Amazon announced it has scrapped its plans to build a second headquarters in New York, casting blame on "a number of state and local politicians" who "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."
The nearly $3 billion in government incentives offered to the retail juggernaut by Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, came under intense scrutiny from progressive activists and politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose constituents reside in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, where Amazon had scoped out its campus. The freshman congresswoman said Amazon's withdrawal was proof that "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," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted following the announcement, referring to CEO Jeff Bezos.
The agreement to lure Amazon stirred an intense debate about the use of government incentives to entice wealthy companies, the rising cost of living in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, and the city’s very identity.
. . . It was a remarkable win for insurgent progressive politicians led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upset victory last year happened to occur in the district where Amazon had planned its site. Her win galvanized the party’s left flank, which mobilized against the deal.
Ocasio-Cortez was not the only progressive leader in New York to champion Amazon's withdrawal. Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, who respectively mounted unsuccessful bids as progressive alternatives for governor and attorney general of the state, praised the outcome, with Teachout saying it was just the beginning. Each had supported Ocasio-Cortez's odds-defying bid for Congress.
"Oh, we are just beginning!!! Now let's get a Congressional hearing on Amazon, labor, ICE, monopsony, how and why to break up Amazon," Teachout tweeted Thursday. "I know some people ready to testify."
"Amen," Nixon responded back to Teachout. "The fight against Amazon laid bare their union-busting, corporate welfare, ICE-abetting practices and shows why we need to break up monopolies like Amazon."
Along with the support of unions, progressives made it it clear that Amazon, which planned to bring 25,000 jobs to the proposed campus, was not welcome in New York.
"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," the company said in a statement. "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."
Amazon thanked Cuomo and de Blasio by name, two potential 2020 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination who often tout their own progressive stripes. The move was a devastating political rebuke to the powerful pair, who bypassed colleagues to offer the incentives and usually do not agree on much.
"You have to be tough to make it in New York City," de Blasio tweeted after Amazon's announcement. "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."
Democratic state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who was one of the most vocal elected officials against the Amazon deal, compared the corporation's actions to that of a "petulant child."
“Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, told the New York Times. “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions."
You can read Amazon's full statement below:
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 re-open 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.