Casey McShea, Staff Writer|
Amazon abruptly announced on Feb. 14 that its plans to construct a corporate campus in New York City will be canceled after the tech giant received fierce backlash from lawmakers, progressive activists, and union leaders.
The company announced that it would open two new sites last November—one in Queens, (with more than 25,000 jobs), and another in Virginia. The initial agreement to bring a new headquarters to Long Island City (LIC), Queens, was an attempt by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to further diversify the city’s economy by making it an inviting location for the technology industry. Many progressive activists and some residents of the area, however, were not thrilled by the prospect, bringing up issues such as the rising cost of gentrifying neighborhoods. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, an avid opposer of the proposed LIC campus, tweeted in victory after the decision was announced, “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.”
Cuomo did not share Ocasio-Cortez’s sentiments: “A small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community—which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City—the state’s economic future and best interests of the people of this state,” the governor said hours after the decision. “The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.”
De Blasio’s reaction was more critical of the company rather than the opposition it faced. He said, “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. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.”
While it is true that a majority of New Yorkers approved of the plans for a new Amazon campus, they were divided over terms of the multibillion-dollar incentive that convinced the tech giant to locate there. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that 57 percent of New York City residents who responded to the poll approved of Amazon moving to LIC, which was more than double the 26 percent who said they oppose the move. The poll numbers regarding tax breaks and incentives offered to attract Amazon were more divided, with 46 percent supporting them and 44 opposing.
The 4-million square foot campus plan was expected to have open space, workforce development plans, manufacturing space, and either an elementary or middle school. Amazon also included provisions for a helipad on site. According to the LIC Post, the company had “also agreed to partly fund infrastructure improvements outside of the headquarter space, but still within LIC, in the form of payments in lieu of taxes. The city would have received the $650 million in funds over the course of 40 years, and decide how to use them for infrastructure needs in the neighborhood.”
It is unclear what will become of the reserved spaces.