Feeling unwelcome, Amazon ditches plans
for New York hub
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[February 15, 2019]
By Jonathan Allen and David Shepardson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc
abruptly scrapped plans to build a major outpost in New York that could
have created 25,000 jobs, blaming opposition from local leaders upset by
the nearly $3 billion in incentives promised by state and city
The company said on Thursday it did not see consistently "positive,
collaborative" relationships with state and local officials. Opponents
of the project feared congestion and higher rents in the Long Island
City neighborhood of Queens, and objected to handing billions in
incentives to a company run by Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents Queens and was a vocal
critic of the deal, told a news conference on Thursday that the Amazon
subsidies were unnecessary.
"This was a shakedown, pure and simple," he said.
Amazon's sudden pullout from New York City prompted finger pointing by
Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, the
politicians who crafted the deal. Cuomo angrily blamed the loss on local
politicians while de Blasio blamed Amazon.
Cuomo said in a statement that a small group of politicians had "put
their own narrow political interests" above those of New Yorkers.
The year-long search for its so-called HQ2 culminated in Amazon picking
Northern Virginia and New York after hundreds of municipalities, from
Newark, N.J. to Indianapolis competed for the coveted tax-dollars and
high-wage jobs the project promised.
Amazon said it would not conduct a new headquarters search and would
focus on growing at other existing and planned offices. The company
already has more than 5,000 employees in New York City and plans to
continue to hire there, Amazon said on Thursday.
A Siena College Poll conducted earlier this month found 56 percent of
registered voters in New York supported the Amazon deal, while 36
percent opposed it.
Some New Yorkers mounted protests after the deal was announced, angered
by the $2.8 billion in incentives promised to Amazon and fearing further
gentrification in a neighborhood once favored by artists looking for
cheap studio space.
U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a critic of the project and
a self-described democratic socialist whose district spans parts of
Queens and the Bronx, cheered the reversal by the world's third most
valuable public company.
"Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday
New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazonís corporate greed, its
worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world," she
wrote on Twitter.
People briefed on the decision said Amazon had made the decision early
on Thursday amid rising concerns about the small vocal minority. The
people said Amazon will not shift any of the planned jobs to Tennessee
where an operations hub is planned or Virginia, but plans to grow its
existing network of locations.
Amazon had not acquired land for the project, making it easy to scrap
its plans, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday.
In a statement, de Blasio blamed Amazon for failing to address local
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Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against Amazon in the Long
Island City section of the Queens borough of New York, U.S.,
February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
"We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do
business in the greatest city in the world," he said. "Instead of
working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."
Some long-time residents in Long Island City, which sits across the
East River from midtown Manhattan's skyscrapers, feared being forced
out by rising rents and untenable pressure on already overburdened
subway and sewage systems. High-rise towers have sprouted across the
neighborhood in recent years.
"This is a stunning development, with Amazon essentially giving in
to vocal critics," said Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at
Bankrate.com. The about-turn could spook other companies thinking
about expanding in New York, he added.
Alphabet Inc's Google has avoided competitions between cities for
offices, and its growing presence in lower Manhattan has met with
little serious blowback.
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
"I think the (Amazon) PR event turned out to be a mistake," said
Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at the Roosevelt Investment
Group, who owns Amazon shares.
Shares of Amazon fell 1 percent.
'REALLY GOOD POKER PLAYERS'
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."
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.
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat whose district
includes the proposed site, lamented the loss of jobs and new
"This is not the Valentine that NY needed," she wrote, adding that
she had been ready to push for changes to the deal to address local
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Jonathan Allen in
New York; Additional reporting by Dan Trotta and Joseph Ax in New
York, Nandita Bose in Washington, Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco;
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Meredith Mazzilli)
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