Some New Yorkers looked forward to Amazon announcing that it would no longer be building a massive, 25,000-employee corporate campaign in the Long Island City area of Queens. But others – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who assisted the tech giant broker – were less satisfied. And now a group of them is talking about coming back.
Led by Cuomo, a different coalition of politicians, business owners and community activists has signed an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and urged him to reassess the support Out of the agreement, the New York Times reported on Thursday. Signatories include representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Carolyn Maloney, the presidents of four public housing associations, and the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JetBlue. (Cuomo did not write the letter.)
Cuomo, the Times reports, has "furiously worked behind the scenes to lure the company back" and has repeatedly spoken to Amazon leaders, including Bezos, over the phone over the past two weeks .
But Cuom's efforts may not be enough to get the company back. Public resistance to the idea of an Amazon campus in New York City began brewing long before the firm announced where its so-called other headquarters, as it called HQ2, would be.
Some critics speculated that Amazon's search for a home for its new office park, as framed as a national competition, was a way to destroy as many incentives as possible from which city it ended up choosing. The company ended up sharing its second headquarters between two cities: New York and Arlington, Virginia. (Amazon received about $ 3 billion in tax subsidies, grants and other financial incentives from New York City and state governments, plus $ 573 million from Virginia and $ 23 million from Arlington. The company was disclosed in November.)
While Virginians first celebrated deal, the upcoming Amazon presence in New York City was faced with resilient resistance by a coalition of Greek organizations, unions and local politicians who opposed the tax breaks the company, founded by the richest man in the world, received.
HQ2 critics also expressed concerns that the Amazon presence would exacerbate the gentrification of Long Island City and its surrounding neighborhoods, claiming that the Amazon's work practices, anti-union state, and the fact that the company once beat its face recognition system for immigration and customs enforcement made the company poorly suited to a city like New York, which relies on progressive values.
According to Times reporter J. David Goodman, who broke the news of Cuomo's recent attempts to woo Amazon back, activists' opposition to Amazon's "way beyond the five cities" – their efforts to work with ICE and its attitude to trade unions – was one of the most important factors that caused Amazon to withdraw from the agreement in the first place.
If that is the case, Cuomo can attempt to get Amazon to consider whether it is not enough. New York's governor may attempt to resist opposition to tax cases and grants, but getting activists and Amazon to spot major issues is a much heavier task.
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