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Amazon Pull-out Stuns – and Splits – New York

Long Island City, Queens

Amazon Pull-out

Amazon has walked away from $3 billion in incentives to build a headquarters in Queens.

Feb. 15, 2019

In the February issue of Habitat, we interview Peter Pisapia, a lawyer who serves as treasurer of the 132-unit One Hunters Point condominium in Long Island City, Queens. Asked about the looming arrival of an Amazon headquarters in his neighborhood, Pisapia said, “I think we’re fortunate that Amazon is coming in. Having a good company with lots of good jobs is a plus. It will increase the value of the property.” 

Not so fast. On Thursday, Amazon stunned New Yorkers by announcing that it is abandoning its plan to build a campus in Long Island City that would have housed up to 40,000 workers, walking away from a controversial $3 billion incentive package offered by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the majority of New Yorkers supported the deal, a vocal group of state and local politicians, labor activists, and Long Island City residents pushed back against giving taxpayer dollars to a company run by Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. 

State Senator Michael Gianaris, a vocal critic who was chosen for a state board with the power to veto the deal, tells the New York Times that the pullout revealed Amazon’s unwillingness to work with the Queens community. “Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” said Gianaris, a Democrat whose district includes Long Island City. “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.” 

Jimmy Van Bramer, a city councilman who represents Long Island City, calls the Amazon pull-out “a victory against unchecked corporate welfare.’’ 

Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the pro-business Partnership for New York City, disagrees. The opposition to the Amazon deal, she says, sends a “pretty bad message to the job creators of the city and the world.”

Here is Amazon’s complete statement: 

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 U.S. 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.

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