Amazon Dumps NYC Hq, 25,000 Jobs 02/15 06:40

Amazon Dumps NYC Hq, 25,000 Jobs       02/15 06:40

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon abruptly dropped plans Thursday for a big new 
headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, 
reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3 
billion in incentives promised to what is already one of the world's richest, 
most powerful companies.

   "We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion --- we love New York," 
the online giant from Seattle said in a blog post announcing its withdrawal.

   The stunning move was a serious blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de 
Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the project, competing against more 
than 200 other metropolitan areas across the continent that were practically 
tripping over each other to offer incentives to Amazon in a bidding war the 
company stoked.

   Cuomo lashed out at fellow New York politicians over Amazon's change of 
heart, saying the project would have helped diversify the city's economy, 
cement its status as an emerging tech hub and generate money for schools, 
housing and transit.

   "A small group (of) politicians put their own narrow political interests 
above their community," he said.

   But Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City's new liberal 
firebrand, exulted over Amazon's pullout.

   "Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their 
neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the 
power of the richest man in the world," she tweeted, referring to Amazon CEO 
Jeff Bezos.

   The swift unraveling of the project reflected growing antipathy toward large 
technology companies among liberals and populists who accuse big business of 
holding down wages and wielding too much political clout, analysts said.

   "This all of a sudden became a perfect test case for all those arguments," 
said Joe Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy 
Program.

   Amazon ultimately decided it did not want to be drawn into that battle.

   Amazon announced in November that it had chosen the Long Island City section 
of Queens for one of two new headquarters, with the other in Arlington, 
Virginia. Both would get 25,000 jobs. A third site in Nashville, Tennessee, 
would get 5,000.

   The company planned to spend $2.5 billion building the New York office, 
choosing the area in part because of its large pool of tech talent. The 
governor and the mayor had argued that the project would spur economic growth 
that would pay for the $2.8 billion in state and city incentives many times 
over.

   De Blasio said that 48 hours before Amazon's announcement, he spoke with a 
senior company executive who gave no indication that there was a problem with 
the deal. But Thursday morning, he got a call from an executive just as news 
started to come out that the deal was dead.

   "I was flabbergasted," he told reporters in Boston, where he was taking part 
in a forum at Harvard's Kennedy School. "I said, 'Why on earth after all the 
effort we all put in would you simply walk away?'"

   In pulling out, Amazon said it isn't looking for a replacement location "at 
this time." It said it plans to spread the technology jobs that were slated for 
New York to other offices around the U.S. and Canada, including Chicago, 
Toronto and Austin, Texas. It will also expand its existing New York offices, 
which already have about 5,000 employees.

   Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining 
that the project was an extravagant giveaway --- or worse, a shakedown --- and 
that it wouldn't provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.

   The list of grievances against the project grew as the months wore on, with 
critics complaining about Amazon's stance on unions and some Long Island City 
residents fretting that the company's arrival would drive up rents and other 
costs.

   Opposition to the deal was led in the Democrat-controlled state Senate by 
Michael Gianaris, the chamber's No. 2 lawmaker, whose district includes Long 
Island City. Initially among the politicians who supported bringing an Amazon 
headquarters to the city, Gianaris did an about-face after the deal was 
announced, criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the 
generous incentives.

   Earlier this month, Gianaris was appointed to a little-known state panel 
that could have ultimately been asked to approve the subsidies.

   The City Council probably would have had to file a lawsuit to scuttle the 
deal, which was structured to avoid the land use review process that most 
projects undergo.

   In recent weeks, City Council members held hearings at which they grilled 
Amazon officials about such things as the company's contract with Immigration 
and Customs Enforcement to provide facial recognition technology.

   One City Council leader tried to get Amazon officials to agree to remain 
neutral in the face of any potential union drive. But an Amazon executive would 
not give such a commitment.

   A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters 
supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were 
divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.

   Construction industry groups and some local business leaders had urged the 
public and officials to get behind the plan.

   Eric Benaim, a realty executive who gets most of his sales and rentals in 
Long Island City, had led a petition in support of Amazon, drawing 4,000 
signatures.

   "I woke up this morning and I had no clue this would happen. Zero. This news 
is a shock, and I'm devastated," he said.

   Andrew Ousley, a business owner who lives near the proposed site, said he 
had been considering moving out before Amazon moved in.

   "Now that they're not coming, I'm more likely to stay and see how the 
neighborhood continues to grow and evolve in a more organic fashion," he said.


(KA)

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