Amazon’s HQ2 was supposed to be a win for New York City. Instead it has become a huge political battle.
Backers of the deal underestimated the strength of the opposition to corporate subsidies.
For its political backers, who made
It was a move that would help cement New York City as a tech hub on par with Silicon Valley. And it would be a joint victory for two outspoken politicians, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who usually
“I think they thought this was the greatest victory of their careers” said New York City councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the district where Amazon HQ2 is slated to be built; he is one of the most vocal politicians against the deal.
But the public started clapping back before de Blasio and Cuomo could finish giving each other congratulatory high fives. Residents were outraged that one of the world’s richest corporations was receiving a combined total of
On the day of the announcement, the nation’s most popular new member of Congress, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez,
About a month later,
After more than three hours of tough questioning from the council and jeering from the crowd, the two Amazon executives who attended the hearing left the meeting
So how did leaders at the HQ2 New York City negotiation table — the mayor, the governor, the economic development corporation, and Amazon let this happen? While Amazon may have anticipated the public backlash (especially among residents of the losing cities) in the grander scheme of their national search, shouldn’t de Blasio and Cuomo have known their constituents better?
“There’s a real disconnect between decision makers and the feeling on the ground,” said New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, who, along with Van Bramer and New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim, has been among the more
Gianaris says he wants the deal to be “torn up” and start from scratch. He’s trying to block the build, potentially by getting it voted down on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), where he says the state could halt funding for the subsidies. This seems like a long shot, since Amazon has so far bypassed going through standard local oversight committees — but opponents like Gianaris say they will consider taking legal action if Amazon doesn’t go through state review processes.
What’s more important — at least from a PR perspective for Amazon and the politicians who supported the deal — is whether the public is on their side.
Amazon, for its part, has been on a
To some extent, Amazon may already have support, albeit with reservations. A recent poll showed that
Critics say that context matters, and that the more people know about the terms of the deal, the more they oppose it. But the point remains that many Queens residents are happy with the idea of Amazon moving in, on reasonable terms.
Meanwhile, the politicians in support of the deal continue to stand behind it, albeit more quietly than they have in the past. In his recent 60-minute-plus
“The major new announcements from Amazon and Google show that the world’s most innovative companies want to be here, and they want to hire New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
Google says that unlike Amazon,
The continued fight over Amazon HQ2 in Queens is a reminder that tech companies and local governments can no longer expect to be welcomed with open arms when they move into a major metropolis — especially one with a voice as loud as New York City’s.