NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Amazon has canceled plans to build a headquarters operation in New York City.
The online retailer had faced opposition from local politicians upset with the $3 billion in state and city incentives Amazon would be receiving under the deal, which would have also brought in roughly 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs.
"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," the company said in a statement to the New York Times. "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."
Mayor Bill de Blasio reacted to the decision saying, "You have to be tough to make it in New York City. 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. We have the best talen in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can't recognize what that's worth, its competitors will."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had championed Amazon's plan, in a statement said, "A small group politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community -- which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City -- the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state. The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity."
The anti-Amazon movement began almost immediately after the company unveiled its HQ2 picks in November 2018. Protests have been a near constant over the four months since Amazon announced its move to Queens. Local union leaders have repeatedly claimed the online retail giant is "anti-worker" and "anti-union” and called conditions in Amazon factories around the county “deplorable.”
Just days after the deal was first announced, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris argued the deal gives massive corporate welfare from scarce state dollars to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world.
Van Bramer and Gianaris have been at the forefront of the Amazon opposition, and most recently, Sen. Gianaris was nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board, which would have had the power to veto the Amazon deal completely.
Sen. Gianaris responded to Amazon backing out of the plan Thursday saying, “Today’s behavior by Amazon shows why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event. Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shakedown governments to get its way. It is time for a national dialogue about the perils of these types of corporate subsidies.”
While Amazon's withdrawal came as a surprise, there were some hints leading up to the decision.
“There was just one slight clue that I can recall from the last couple of weeks that they were even considering dropping out of New York, when a vice president of Amazon told the City Council, ‘we want to invest and grow where we feel welcome,’” explained WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who held hearings on the deal -- a process he describes as "cloaked in secrecy," issued a statement Thursday saying, "I look forward to working with companies that understand that if you're willing to engage with New Yorkers and work through challenging issues, New YOrk City is the world's best place to do business. I hope this is the start of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent. I know I'd choose mass transit over helipads any day," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.
There had also been speculation last week that Amazon was reconsidering when the Washington Post reported that opposition from local politicians may have caused the tech company to reconsider its deal. Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper and its other print properties for $250 million in August 2013.
“The deal was going to mean that New York City was going to be a clear rival to Silicon Valley for leadership of the most important sector in the economy,” explained Crain’s Greg David. “But the question is: what will the psychological impact of this be on other tech companies, on other companies thinking of growing their businesses here and on New York’s reputation?”
Connolly notes, however, that the opposition believes with Amazon out of the way, there will be more room for other companies to come, which will not require incentives to do so.
In an effort to ease tension with the city, Amazon had tried putting on a full court press to win over New Yorkers, promising jobs for residents in public housing and tech training for SUNY and CUNY students to get their foot in the door.
Though, it didn't seem to ease tensions and Mayor de Blasio acknowledged that the company wasn't right for the city if they weren't willing to fight for their deal.
“No one said it wasn't a tough place and it also is a very democratic place, in every sense of the word. People have strong views and they're going to fight for what they think is fair,” the mayor said of New York City on Thursday.
De Blasio adds that Amazon called them Thursday morning to back out of the deal suddenly, and while he was shocked, he’s didn’t appear to get too hung up on the break-up.
“We are putting them in our past and we're moving forward,” the mayor said.
Amazon said it does not plan to search for another location and will proceed with building officers in Northern Virginia and Nashville.