- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated their deal with Amazon to bring the retail giant’s secondary headquarters, known as HQ2, to Long Island City, Queens.
- Both men praised the “unprecedented” scale and impact of the project – which will create at least 25,000 jobs over the next 10 years – and insisted it will positively impact New Yorkers, including marginalized communities.
- To critics, de Blasio said, “I ask a real blunt question: Would we be happier if [Amazon] weren’t coming?”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – two longtime political foes despite their shared party affiliation – celebrated their deal with Amazon to bring the retail giant’s secondary headquarters, known as HQ2, to Long Island City, Queens.
Both men praised the “unprecedented” scale and impact of the project, which will create at least 25,000 jobs over the next 10 years in the already fast-growing waterfront neighbourhood just across the East River from Manhattan, during a Tuesday afternoon joint press conference.
Cuomo said the project will have a 9:1 revenue-to-incentive ratio – “the highest rate of return for an economic incentive program the state has ever offered” – resulting in $US13.5 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years. He and the mayor noted that the largest economic development project before HQ2 created 1,500 jobs in the state.
“This blows away anything we’ve ever seen,” de Blasio said.
Amazon says it will invest about $US2.5 billion in its campus and related projects, including infrastructure, a school, and green space development.
At the same time, the state will likely provide $US2 billion – if not significantly more – in tax incentives to the company, a major point of contention among critics of the plan. Both de Blasio and Cuomo called the competition for HQ2 a long and “fierce” process and said the massive tax incentives were necessary in order to seal the deal.
But the mayor has previously insisted that he doesn’t support corporate subsidies as a method of attracting big business to the city.
“We do not believe in subsidies to corporations for retention or to attract corporations,” de Blasio said last week. “That’s a very strong view that I hold, and it’s the difference from the Bloomberg administration that did believe in those kind of corporate subsidies.”
Cuomo insisted that New York had to fight for the project in order to remain economically competitive.
“You want to be ahead of the economic curve,” the governor said. “Either you are a part of the economy of tomorrow or you are a part of the economy of yesterday.”
The headquarters, which will eventually grow into an eight million square foot campus on Long Island City’s waterfront, will be built in close proximity to the country’s largest public housing development, Queensbridge Houses. The mayor said Amazon will work with the New York City Housing Authority to provide job and training opportunities to Queensbridge residents.
“One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States – the synergy is going to be extraordinary,” de Blasio said, calling Tuesday “a great day for New York City” and “an extraordinary day for Queens.”
‘Would we be happier if they weren’t coming?’
But not all Democratic leadership in the city and state are praising the announcement. Many doubt that the benefits of the project will be felt by the city’s struggling communities.
Progressive city leaders including Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and members of the New York City Council have expressed concern – and in some cases outrage – over both the process through which the deal was made. They were especially critical of the tax incentives, as well as the potential negative impacts of moving the e-commerce giant into a city whose infrastructure and education systems are already strained.
“The idea that [Amazon] 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,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.
Local politicians voiced concern about the headquarters’ future impact on rent costs and property values, which will likely skyrocket in the neighbourhood and surrounding areas, and also the burden it will place on the city’s infrastructure, including the struggling subway.
De Blasio acknowledged that some concern about the massive project is fair, and said that he’s working to maximise benefit for “everyday New Yorkers,” which he insisted will far outweigh the costs of the project.
“I ask a real blunt question: Would we be happier if they weren’t coming?” de Blasio said. “I think most people look at the numbers and they’re gonna say, ‘No, how on earth are we gonna lose all those jobs and tax revenue.'”