On Wednesday, February 14, Amazon announced its decision to cancel plans to establish one of its two new corporate headquarters in Queens, New York, following opposition from lawmakers and community members.
The announcement in November that Amazon had decided to split its second headquarters, popularly referred to as HQ2, between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City, Virginia, concluded a highly publicized search that began in September 2017, with 238 candidate cities and states bidding against each other. The company had said it would split operations evenly between the two chosen sites, with more than 25,000 employees in each city. Amazon could have received up to $3 billion in city and state incentives for the Long Island City site.
In a statement, Amazon said, “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. 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.”
The statement cites the fact that “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.” However, it states that it plans to continue growing its teams in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island.
The incentives package offered by New York City and State to Amazon had been met with significant community resistance, including from New York State’s independent businesses, unions, and residents. Critics cite Amazon’s anti-union stance, contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to which it provides facial-recognition software — and anti-competitive business practices used to suppress its small business competition.
“Amazon’s decision against locating HQ2 in New York State is great news for independent retailers and residents alike,” said David Grogan, director, ABFE, Advocacy and Public Policy for ABA. “Faced with legitimate questions from booksellers, independent retailers, and public and private unions regarding its operations, and the strong prospect of losing the billions in tax subsidies, Amazon saw that they were not going to be able to dictate a deal that only made sense for them. We’ve said all along that it’s not the role of government to be picking winners and losers in the marketplace. With a budget shortfall in excess of $2 billion, this was, simply put, a bad deal for New York State. Taxpayer money should go to help local communities. These public funds should not go to some out-of-state giant corporation that is seeking to put New York retailers out of business.”
In December, the American Booksellers Association sent a letter on behalf of 78 New York State booksellers and other independent business owners to Governor Cuomo opposing the deal.
The announcement followed challenges from City Council members at two recent hearings and opposition from lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), New York Sen. Michael N. Gianaris (D-Queens), City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), and Deputy Leader of the City Council James G. Van Bramer (D-Queens). It additionally followed the news that New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recommended Sen. Gianaris, a vocal critic of the deal, for appointment to the Public Authorities Control Board, which would have reviewed the state’s offer of incentives to Amazon.