By David Brand
A Friday report that Amazon is thinking of ditching the deal to construct a corporate campus in Long Island City provoked outrage from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who blasted anti-Amazon activists and local elected officials who oppose the deal.
Those same activists rejoiced at the news reported by the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
“For the state senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice,” Cuomo said in a speech Friday afternoon. “And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they're going to have the people of New York state to explain it to. It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy. You're not there to play politics.”
Amazon says the proposed corporate campus, commonly known as “HQ2,” would produce 25,000 jobs. the Washington Post cited “two people familiar with the company's thinking” who indicated the company was considering ditching the deal, which includes $3 billion in state and city subsidies.
Amazon has not leased or purchased office space for the project, making it easy to withdraw its commitment. Elected officials in Northern Virginia have supported Amazon’s decision to build a second “HQ2” corporate campus there. Tennessee officials have embraced Amazon’s plans to bring 5,000 jobs to Nashville, which this week approved $15.2 million in road, sewer and other improvements related to that project.
Community groups and labor unions hailed the pressure they have put on the company as well as Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced the deal would not be subject to traditional city council review.
“If the Amazon deal falls apart, they will have nobody to blame but themselves. A major problem is the way the deal was put together shrouded in secrecy and ignoring what New Yorkers want and need,” said Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum in a statement. “They arrogantly continue to refuse to meet with key stakeholders to address their concerns, despite requests from New York’s top elected officials to do so. With their long history of abusing workers, partnering with ICE to aid their persecution of immigrant communities, and contributing to gentrification and a major housing crisis in their hometown of Seattle, New Yorkers are right to raise their concerns and opposition to this plan.”
Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Deborah Axt said the organization was “thrilled” to learn that Amazon was considering pulling out of LIC. Make the Road and other activists said Amazon’s arrival would increase rents and lead to gentrification and displacement.
“We want neighborhoods full of cafes and local shops and bodegas on the corner, not what an increased Amazon presence would bring — spiking gentrification and shuttered storefronts,” Axt said. “We refuse to pay our tax dollars to the richest man on earth to allow him to pretend to create a few jobs from which New Yorkers and our kids will be excluded."
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.