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Amazon cancels HQ2 plans for New York City

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The HQ2 deal had come under fire in recent weeks

Long Island City’s Faces Changes With Amazon Selecting Neighborhood For New HQ Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Amazon has withdrawn its plans to bring half of its second North American headquarters to New York City. This comes after a report last week in the Washington Post that the tech giant was reconsidering locating HQ2 in Long Island City as originally planned.

“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 company said in a blog post on Thursday. “While polls show that 70% 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.”

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a more aggressive stance toward Amazon than he had in recent weeks, implying that the company wasn’t willing to stick with the process amid opposition.

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City,” his statement reads. “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. 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.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, took aim at the New York State Senate in a statement on the deal’s dissolution.

“Amazon chose to come to New York because we are the capital of the world and the best place to do business,” his statement reads. “Bringing Amazon to New York diversified our economy away from real estate and Wall Street, further cementing our status as an emerging center for tech and was an extraordinary economic win not just for Queens and New York City, but for the entire region, from Long Island to Albany’s nanotech center. However, a small group politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community—which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City—the state’s economic future and the best interests of the people of this state. The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.”

State Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins nominated Sen. Michael Gianaris, a vocal critic of the HQ2 deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, which would ultimately have approval power over the project. His office was responsible for anti-HQ2 fliers that were sent to Queens residents in recent weeks, which he told Fast Company was an effort to counteract Amazon’s own “misinformation campaign” (the company has been sending its own fliers touting HQ2 to borough residents).

“Today’s behavior by Amazon shows why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event,” Gianaris said in a statement. “Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shakedown governments to get its way. It is time for a national dialogue about the perils of these types of corporate subsidies.”

Amazon would have set up its HQ2 in Anable Basin, located on the Long Island City waterfront, on a site owned by Plaxall Realty. In a statement, Plaxall managing directors Paula Kirby, Tony Pfohl, and Matthew Quigley said they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

“Since our grandfather opened Plaxall’s doors on the waterfront seven decades ago, our family has believed in the overwhelming promise of Anable Basin and Long Island City as centers of productivity and innovation,” their statement continues. “We continue to believe that today.”

Opposition has been swift, and fierce, since Amazon announced in November that it would bring its HQ2—and, reportedly, 25,000 jobs and $27 billion in tax revenue—to Long Island City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have both touted the deal as an economic development win for New York City. But much of the criticism has focused on the subsidies that Amazon will recieve: as much as $3 billion, through a combination of tax incentive programs from the city and state. Critics of the deal include City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer and Gianaris, who represent Long Island City, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“When our community fights together, anything is possible, even when we’re up against the biggest corporation in the world,” van Bramer said in a statement. “I am proud that we fought for our values, which is a fight for working families, immigrants, and organized labor. Defeating an anti-union corporation that mistreats workers and assists ICE in terrorizing immigrant communities is a victory. Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city and state forever.”

Amazon’s anti-union stance had also become a sticking point in the debate over bringing HQ2 to NYC, since the company had explicitly said it would not support union drives at its New York headquarters.

“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,” Chelsea Connors, the director of communications for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“I look 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,” City Council speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. “I hope this is the start of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent. I know I’d choose mass transit over helipads any day.”

Others, however, see Amazon’s decision to withdraw from New York City as a negative.

“I’m worried about New York,” Vishaan Chakrabarti, the founder of the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, tells Curbed. He wrote an op-ed supporting HQ2 for the New York Times in November. “We’re sending all sorts of signals that says this isn’t the place to be an entrepreneur, and it goes against the grain of what the history of New York is.”

“We are stunned by today’s unfortunate news,” Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said in a statement. “Politics and pandering have won out over a once-in-a-generation investment in New York City’s economy, bringing with it tens of thousands of solid middle class jobs. This sends the wrong message to businesses all over the world looking to call New York home. Who will want to come now?”

“It’s unfortunate that we have lost out on an opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs for city residents and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue to fund vital services including infrastructure improvements for transportation, schools, and open space,” John Bank Nevertheless, New York City is still open for business and will retain its status as a world class center for tech and innovation”

This story is developing, and will be updated as more information becomes available.