approve the subsidies.
The City Council probably would have had to file a lawsuit to scuttle the
deal, which was structured to avoid the land use review process that most
In recent weeks, City Council members held hearings at which they grilled
Amazon officials about such things as the company's contract with Immigration
and Customs Enforcement to provide facial recognition technology.
One City Council leader tried to get Amazon officials to agree to remain
neutral in the face of any potential union drive. But an Amazon executive would
not give such a commitment.
A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters
supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were
divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.
Construction industry groups and some local business leaders had urged the
public and officials to get behind the plan.
Eric Benaim, a realty executive who gets most of his sales and rentals in
Long Island City, had led a petition in support of Amazon, drawing 4,000
"I woke up this morning and I had no clue this would happen. Zero. This news
is a shock, and I'm devastated," he said.
Andrew Ousley, a business owner who lives near the proposed site, said he
had been considering moving out before Amazon moved in.
"Now that they're not coming, I'm more likely to stay and see how the
neighborhood continues to grow and evolve in a more organic fashion," he said.