What’s Left: Amazon Changing New Headquarter Plans

JJ Citron, Maroon-News Staff

On February 14, Amazon announced that it was canceling its plans to build a headquarters in Queens, New York. Amazon had previously claimed that the new campus would add 40,000 jobs in Long Island City and would generate 27 million dollars in tax revenue over the course of 25 years. At the same time, the company would receive performance-based direct incentives of over 1.5 billion dollars, according to Fox News.

Amazon’s blog announcement attributed the decision to conflict with other political groups: “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.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both emphasized their commitment to economic diversification; Amazon’s withdrawal poses an obstacle to expanding New York’s technology industry. Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo accepted local input but would not accept local veto in an attempt to decrease opposition from local officials and the City Council. Governor Cuomo called the decision a “friendly condemnation,” according to The New York Times. This decision indicated that both the New York State governor and mayor of New York City were more focused on the economic benefits rather than the social and political implications of the relocation on the borough.

Opponents of the agreement raised concerns of potential gentrification, as the move would increase property values in the surrounding areas and therefore push residents out of Queens. It is crucial to note that, according to The New York Times, Amazon did not hire a single New Yorker to represent the company in talks with local groups. After Amazon’s withdrawal from the plans, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) questioned the economic, social and political actualities of the plan.

“When you actually try to extract the details of this deal, all of a sudden the math got really fuzzy and it felt, to the community, that the details were falling apart,” she said.

Specifically, Ocasio-Cortez emphasized the company’s lack of transparency.

“We got no answers. There was no guarantee that those 25,000 they were going to hire were New Yorkers. Are they just going to import people to displace existing New Yorkers? Are we going to be driving up the cost of rent?”

A Quinnipiac University poll found 60 percent of registered voters in Queens supported the headquarter relocation. However, this number fails to consider the borough’s immigrant community and those unregistered to vote. In this way, the poll targeted a specific portion of Queen’s population, leading me to wonder whether the poll’s results were skewed.

Steve Levy of Fox News argues that “Ocasio-Cortez and her radical business-hating minions played a supporting role in convincing Amazon to pull out.” Ocasio-Cortez was vocal about her beliefs; her concerns are extremely valid, particularly those relating to gentrification and increasing property values as a result of headquarter relocation. Ocasio-Cortez considered the concerns of the average Queens resident, and not the Amazon executive looking to get more bang for his many buck.

I am not an economist, but I do understand the concept of cost-benefit analysis. Amazon’s relocation to Queens posed the potential to create more jobs and expand New York City’s involvement in the technology industry. It was unknown, however, whether these jobs would be filled by New York residents or outsourced workers.

Additionally, the relocation raised questions of potential gentrification within Queens along with rising property values. Would Amazon’s headquarter relocation seek to benefit the company itself and the surrounding borough? Would it have even been possible to satisfy both parties?

Contact JJ Citron at [email protected].