New York City

Amazon Kills NYC Headquarters Plans, Won't Search for Another Location

In a statement Thursday, the tech behemoth said it had come to the decision after "much thought and deliberation"

What to Know

  • Amazon has canceled its plans to build a headquarters in Long Island City and will not search for another location
  • In a statement Thursday, the tech behemoth said it had come to the decision after "much thought and deliberation"
  • Amazon is still moving forward with its plans for a headquarters in Crystal City, as well as an operation center in Nashville

Amazon has canceled its plans to build a headquarters in Long Island City and will not look for another location — a stunning reversal after a yearlong search. 

In a statement Thursday, the tech behemoth said it had come to the decision after "much thought and deliberation." 

“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,” Amazon said. 

“While polls show that 70 percent 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,” it added.

The Seattle-based company had planned to bring 25,000 jobs to New York, and spend $2.5 billion building its offices. Amazon is still moving forward with its plans for a headquarters in Crystal City, as well as the operation center in Nashville it announced last year, it said in its Thursday statement. 

The Arlington campus was expected to be the same size as the New York one, with 25,000 employees. The Nashville office is expected to have 5,000 employees.

The company has met with fierce opposition from some New York politicians and residents since announcing its plans to split its second headquarters, known as Amazon "HQ2," between Queens and Crystal City in Virginia this past November. A number of New York politicians were unhappy with the nearly $3 billion in tax incentives Amazon was promised. 

Its announcement also sparked protests over concerns the new headquarters would drive up rents in Long Island City, drive out lower-income residents and increase congestion on already-overcrowded subway lines. 

A Quinnipiac University poll released in December, however, found New York City voters supported having an Amazon headquarters, by 57-26 percent. But they were divided on the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.

"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, adding that it was "deeply grateful" to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who "worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation." 

Cuomo and de Blasio had lobbied intensely to land the project. In his own statement on Thursday, however, de Blasio didn't return Amazon's praise, saying the company gave up on trying to engage New Yorkers.

"You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity," he said. "We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can't recognize what that's worth, its competitors will." 

Cuomo, meanwhile, blamed lawmakers opposed to the project for "put[ting] their own narrow political interests above their community."

"The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage," he said in a statement. "They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity."

Critics of Amazon's project saw as an extravagant giveaway to one of the world's biggest companies and argued it wouldn't provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers. Several welcomed the news that Amazon might be rethinking the plan.

Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris, one of the deal's primary political opponents, said on Thursday Amazon's reversal "show[ed] why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event." 

"Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shakedown governments to get its way," he said. "It is time for a national dialogue about the perils of these types of corporate subsidies." 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exulted over Amazon's pullout.

"Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world," she tweeted.

But even as activists celebrated, chanting "Na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye" during a rally Thursday, local business owners were not happy. They'd been banking on a major windfall from Amazon's move into Queens. 

"We killed the golden goose," said Frank Raffaele, owner of Coffeed. "We should have welcomed them with open arms."

"This was a gift to our community, and they punched a gift horse in the face," said restaurant owner Josh Bowen.  

Queens Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Seth Bornsetin said in a statement, "[T]hose who advocated against Amazon took a very short-sighted approach and did a tremendous disservice to our community -- especially to a generation of young people, many from low- and moderate-income families who stood a chance to be trained and obtain jobs in the tech sector."

And Rob McKay, director of public relations for QEDC, added, "We were looking at jobs, internships, economic activity, donations to local nonprofits, and eventually millions of dollars in taxes. Now we have nothing but a reputation for being hostile to business."

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson — who previously spoke out against the tax incentives Amazon was set to receive — said he "looked forward to working with companies that understand that if you're willing to engage with new Yorkers and work through challenging issues New York City is the world's best place to do business." 

"I hope this is the start of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent," he added. 

George Miranda, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, said in a statement that New Yorkers had "made it clear that Amazon wasn't welcome in our city if it would not respect our workers and our communities."

"Apparently, the company decided that was too much to ask," he said. "We are committed to fighting for the rights of workers throughout the Amazon supply chain and supporting their demand for a voice on the job."

Amazon's seemingly abrupt reversal also drew the ire of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Thursday, which had voiced myriad concerns about the tech giant's business practices, including its treatment of workers. 

"Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers, Amazon says, you do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers — that's not what a responsible business would do," union spokeswoman Chelsea Connor said in a statement. 

Deborah Axt, co-executive director of the anti-poverty group Make the Road New York, said the announcement "mark[ed] a landmark victory for our communities and shows the power of the people, even when taking on the world's richest man." 

"Our members and allies stood firm against Governor Cuomo's plan to give away more than $3 billion in taxpayer giveaways so that Amazon could force its empire-building on our neighborhoods," she added.

But many tenants in local public housing disagreed. Leaders from NYCHA buildings in Long Island City, Astoria and Woodside issued a joint statement expressing their anger. 

"From the beginning, grandstanding politicians who refused to be at the table dismissed the work of those of us who were. They put petty politics above true public service and they spread misinformation to whip up the small band of opponents," read the statement from the presidents of the Queensbridge, Astoria, Woodside and Ravenswood houses' tenant associations. 

"Jimmy Van Bramer and Mike Gianaris used to be the politicians we came to when we needed help," the statement continued. "This time, they didn't even talk to us. They never asked what we, the people of NYCHA, actually wanted. They put their own political interests above their constituents and did not meet with us or even listen to us. The grandstanding politicians will try and blame Amazon and anyone but themselves for this disaster. Nobody should believe them – they let us down." 

Not everyone rejoiced Amazon's reversal Thursday. In a statement, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran expressed "deep disappointment" over the decision. 

"Long Island was poised to reap enormous benefits from the move, which would have brought a flood of new high-wage jobs, business development, and much-needed tax revenue to the entire region," she said. "I urge Amazon to please reconsider their decision.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, meanwhile, said on Twitter the news was "not the Valentine that NY needed." 

"There were legitimate concerns raised and aspects that I wanted changed.... But now, we won't have a chance to do that and we are out of 25K+ new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments." 

Realtors and developers also had their optimism dashed. A building boom was already underway before Amazon announced it would create jobs in Long Island City, and real estate agent Brian Dusseau said the prospect put a floor under the softening housing market. Now he worries that floor is gone -- and more.

"It's my belief we could have become a tech mecca," he said. "Other companies would have come here. We have a lot more buildable real estate. I think it's going to be awful." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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