February 18, 2019
Following three months of sustained opposition from state and local officials, Amazon has cancelled its plan to build a new campus across the East River from Manhattan — and, in the process, withdrawn the offer of 25,000 jobs that the move might have brought to New York City, NBC News reported on February 14..
Among those who fought the plan was high-profile Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- 14th District, New York) whose district abuts the area in Long Island City where the new Amazon headquarters would have been located.
“It wasn’t any one incident,” Jodi Seth, the head of Policy Communications for Amazon, told the network last Thursday in an interview. “It was that the environment over the course of the past three months had not got any better. There were some local and state elected officials who refused to meet with Amazon and criticized us day in and day out about the plan.”
Seth said it came down to a long-term environment that Amazon did not care to work in, in part because different politicians put forward different reasons for opposing the project.
“If you talk to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s ‘Never Amazon,'” Seth said. “If you talk to [New York City Councilman Jimmy] Van Bramer, [whose district is in Queens], it’s unions.” (New York is still a heavily unionized town, and Amazon’s opposition to unions was frequently cited by those who fought the project.)
According to NBC News, the main frustration for opponents of Amazon’s project was the $3 billion that the company had been awarded in state and city incentives — a cost that opponents said would have been paid for by New York residents. Many also feared that the move would lead to gentrification and higher housing prices.
And a number of residents of the neighborhood protested that the already overcrowded subway and bus transportation systems could not handle the additional onslaught of commuters.
Conversely, small business owners were unhappy with the decision because they had welcomed the extra business it would bring to the area.
Following Amazon’s announcement, Ocasio-Cortez commended “dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors” for defeating “Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world” on her Twitter site.
Champions of the deal, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, said that the creation of those 25,000 new jobs, plus revenue from property taxes, corporate taxes, and personal income taxes, would have benefited Long Island City and New York in the long term.
In a statement Thursday, Cuomo criticized the “small group of politicians” who opposed the headquarters and put their own “narrow interests above their community.”
Even with support from some officials, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his team concluded that it wasn’t worth sticking around for the fight, NBC News reported. Seth noted that a vote on the move by the State Public Authorities Control Board the State Public Authorities Control Board wasn’t scheduled until April or May 2020.
“We wouldn’t have even known if the deal would be approved until a year from now,” she said. “We were pretty confident the deal would be approved, in that the governor was working hard to make it happen, but looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don’t want to work in this environment in the long term.”
Amazon offered no plan to find another headquarters in the area, and Seth told the TV network that Amazon has no intention of re-opening talks with New York state and local
Research contact: @DylanByers