It’s been a week and we’re still wondering: What did New York City gain by driving Amazon away?
We know what we lost, at least most of it. Twenty-five to 40,000 new jobs, paying $150,000 on average. New tax revenue of $27 billion over 10 years, even more if the job creation fell short of the 25,000 jobs required for the online retail and tech leviathan to get its $3 billion in city and state incentives. An estimated $186 billion in new economic activity, including another $14 billion in taxes. The revitalization of a large waterfront space in Long Island City. New technology programs in our schools, led by true masters of the sector. Workforce training and opportunities for residents of area public housing like they’ve never seen. And the retention of the city’s status as capital of the world.
Instead of all that, New York gets to further its reputation for hostility toward business, an amazing thing considering we’re home to Wall Street and, in Queens, the ubiquitous though declining mom-and-pop shop. We’re losing population relative to other states with lower taxes and fewer regulations. The state will lose a congressional seat or two after the next Census, no matter how hard the Queens Complete Count Committee formed by Borough President Melinda Katz tries to ensure all our residents are taken into account.
Along with grassroots activists in advocacy groups and unions, we find four individuals in particular to be responsible for this debacle: state Sen. Mike Gianaris, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Mayor de Blasio and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gianaris and Van Bramer were among those clamoring for Amazon to come to Queens but flip-flopped once the company said it would, no doubt feeling pressure on their left and thinking of how former Rep. Joe Crowley was knocked out of Congress by Ocasio-Cortez. Gianaris wouldn’t even meet with Amazon, while the new congresswoman simply fed the flames of the opposition.
De Blasio is of course one of the very people who made the deal with Amazon, but once it came under fire, he did not effectively defend it. And his comments in the aftermath of the deal’s collapse have been terrible. Not accepting responsibility at all, he blamed the company, saying, “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.”
No. Amazon walked away from a cascade of abuse that never would have stopped. It was all set to work with the community, under the terms of the deal de Blasio himself and Cuomo made. You don’t pull a Darth Vader after signing an agreement and tell someone, “The deal has changed.”
If de Blasio thought Amazon should have undergone the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for its LIC campus, or have been forced to stand down as its workers unionized, the time to say so was during the negotiations, not afterward.
The selective outrage over Amazon’s hostility toward unions, the issue over which Van Bramer in particular attacked the company, is remarkable. Is Google unionized? No, but it’s operating here. How about financial giants like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co.? No, but they feed New York’s tax-and-spend practices more than anyone. Only select companies, like Walmart previously and Amazon now, are kept out because their workers aren’t unionized.
Unions that would have built Amazon’s LIC campus naturally supported its planned move. As Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said when the deal failed, “This sends the wrong message to businesses all over the world looking to call New York home. Who will want to come now?”
Good question. So what did we gain from this? Nothing.