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Queens Chronicle

Amazon may give up on Long Island City plan, report says

Deal is opposed by some lawmakers

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2019 2:56 pm | Updated: 1:53 pm, Thu Feb 14, 2019.

Faced with opposition from some elected officials and activists, Amazon may drop its plan to build one of its second headquarters in Long Island City, the Washington Post reported Friday, citing “two people familiar with the company’s thinking.”

The online retail giant had selected LIC as one of two locations for its HQ2 campuses, the other in Virginia, where officials are welcoming the company with open arms and the governor has already signed a bill providing the firm with $750 million in subsidies.

In New York, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio agreed to give Amazon $3 billion in tax breaks, meaning the company would pay an expected $27 billion in taxes over 10 years instead of the $30 billion it would have been liable for otherwise. To get the tax cut, Amazon would have to create at least 25,000 jobs over the same time frame.

The tax breaks and Amazon’s opposition to letting its workers unionize are the key reasons some officials here want the deal to be nixed.

One of the most vociferous opponents of the deal is state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), whom the Democrat-led Senate just nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board, which has the power to halt the plan. It is up to Cuomo to approve the appointment.

The Washington Post story said that Amazon executives are having discussions “to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives,” according to the two anonymous sources.

“The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” the paper quoted one of the sources as saying.

The article also stated, however, without attribution, that “No specific plans to abandon New York have been made. And it is possible that Amazon would try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials.”

Asked for a response to the story, an Amazon spokesperson said in an email, “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors - small business owners, educators, and community leaders. Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”

Reaction to the story among Queens elected officials varied.

“Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations? Yes, they can,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens) said on Twitter.

“The only thing crazier than your Democratic Socialism is to tell Amazon not [to] bring 25,000 good paying jobs to NYC!” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who is running for public advocate, responded in a tweet.

Among the other officials most vehemently opposed to the Amazon deal are Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) — who along with Gianaris had called for Amazon to choose LIC but changed his mind after the deal was revealed — and state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing).

“The news about Amazon reconsidering New York for its second headquarters shows the impact of grassroots activism and the power of everyday people speaking with one collective voice,” Kim said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The company’s business model depends on community exploitation and anti-labor practices and tat’s why I have always been opposed to bringing HQ2 to New York and was the first elected official to speak out against the deal when it was announced last fall.”

He went on to say that “the proposed taxpayer giveaway package is egregious” and that something is wrong when officials would offer it “while affordable housing disappears, schools remain underfunded and the subways crumble.”

On the other side of the debate is Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech, who is quoted in a Chronicle story published yesterday as saying the Amazon-LIC deal “totally changes the landscape of tech for the East Coast, New York City and in particular, Queens County. And I truly hope that our elected officials can look past the initial rollout of the Amazon announcement and come together and support this job creation opportunity.”

Cuomo later said New York needs Amazon to help diversify its economy.

"For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice," he said a press conference held to discuss the state budget, according to multiple media reports. "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."


This story has been updated to include Gov. Cuomo's comments on Amazon and the state Senate.

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  • Buster57 posted at 4:16 pm on Tue, Feb 12, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 39

    And make sure they hire ALL their positions from NYC residents!! They aren't promising that, which is why they are also trying to build apartments. If their hires are from NYC we are used to commuting & don't need to live in the backyard of our jobs. They are lying through their teeth. Let's bring back small businesses & get rid of Amazon altogether!

  • AstoriaP posted at 4:48 pm on Mon, Feb 11, 2019.

    AstoriaP Posts: 1

    Some people take Amazon's promises of jobs on a very simple level. These need to be examined. Also the demand that Amazon allow Unions is a totally understandable one.

    When the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post floats the unverified rumor that Jeff Bezos- owned Amazon is thinking of withdrawing from the deal, that should be a red flag right there, but instead the media ran with it like capture the flag. It's not the flag of freedom, that's for sure.

    Please note that the rumor was denied by other insiders. Let's keep hard negotiation going and not fold. And if the monopoly Amazon doesn't move in, someone else will. Whichever corporation it may be, let's insist they play by the rules and stay good neighbors.