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NYers React To Amazon's Decision To Pull NYC Plans

 NYS Senator Michael Gianaris
Office of Senator Michael Gianaris

Amazon has announced it is pulling its plan to build a second headquarters in New York City, citing opposition by some state and local politicians.

The company, in a statement Thursday, said “after much thought and deliberation” it has decided not to move forward with plans to build a headquarters in Queens.

The statement points out that a recent poll showed 70 percent of New Yorkers wanted the project, but Amazon says “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us.”   

Governor Andrew Cuomo had engineered the deal, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. But Cuomo, a Democrat, was criticized by some local residents, progressive groups, and politicians who represent the area, including Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They opposed the nearly $3 billion subsidy to the company, which is run by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world.

One of those opponents is Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michal Gianaris, whose district included the proposed Amazon site. He says Amazon was arrogant, and acted like a bully. He says the company did not take into accounts the needs of the community, including adequate public transportation and the need for more schools and affordable housing.  

“What happened today is that the people of New York stood up,” said Gianaris, who said the community had many unanswered questions about the project. “And instead of dealing with those questions in a responsible way, Amazon took its ball and left town.”  

The Democratic Senate leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, earlier this month recommended Gianaris to a key oversight board that had the power to approve or reject portions of the project, a signal that the project might be derailed.

Progressive groups who opposed the deal, including the organization Make The Road, called Amazon’s decision to withdraw “a landmark victory for our communities.” 

Governor Cuomo issued a statement expressing his deep disappointment. He said “a small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community." The governor warns that they “should be held accountable” for the loss of a project that would have brought 25,000 “good-paying” jobs and nearly $30 billion in new revenue.   

Tensions have been simmering between Cuomo and the newly-formed state Senate Democratic Majority, and the differences over Amazon have brought those divisions out into the open.

Business groups also expressed dismay over Amazon’s decision. Kathryn Wylde, with the New York City Partnership, said the constant criticism of Amazon sends a “terrible message to the job creators of the city and the world.” 

Senator Gianaris says he hopes the failure of the Amazon deal represents a turning point for large taxpayer-funded subsidies for wealthy corporations. He says it’s an “important moment” for New York and the nation.

“There is example after example of public dollars being wasted and being given to the most giant corporations among us,” Gianaris said. “And disaster after disaster follows.”

Meanwhile, upstate communities that had competed unsuccessfully for the new headquarters asked the company to take a second look at their regions. Broome County Executive Jason Garner, in the state’s economically struggling Southern Tier, released a letter Thursday inviting the company to come for a visit.  

But Amazon says it does not intend to reopen their search at this time, and will proceed with plans for expansion in Virginia and Nashville and at other sites around the country.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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