February 8, 2019 3:00 PM, EST

Amazon Reconsidering NYC Headquarters After Opposition

AmazonNYC residents protesting Amazon outside City Hall. (Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/Bloomberg News) Inc. is reconsidering its plan to build a corporate campus in New York after facing a wave of opposition, according to a news report that cited unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Amazon executives have had internal discussions recently to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, the Washington Post reported Feb. 8, citing people familiar with the matter. The company hasn’t leased or purchased office space for the project yet, making it easy to withdraw the commitment.

It’s possible the reported threat to withdraw could be a negotiating tactic, the Post said. Inside Amazon, all indications are that the company is moving full-steam ahead with its expansion in New York City, according to a person familiar with the matter. In Seattle, executives on multiple teams have been notified they’d have to relocate to New York City, according to two other people familiar with the matter.

Almost immediately after Amazon announced last year that it chose Long Island City as one of two sites to build new corporate offices, a backlash emerged from lawmakers and community organizers in the Empire State. They oppose the nearly $3 billion of financial incentives Amazon won from the city and state, and say the influx of new well-paid workers could push out existing residents and add to congestion on the already overcrowded subway.


Citizens in NYC who were supportive of Amazon HQ2. (Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/Bloomberg News)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been a vocal champion of Amazon, reiterated the benefits of the deal for New York City, including 25,000 tech jobs with an average salary of $150,000 and $27 billion for government coffers.

“Amazon is the largest economic development program that NY has ever won,” Cuomo said, speaking to business executives on Long Island Feb. 8. “We get $27 billion in revenue, they get $3 billion back — I would do that all day long. For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice and if they stop Amazon from coming to New York they are going to have the people of New York to explain it to.”

Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic representative from New York who has been one of the most vocal critics of Amazon, saw the news of a potential withdrawal as a victory.

“Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations? Yes, they can,” she said in a Tweet.

Amazon expected it would face the biggest public backlash to a new headquarters in New York City, Bloomberg has reported. Amazon chose the location anyway, since the city offered a large skilled-labor pool, and ample opportunities for spouses and partners of recruited hires to find employment to further their own careers, the person said. It’s building a similar project in Arlington, Va.

Amazon, run by the world’s richest person, was also eligible for tax breaks intended for poor neighborhoods, contributing to the local outrage. A company official said Jan. 30 that the company wouldn’t avail itself of the incentive.

At a contentious City Council meeting last week, Amazon’s public policy director Brian Huseman touted the deal’s benefits for the city, but also said that Amazon wants to invest in a “community that wants us.”

The deal hasn’t closed yet. It must be approved unanimously by the state Public Authorities Control Board. On Monday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins chose Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who represents Long Island City, and one of the biggest critics of the Amazon deal, as one of three members of the board.

“Jobs are good but we need to get them the right way and we shouldn’t be subsidizing to the tune of $3 billion plus,” Gianaris said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “This is the type of extortion by Amazon that’s got us into this mess in the first place. They think they can sit there in Seattle and dictate terms and hope that governments bend to their will. Well. It's not going to work.”