Amazon is reconsidering its plan to launch its HQ2 project in Long Island City, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Executives at the online retailer have had discussions about possible alternatives to the Queens project, which would bring a promised 25,000 jobs to New York City, in the face of opposition from many local officials as well as labor and housing advocates.
Citing two sources "familiar with the company’s plans," the Post reports that Amazon has not reached a conclusion about the future of HQ2 and could "use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials."
The report comes a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo characterized the project as an economic boost to New York State at a luncheon for the Association for a Better New York.
“Amazon coming to Queens with 25,000 great paying jobs is a major economic plus for this state,” Cuomo said. The project is “the largest economic development program in the history of this state.”
The tech giant announced a deal in November that it would develop a $2.5 billion, 4-million-square-foot campus in western Queens that would generate an estimated 25,000 jobs. However, critics quickly centered on the nearly $2.8 billion in state and city tax incentives offered in a deal with Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, while contending that HQ2 would price everyday New Yorkers out of Long Island City.
The neighborhood’s city and state representatives have decried a lack of local involvement in the HQ2 decision-making process, with state Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer issuing a joint statement in the fall warning that they "were not elected to serve as Amazon drones."
Protesters have argued that Amazon does not need or deserve tax inducements.
"We’re outraged New York City gave away $3 billion dollars to the richest man in the world," Angeles Solis, an organizer with Make the Road New York, said at a rally in the fall. "This is a growing coalition of workers, and we’re sending a message that Amazon doesn’t belong here."
Amazon’s labor practices have also been targeted by local critics, who say the company’s non-union shops aren’t compatible with New York City’s workforce. On Friday, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone blasted Amazon as "outrageous" for "essentially threatening New York City taxpayers to pay for its new headquarters or else it will leave town.
"Why should we subsidize the creation of 25,000 Amazon jobs when Amazon’s entire business model seeks to eliminate millions of retail jobs," Perrone asked in a statement.
Most recently, Gianaris, the deputy leader of the state Senate, was nominated to the state Public Authorities Control Board. The HQ2 critic would potentially have the power to veto the plan if his appointment is confirmed by the governor.
The board must approve a one-time grant of $325 million to Amazon, and the legislature must lift a cap on state tax credits so the retailer can receive up to $1.2 million in credits on the 25,000 jobs it plans to create over 10 years. In addition, New York City is providing a $386 million reduction in property taxes and nearly $900 million in job tax credits.
Amazon has touted the HQ2 project as a job- and revenue-producing boon to New York City, where it hopes to have a "long and mutually beneficial partnership" with locals.
With James T. Madore