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Amazon abandons its plan to build New York City headquarters

"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,” an Amazon spokeswoman said.

by Rex Santus
Feb 14 2019, 4:55pm

Amazon has abandoned its plans to build a secondary headquarters in the Queens borough of New York City.

"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 said in a statement Thursday.

The cancellation comes after sweeping public backlash against the plan. Amazon said the deal would bring about 25,000 jobs to New York City with salaries of around $150,000 on average, but residents and activists worried that the company’s presence would cause rapid gentrification and push out longtime, working-class residents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, had courted the nearly $1 trillion company to come to New York City by offering huge tax breaks — $1.3 billion from the city and $1.7 billion from the state. Cuomo and de Blasio immediately weathered heavy backlash over what local officials called a secretive deal.

In its statement, Amazon said that “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us.” The company has had a contentious relationship with New York’s City Council, which held public hearings that triggered protests and heated arguments between politicians and Amazon. Officials worried about Amazon’s long-documented history of poor working conditions and hostility to labor unions.

After the fall midterms turned New York’s Senate blue for the first time in a decade, many progressive senators spoke out against Cuomo’s deal and worked to gather opposition. Cuomo responded to the backlash by accusing Democrats of “playing politics” at the expense of voters. He was especially furious that Democrats nominated a critic of Amazon to a state board that potentially had the power to derail the deal.

"For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice," Cuomo said at a news conference earlier this month. "And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they're going to have the people of New York State to explain it to. It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Queens in the House, also condemned Amazon’s decision to come to Long Island City.

“Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after the November announcement that Amazon was coming to town, expressing concern over the possibility of gentrification in Queens. “Shuffling working-class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life.”

Amazon said it was not planning to reopen its HQ2 search at this time, though it will move forward with plans to open corporate facilities in Nashville and Northern Virginia.

Cover image: Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, speaks at The Economic Club of Washington's Milestone Celebration in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)