I’m itching to use this to dunk on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow travelers for leading the charge against a major economic opportunity for their hometown, but the hard fact is that she and they were right to object to all of the pot sweeteners Amazon got from local government. (And not just tax-related sweeteners either.) It’s hardly fair to reward America’s corporate behemoths with special incentives that smaller companies don’t receive.
Perhaps Amazon should stick to lower-tax, less regulated jurisdictions for its HQs from now on.
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 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.
Union leaders weren’t crazy about the deal either, per the NYT. For all the attention to how much New York ponied up in incentives to attract Amazon, their package wasn’t wildly more lavish than those offered by other finalists for the new “HQ2” across America. In the end Amazon decided to pull the plug not because they feared their tax breaks and subsidies might be rescinded, it seems, but because they realized they’d face a constant irritant from local leftists screeching at them — over gentrification, labor practices, paying their “fair share” in tax revenue, and so on. A corporate titan led by the world’s richest man, a billionaire more than a hundred times over, was a strange match for New York City in the age of AOC.
And so Bezos decided, “To hell with it.” Who needs the aggravation?
As for Ocasio-Cortez, she’ll weigh in — eventually:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is not giving interviews on the Amazon announcement, per her spokesman. He says to keep tabs on her twitter @AOC
— Josefa Velasquez (@J__Velasquez) February 14, 2019
Probably she’ll say something anodyne about how tech giants need to play on the same level field as everyone else. Hard to argue with that.
Today should be a great day for the people of deep blue NYC, though, having stared down Lord Bezos and his evil corporate empire, right? Well, funny thing:
Despite vocal opposition by some legislators, a majority of voters in both New York City and the state favor the deal to bring Amazon.com Inc. to Queens, a poll released Tuesday shows.
The Siena College Research Institute found 56% of voters statewide support the project, which Amazon says will create 25,000 jobs. Siena poll director Don Levy said the proposal has majority backing in almost every category. Among city residents polled by the upstate college, 58% support the project and 35% are opposed when told of both the promised jobs and incentives.
That poll was taken just last week. Quinnipiac also polled New York City residents in December about the prospects of hosting Amazon’s new HQ2. Result:
The numbers softened when Quinnipiac mentioned the tax giveaways, as you might expect, but a plurality — including a plurality of Democrats — remained in favor:
Note the splits by race and by borough. The deal was less popular among whites and Manhattanites but continued to enjoy strong support even when tax breaks were mentioned among Latinos and residents of the Bronx and Queens. Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district is majority Latino and encompasses parts of … the Bronx and Queens. She may have a political problem on her hands here. It’s true, after all, that New York is as blue as blue states get, but NYC elected Republican mayors for 20 years before finally lurching left for Bill de Blasio. State Democrats chose dreary Andrew Cuomo last year comfortably over progressive stalwart Cynthia Nixon in the gubernatorial primary. New Yorkers are liberals but they’re liberals who think a lot about their bottom lines. We’ll see how popular AOC’s agenda is locally when it hits her own constituents in the wallet.
Condolences to everyone who bought a condo in Long Island City in the expectation that HQ2 was about to drive the value sky high, though. Maybe Bezos will take it off your hands as a favor.
Update: Progressive heroes are taking the news in better spirits than most New Yorkers will, I’d guess:
.@Amazon – one of the wealthiest companies on the planet – just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren't sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage? https://t.co/O9pz7en43B
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 14, 2019
Update: I can understand slamming Amazon for not being willing to relocate to NYC without tax breaks. I can’t understand triumphalism at the departure of 25,000 jobs.
Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world. https://t.co/nyvm5vtH9k
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 14, 2019
Update: Another local Democratic congresswoman isn’t as excited:
The deal could have been improved. There were legitimate concerns raised and aspects that I wanted changed. I was ready to work for those changes. But now, we won’t have a chance to do that and we are out 25K+ new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments. 2/
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) February 14, 2019