'We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones': Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other NYC politicians voice outrage about Amazon HQ2's move to Long Island City

Rick Loomis/Getty ImagesRepresentative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
  • New York City politicians, including Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sharply criticised Amazon’s decision to build a new headquarters in the Long Island City neighbourhood of Queens.
  • They cited the billions of dollars in tax incentives offered to the company and said residents would be negatively affected by increased pressure on housing prices and infrastructure.
  • “Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” two Queens politicians said.

Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other Queens politicians slammed Amazon’s decision to build a new headquarters in the borough’s Long Island City neighbourhood, citing billion-dollar tax incentives that one state senator called a “ransom” and voicing concerns about the company’s effect on local infrastructure and housing prices.

Local politicians took issue with the direct tax incentives of more than $US1.5 billion offered to one of the world’s largest companies, describing it as a corporate giveaway. Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday that she’d received an overwhelmingly negative response from her constituents in Long Island City, a fast-growing waterfront neighbourhood just across the East River from Manhattan.

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” she tweeted. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

Amazon is likely to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional incentives from the city – available to any company – for employing New Yorkers in outer boroughs and for commercial development, The New York Times reported.

Amazon said in its official announcement on Tuesday that it would create 25,000 “full-time high-paying jobs” and invest about $US2.5 billion in its campus and related projects, including infrastructure and green-space development.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, both of whom represent Long Island City, said in a scathing joint statement on Sunday.

“We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones,” they added.

Local politicians have also expressed concern that the secret dealmaking process between Amazon and the government circumvented community review and local input by using a state-level process that bypasses the authority of the City Council in zoning and land-use decisions.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the lack of community involvement in the decision was “extremely troubling.”

“I will always advocate for economic development and jobs in New York, but when the process is done behind closed doors, with zero community input and nearly $US2 billion in subsidies to a global behemoth, I am going to be sceptical,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The politicians voiced concern about the company’s effect on rents and property values, which are likely to skyrocket in the neighbourhood and surrounding areas, and the burden it could place on city infrastructure, including the struggling subway system.


Read more:
Amazon officially announces its HQ2 will be split between New York and Virginia

The reaction to the decision represents a deep rift between the city and state’s Democratic leadership and New York City residents and their representatives.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are in rare alignment over the decision.

“New York can proudly say that we have attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in US history,” Cuomo said in a statement included in Amazon’s official announcement.

The mayor insisted the company would offer a career ladder to some of the city’s most marginalized residents and “open up good careers in tech to thousands of people looking for their foothold in the new economy, including those in city colleges and public housing.”

By adding 25,000 jobs, Amazon could become the 11th-largest employer in the New York City area, behind the city, state, and federal governments, several hospital systems, and the financial behemoth JPMorgan Chase.

The saga of Amazon’s second-headquarters project, known as HQ2, began in September 2017, when Amazon put out its official request for proposals and nearly every major US metro area threw its hat in the ring. The company will also build a new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, saying it would also create 25,000 new jobs there.

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