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Mike's Blog: Amazon scraps plans for NYC headquarters

Feb. 14, 2019

Back on Nov. 13, Amazon put to rest rampant speculation about where it planned to build its second world headquarters, with the e-commerce and technology giant announcing it would split its “HQ2” between sites in New York City and Arlington, VA. It would invest a combined $5 billion between the two locations and create more than 50,000 total jobs, including more than 25,000 at each location.

On Thursday, those plans were abruptly halved when Amazon announced in a blog post that it won’t move forward with its plans for the New York City headquarters after all.

“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,” Amazon wrote. “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.”

Almost immediately following the Nov. 13 announcement, considerable backlash arose regarding the stated agreement that New York City and the state of New York would provide Amazon up to $3 billion in incentives and direct subsidies in return for Amazon creating 25,000 to 40,000 jobs in Queens.

When Democrats seized control of the U.S. Senate in November’s mid-term elections, New York state senator Michael Gianaris was nominated to a state board with veto power over the Amazon deal. Gianaris originally urged Amazon to come to New York in a 2017 letter back before the company had narrowed its list of HQ2 finalists, but has been an outspoken opponent of the deal since its terms were announced.

“Their behavior does not present a path forward,” Gianaris told the New York Times earlier this week, referring to Amazon. “They’re sitting there threatening to leave, which is what they did to Seattle when they got them to bend to their will. “Amazon is big, but it’s not bigger than New York. They don’t get to tell us what to do.”

Queens councilman Jimmy Van Bramer—who also originally supported HQ2 in New York City before lobbying against the deal—added, “I want the deal to be scrapped in its entirety. They want to crush unions. They want to work with ICE. They want to bypass community review. They want to take giant subsidies. I don’t see them changing one bit and so, yeah, they’re not welcome here.”

Amazon called those opponents’ bluff on Tuesday by cutting New York City out of its HQ2 plans. The company said it won’t reopen the HQ2 search at this time, and will proceed with its preannounced plans for Arlington and Nashville, TN, along with continuing to hire and grow across its 17 corporate offices and tech hubs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“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,” Amazon said Thursday, also thanking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio for inviting HQ2 to the city and state. “There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.”

Minutes after Amazon’s blog post went live, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to voice his take on the matter:

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