Amazon drops plans to build a headquarters in New York

New York mayor blasts Amazon for ‘throwing away’ the chance for an HQ in the city as the tech giant CANCELS its plans amid protests led by Democrat rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over its huge company tax break and ‘worker exploitation’

  • Amazon said on Thursday it was canceling its plans to build a headquarters in Long Island City in Queens
  • It is a stunning reversal to an ambitious plan that would have brought an estimated 25,000 jobs to the city 
  • Amazon had faced fierce opposition from local politicians, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 
  • Critics were angered $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives Amazon was set to receive as part of the deal  
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the headquarters, slammed Amazon on Thursday for throwing away an opportunity
  • The retail giant announced its plans back in November to build the complex in Queens following a widely publicized search for its second headquarters
  • Amazon said on Thursday it did not plan to re-open the yearlong search that drew 238 proposals from cities across North America 

Amazon’s decision to drop plans to build a headquarters in New York has been slammed by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, who criticized the online retailer for throwing away an opportunity in the face of political opposition.  

The online retail giant said on Thursday it was canceling its plans to build in Long Island City, Queens in a stunning reversal to an ambitious plan that would have brought an estimated 25,000 jobs to the city.

Amazon had faced fierce opposition from local politicians, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who were furious over the nearly $3 billion in tax incentives Amazon was promised. 

The decision was a serious blow to de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had both lobbied intensely to land the campus within city limits.

The Mayor responded to the news by criticizing Amazon in a series of tweets, saying the company ‘threw away’ an opportunity and failed to work with the community.

‘You have to be tough to make it in New York City. 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,’ de Blasio said.

‘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.’

Amazon said on Thursday it was canceling its plans to build a corporate campus in New York’s Long Island City after rising opposition from local politicians

Amazon’s decision to drop plans to build a headquarters in New York has been slammed by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio

The decision was a serious blow to de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had both lobbied intensely to land the campus within city limits 

Newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among the more high-profile critics of the deal from the Democratic Party’s leftward flank. 

‘I think it’s incredible. It shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities and have more say than the richest man in the world,’ she said on Thursday afternoon.  

Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, which it described as HQ2, was deemed a massive, year-long public relations success, garnering worldwide publicity and interest from cities across the U.S. 

‘We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion – we love New York,’ Amazon said in a statement on Thursday. 

‘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 percent 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.’ 

The online retail giant announced its plans back in November to build the complex in Queens as one of two new headquarters. The other is planned for northern Virginia.

Nashville, Tennessee was a finalist that was awarded a consolation prize of a 5,000-employee location. 

The Seattle-based company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, had planned to bring 25,000 jobs to New York and spend $2.5 billion building its offices.

The online retailer’s billionaire founder has been embroiled in his own personal saga of late following revelations of his affair with TV anchor Lauren Sanchez and subsequent divorce from his wife MacKenzie. 

Amazon said on Thursday it did not plan to re-open the yearlong search that drew 238 proposals from cities across North America. 

‘We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,’ the company said.

The decision was a serious blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (left), who had both lobbied intensely to land the campus within city limits. They are pictured at the news conference announcing the headquarters last year

Newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (above on Thursday) was among the more high-profile critics of the deal from the Democratic Party’s leftward flank

Newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was estatic on Thursday following the announcement Amazon had dumped its New York plans

She was among the more high-profile critics of the deal from the Democratic Party’s leftward flank and tweeted her opposition as earlier as last year. Above is a tweet from November

Accustomed to fawning advances from municipal leaders around the country, Amazon seemed startled by the brusque, even rude, welcome it got from some New Yorkers when the plans were first announced last year. 

Amazon faced fierce opposition from local politicians in New York who were critical of the $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives Amazon was set to receive.

AMAZON’S FULL STATEMENT ON DITCHING NEW YORK: 

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.

We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.

We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the US and Canada.

Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.

 

Leading the charge was Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted shortly after the announcement: ‘Anything is possible: Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its work exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.’ 

Last year, she tweeted: ‘Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.’ 

Critics saw the project as an extravagant giveaway to one of the world’s biggest companies and argued it wouldn’t provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers. 

Some residents of the Queens neighborhood mounted protests. 

Residents in the neighborhood, once a scruffy haunt of artists that has rapidly gentrified with a burst of recent high-rise development, had also opposed the plan.

Long-time residents also feared being forced out by rising rents and untenable pressure on already overburdened subway and sewage systems. 

In its statement on Thursday, Amazon said they loved New York and were grateful to both Cuomo and de Blasio for their support during the process. 

‘Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts,’ the statement said. 

‘We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.’ 

Amazon added that it has 5,000 workers in the city and plans to grow those teams. 

People briefed on the decision said Amazon had made the decision early Thursday after intense talks starting Wednesday and amid rising concerns about the small vocal minority. 

The people said Amazon will not shift any of the planned jobs to Tennessee or Virginia but plans to grow its existing network of locations. 

Amazon had planned to have 700 employees in New York as part of the HQ2 project by the end of the year and did not plan to hit 25,000 in Queens for 10 years.

The company had begun considering alternatives last week. The online retailer had not yet acquired any land for the project, which would make it easy to scrap its plans.

Chicago, Miami and Newark are among the passed-over finalists that have expressed interest in another chance to become the home of an Amazon project that could bring 25,000 jobs. 

Nashville, which was awarded a 5,000-person center, also said it was open to taking on a bigger role should New York withdraw from consideration.


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Accustomed to fawning advances from municipal leaders around the country, Amazon seemed startled by the brusque, even rude, welcome it got from some New Yorkers when the plans were first announced last year

Rival Alphabet Inc’s Google said in December it plans to invest more than $1 billion on a new campus in New York to double its current headcount of more than 7,000 people. 

Shares of Amazon were down 0.3 percent after the announcement. 

TAX BREAKS AMAZON WOULD HAVE QUALIFIED FOR IN NY:  

The total value of the incentive package New York used to lure Amazon topped $2.8 billion.

In addition to nearly $1.53 billion in tax credits and grants offered by the state, Amazon also qualified for two big tax breaks from the city.

If it created 25,000 jobs, as promised, Amazon would have qualified for a city corporate income tax credit worth nearly $900 million over 12 years. 

On top of that, it would have also got a 15-year property-tax abatement worth an estimated $386 million.

Those city tax credits weren’t unique to the Amazon deal. They have long been available to other companies, too, as a way of incentivizing growth and development outside Manhattan’s crowded business districts.

Hours before the announcement, Amazon officials in New York betrayed no knowledge of the deal’s cancellation when they met with local community members on Thursday morning, said Kenny Greenberg, a neon artist and member of Long Island City’s community board.

‘Either they are really good poker players or they were not aware,’ Greenberg said of the Amazon representatives. ‘There was no hint of this at all.’

Greenberg said he had been open to Amazon’s arrival if it had led to improvements in infrastructure, but that ‘unanswered questions’ continued to mount as time went on.

The meeting with Amazon officials had been held to answer concerns from the community about labor conditions for Amazon’s warehouse and delivery workers and the company’s opposition to labor unions.

‘Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city & state forever,’ Jimmy Van Bramer, a city councilman from Queens who had opposed the project, said on Twitter.

One of the city’s most powerful private-sector unions, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the company’s abrupt exit confirmed its criticisms.

‘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,’ union spokeswoman Chelsea Connor said in a statement. ‘That’s not what a responsible business would do.’

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos has been embroiled in his own personal saga after it was revealed he was having an affair with TV anchor Lauren Sanchez

Amazon’s stunning announcement to abandon its proposed campus came just two days after the Cuomo administration’s economic development czar repeatedly praised the deal during his three hours of testimony before a joint legislative hearing in Albany on the governor’s $175 billion state budget proposal.

Several members of the Senate and Assembly voiced skepticism about the state and city incentives that initially convinced Amazon to choose Long Island City, questioning economic development Commissioner Howard Zemsky about its cost for taxpayers. 

He responded by focusing on the number jobs and the billions in tax revenues the project was expected to generate over the next two decades.

‘There’s nothing we can equate this to in the history of the state,’ Zemsky said Tuesday. ‘It’s the largest economic development prize we’ve ever had.’

On the streets of Queens, reaction to Amazon’s decision to cancel its headquarters differed among the residents and local businesses.

Andrew Ousley, a resident of one of the new rental high-rises near the site Amazon had considered, applauded Thursday’s news.

‘I was afraid that having Amazon in our backyard was going to lead to rent hikes and increased prices in stores and restaurants,’ he said. ‘Given I both live and operate my business out of LIC, my plan was to move out before they arrived. But 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.’

But Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, struggled to express his ‘sadness and dismay.’

‘An entire generation will look back at these last few months and ask us why,’ he said in a statement. ‘I hope those that opposed this Amazon deal have the answers to what we lost today. Queens is one of the best places for a tech firm – for any forward-looking business – to expand into, with our diverse talent pool, entrepreneurial spirit, thriving arts scene and boundless energy. It is a shame to lose the opportunity, investment and jobs that Amazon offered, but there are many more ways for businesses in Queens to thrive, and we will be welcoming them with open arms.’ 

 

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