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Don’t botch the delivery of Amazon jobs to New York City

The site of the new Amazon Headquarters in

The site of the new Amazon Headquarters in Long Island City as seen on June 26, 2018. Photo Credit: / Kevin P. Coughlin

We could be one click away from losing the largest economic boost New York State has ever gotten from a single company.

We could be one click away from losing 25,000 jobs with average salaries of $150,000 a year, $27 billion in tax revenue in the next 25 years, and the potential for new transit, housing and a burgeoning technology industry.

We could be one click away from becoming the state infamous for turning its back on business development.

After wooing Amazon to build one of its two new headquarters here, we’re doing everything we can to send it away. The company is now reportedly considering withdrawing its plans for Long Island City. That would be disastrous for the city and the state.

Senate majority leader should step in

There is one person who can undo the damage: State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Until now, she has played a game. And not well. While she has not taken a position on state and city incentives — most of it future tax credits — her actions speak loudly. She appointed her deputy, Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, to the Public Authorities Control Board, from which he could veto the deal. And Gianaris has said the deal is horrible, that the state should not give corporate welfare to a firm controlled by the world’s richest man. Whatever Gianaris does, Stewart-Cousins now owns.

Stewart-Cousins represents more than her Westchester County district. As one of the three most powerful people in state government, she also represents the entire state. That’s why she must withdraw the nomination of Gianaris to the board. She must signal that her nominee will have an open mind and review the portion of the incentives and tax-credits deal that is the only purview of the control board: a capital grant of as much as $505 million if Amazon invests $3.6 billion and creates as many as 40,000 jobs over 15 years. Another $1 billion in incentives from NYC, out of $2.9 billion overall, would go to any developer choosing that site. There’s little reason for Amazon to continue with lengthy analyses, approvals and hearings if it knows that at the end, Gianaris will try to block the deal.

Gianaris is playing to anti-corporate voices like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has applauded the idea of Amazon pulling out of NYC. There’s speculation that Gianaris is worried about being primaried from the left if he doesn’t swing left himself. But polling shows that his district, never mind the entire city, solidly supports Amazon’s HQ2 plans.

Stakes for the city economy are high

Unfortunately, Gianaris still thinks this is a knife fight with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “There’s only one person to blame for this horrible drama, and that’s Andrew Cuomo,” Gianaris tweeted on Friday, complaining that the governor completed the deal in secrecy.

The stakes are high. New York’s finances and economic future already are precarious, at best. A decision by Amazon to drop its plans won’t help. It would be a setback from diversifying the region’s economy with a high-performing tech sector that would lessen the dependence on Wall Street and a lost opportunity to get infrastructure improvements out of the Amazon deal.

And why would any company come to NYC after seeing the anti-corporate fight it would have ahead?


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