- Amazon has finally chosen where it will be developing its second headquarters, which it calls HQ2.
- It has taken criticism from all sides in the aftermath.
- The criticism over its HQ2 decision comes at a perilous time for Amazon, which has seen its reputation take numerous hits over the past several months.
Amazon is – predictably – getting blowback for its HQ2 selection.
The company announced on November 13 that it would split its second-headquarters project, which it calls HQ2, in two. The two locations – the Long Island City neighbourhood of Queens, New York, and the newly formed National Landing area of Arlington, Virginia – will each get roughly half of the 50,000 employees promised and about half of the promised investment, the company said.
While politicians from both states and cities have touted the plan as a win for their constituents, the blowback has been both quick and severe.
Much of the focus was on Amazon’s deal with New York, which is projected to total over $US1.5 billion in tax incentives from the city and state. There are provisions in New York’s deal with Amazon that could double that.
That’s much larger than the over $US500 million that Alexandria, Virginia, is projected to give Amazon.
The criticism included a statement from Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will soon represent constituents in Queens and the Bronx in the US House of Representatives.
“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” she tweeted around the time of the announcement. “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.”
She wasn’t the only one. New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and New York State Senator Michael Gianaris said in a scathing joint statement that “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.”
Both politicians represent Long Island City. A rally organised by the two mobilized in Long Island City on November 14, which drew community members in opposition.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also released a statement echoing Ocasio-Cortez’s sentiments.
“While I’m glad that Amazon recognises that Queens is a great place to do business, I’m concerned about the the lack of community input and the incentivizes that Amazon received in order to convince them to bring these jobs to New York,” Gillibrand said in a statement on Twitter. “One of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet.”
Other voices, like editorials in the nation’s largest newspapers, have also made their concerns known.
“We rarely agree with socialist Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s right to call billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Amazon ‘extremely concerning,'” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.“These handouts to one of the richest companies in the history of the world, with an essentially zero cost of capital, is crony capitalism at its worst.”
The New York Times’ board wrote its own editorial calling the HQ2 deal “a bad bargain.”
“Mr. Bezos has owned a home here for years,” the board wrote. “He knows what our city has to offer; and as the web’s biggest retailer, he knows what he’s getting in setting up shop in Long Island City: a discount.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has defended his decision to lure Amazon to New York. In an op-ed that he self-published on Monday, he called the HQ2 deal a “historic transformative moment for the entire New York City region.”
He also slammed his critics, including the Times.
“The New York Times also argues that New York was wrong. The New York Times is also being totally hypocritical,” Cuomo argued. “The New York Times itself makes the same economic decisions and has also received significant tax benefits from New York State and New York City in making decisions on their locations.”
The Times did include a disclaimer in its editorial that it drew benefit from New York’s tax incentive programs.
The criticism over its HQ2 decision comes at a perilous time for Amazon, which has seen its reputation take numerous hits over the past several months.
Sen. Bernie Sanders frequently made an example of Amazon, pointing to high-profile news stories describing strenuous working conditions and low pay. Amazon fought back against this characterization before eventually raising its starting wage to $US15.
Read more about Amazon’s HQ2 project:
- Amazon officially announces its HQ2 will be split between New York and Virginia
- Amazon finally explains why it’s cutting its second headquarters in half
- Amazon gained a huge perk from its HQ2 contest that’s worth far more than any tax break
- Arlington, Virginia, lured in Amazon with promises of a helipad and a cash grant of up to $US550 million
- We walked around Long Island City, the New York neighbourhood where Amazon is planning to bring HQ2, and saw why it’d be appealing to the e-commerce giant