Apparently, it was not true love for Amazon in Queens, as representatives for the company chose Valentine’s Day to announce on the firm’s blog that it will not open a second headquarters in Long Island City.
“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,” said the company blog. “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.”
However, the announcement didn’t leave any local Queens lawmakers with a broken heart. Many of whom took issue with the HQ2 deal, including Gov. “Amazon” Cuomo’s plan to hand out over $1.7 billion in tax credits to the major retail giant, while the embattled Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) continues to crumble.
The Governor earned the nickname in his bid to lure the tech company to New York, joking that he would be willing to change his first name to Amazon.
“We are excited to see that the power of grassroots action can stand up against the world’s richest man of a $1 trillion company,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Jackson Heights).
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) shared the same sentiments and found Amazon’s treatment of undocumented immigrants to be problematic.
“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,” said Gianaris.
“Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city and state forever,” added Van Bramer.
Candidates running for the public advocate seat, on the other hand, differed on the loss of the deal.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) denouncing the surprising news, claiming Amazon would have been a positive for the borough.
“It never ceases to amaze me how the loud voices of a few, could destroy the chance at a better life for so many. Amazon had big plans in store for the borough of Queens, and we blew it! They were going to invest in our future, hire locally, contribute to the community, and make the greatest city in the world even greater. I doubt the NIMBYS have another company willing to create 25,000 good paying jobs. This sets a bad precedent moving forward and will deter other companies from setting up shop in our city,” said Ulrich.
While Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) and City Council members Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) hailed the news as a triumph for the city.
“This is a huge victory for the grassroots activists and community leaders who spoke out with one collective voice to say no to Amazon. I was the first elected official to stand against the HQ2 deal because it ignored the needs of everyday people and prioritized one of the world’s wealthiest corporations instead. The $3 billion taxpayer giveaway was unconscionable especially in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and a crumbling public transportation system which impacts virtually every resident of New York City,” said Kim.
“Amazon’s decision shows the company isn’t ready to make the commitments that a pro-union city like New York deserves. I have been against Amazon’s plans from the start, and especially against subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen,” said Espinal.
“After countless activists, grassroots organizers and everyday New Yorkers fought back against Amazon’s secret bargain with the Mayor and Governor, we’re proud that our message was clear: we won’t be bulldozed by the world’s richest man, who denied honest discussions and open negotiations about jobs and benefits to everyday New Yorkers. A backroom deal between the Mayor, Governor and Bezos to give away $3 billion in tax incentives and a helipad, with questionable jobs and loss of Land Use powers were never the answer,” said Williams.
Assemblyman Michael Blake (D-Bronx), a third public advocate candidate, was more willing to negotiate with Amazon to make sure it met the needs of the community.
“I always said that we wanted a better deal,” said Blake. “We wanted guarantees of unionization, local hiring, the hiring of minorities and women, and for them not to help ICE in detaining our immigrant sister and brothers…at the end of the day, a better deal was better than no deal and all that we asked was for Amazon to come to the table and engage with all of us. It is incredibly disappointing that they are choosing to walk away instead of us coming together.”
Amazon first announced plans for a second headquarters in Queens last November, with plans to bring economic growth to Long Island City. The initial plan was met with immediate backlash from Queens lawmakers and local residents who felt the deal was done in a “back room” without input from the community.