Amazon cancels plans for New York HQ2

Published 14.02.2019 20:02
Updated 14.02.2019 21:18
In this Nov. 16, 2018, file photo graffiti has been painted on a sidewalk by someone opposed to the location of an Amazon headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York. AP Photo
In this Nov. 16, 2018, file photo graffiti has been painted on a sidewalk by someone opposed to the location of an Amazon headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo)

E-commerce giant Amazon said Thursday it has canceled plans to build a corporate campus in New York City.

Amazon in November announced New York City and Arlington, Virginia, which borders Washington, D.C., would share the so-called HQ2 project, splitting some 50,000 jobs between the two places as the Seattle-based company looked to expand elsewhere.

But the New York project, to be based in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan, has run into opposition from local politicians who oppose the $2.8-billion in incentives promised to Amazon in a deal secretly negotiated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"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," Amazon said in a statement.

"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 it would "continue growing" its workforce in New York which includes some 5,000 people.

The company said it would not reopen the bidding process but would "proceed as planned" with a headquarters site in northern Virginia and a logistics center in Nashville, Tennessee.

It added that it "will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada."

The New York plan had been endorsed by Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo, but ran into fierce opposition from some local politicians and community activists, including newly elected Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the New York site.

Both conservatives and liberal opponents of the deal have argued that Amazon does not need what some describe as "corporate welfare."

In addition to complaints about the scale of the incentives, critics voiced concerns that the promised jobs could inflate an already overpriced housing market and strain infrastructure.

Initial reactions to Amazon's decision from the local community appeared mixed.

"I'm relieved because I'm a renter here," said one female resident, who declined to give her name. "I'm not sure these jobs would have been what the people living in this community need."

But others like David Katzen, who owns a construction company in the neighborhood but does not live there, were disappointed.

"It was a horrible decision by the local legislators to oppose it," he told AFP. "It was short sighted and ultimately what's going to happen here? Nothing. There's no good that came of this."

Amazon, the dominant online retail giant which also operates services in cloud computing, streaming media and artificial intelligence, began seeking a new headquarters, saying it was outgrowing its current home in Seattle, Washington.

Chelsea Connor of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which had protested the subsidies offered to Amazon, criticized the company for pulling out instead of renegotiating the deal.

"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," said Connor.

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