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'This is a union town' — NYC councilman says Amazon's HQ2 is 'antithetical' to our values

'This is a union town' — NYC councilman says Amazon's HQ2 is 'antithetical' to our values

Postby smix » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:41 pm

'This is a union town' — NYC councilman says Amazon's HQ2 is 'antithetical' to our values
CNBC

URL: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/11/amazon- ... -says.html
Category: Politics
Published: February 11, 2019

Description: Amazon has shown that it is "antithetical" to New York values, and the company should not be allowed to build its second headquarters in Queens until it changes its ways, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told CNBC on Monday. Bramer, deputy leader of the 51-member council, said one reason he is against the HQ2 deal is because of the online shopping behemoth's stance on labor unions. "They remarkably came to the City Council last week and declared not only would they not remain neutral when it came to efforts of their employees ... to organize but that they would actually fight to crush any effort of their employees to unionize," the Queens borough representative said on "Squawk on the Street." "This is a union town. I grew up in a union family. We've got to stand up for our values there."

bramer-amazon.jpg

Bramer, a Democrat, also called out Amazon's reported ties to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Some Amazon shareholders have urged the tech giant to stop selling Rekognition, its facial recognition technology, to some government agencies. They have also said that Amazon is planning to pitch the service to ICE. "Obviously we're a sanctuary city. The mayor and all of us have declared that we want to be a safe haven for all immigrants, including the undocumented," Bramer said. "Amazon refuses to budge on that issue." The company has defended selling Rekognition to law enforcement. Amazon's HQ2 has stirred an intraparty party dispute among New York's Democrats, with criticism emerging from officials representing the Queens borough at the local, state and federal levels. Earlier Monday, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., told CNBC that New York needs Amazon's presence so that it could become the tech center of the world. The 10-term Democratic lawmaker also said it's an opportunity for the company to work with the community to ensure that it benefits Queens residents. "We are a tech city and we are able to grow as a result of that," he said. "But we also look at what some of the headaches have been in some other cities and so we have a chance to make sure that we fix that here." Bramer believes Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, also Democrats, "botched" the deal, which includes roughly $3 billion in tax incentives, to lure the Seattle-based company's investment. The plan is to bring part of its second headquarters and 25,000 jobs to the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens. "All of those reasons and more lead us to fight this deal because at the end of the day, it's a bad deal for New York," Bramer said. The Washington Post reported on Friday that Amazon is reconsidering the New York development due to local opposition.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman firebrand who has been one of the most notable critics of the deal, welcomed news that Amazon could ditch the planned New York facility. The Queens/Bronx Democrat is worried the project could displace low-income and working-class families. In response to the report, Cuomo said "we have to make Amazon a reality" in New York and that "it is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy." He equated such opposition to "malpractice" because the headquarters would create so many jobs in the city. De Blasio's office has defended tax incentives offered by the city for the project, saying it could generate $12.5 billion in future tax revenues. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CNBC also reached out to de Blasio's office for comment.
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Queens native delivers a jolt to Amazon’s New York ambitions

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:38 am

Queens native delivers a jolt to Amazon’s New York ambitions
Financial Times

URL: https://www.ft.com/content/3e9adc70-2d3 ... 016697f225
Category: Politics
Published: February 10, 2019

Description: Local politician stands in the way of tech giant’s new headquarters

gianaris.jpg

Amazon prides itself on knowing what consumers want — often even before they know themselves. But when it comes to the Queens borough of New York, Michael Gianaris is convinced he knows better than the tech giant. Mr Gianaris, a child of Greek immigrants, has spent virtually his entire life in the borough’s Astoria neighbourhood. He was born there and attended its public schools. The only appreciable period he has spent away was his time at Harvard Law School — although he returned soon after graduating and entered local politics. “I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of this neighbourhood better than anybody else,” Mr Gianaris said. “I walk these streets. I live here. Other people don’t.” That native knowledge might explain why Mr Gianaris, now a Democratic state senator, has been so effective in leading opposition to Amazon’s plan to build a satellite headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Amazon announced its plans in November after an exhaustive, nationwide competition in which hundreds of cities vied for the tech giant’s favour. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor who led Amazon’s recruitment, celebrated the outcome as the city’s greatest ever economic development win. The company has pledged to create 25,000 well-paying jobs over 10 years. Rather than celebrate, Mr Gianaris began questioning the cost of luring Amazon: some $3bn in tax incentives that he and other opponents likened to corporate welfare at a time when the neighbourhood’s schools and transit networks are under strain. “The fact that Amazon is slated to receive $3bn and the governor has identified a $2.6bn budget shortfall does not require a mathematical genius to figure out the connection between these two,” Mr Gianaris said. Such resistance once seemed quixotic. But it entered a new phase last week when fellow Democrats broke with Mr Cuomo to appoint Mr Gianaris to a three-member state review board, giving him potential veto power over the agreement. Mr Gianaris then proposed legislation that would limit some tax benefits for the company. Soon it was revealed that Amazon was having second thoughts about Queens. Executives have been riled by the local hostility they have encountered, which they had not anticipated and is in sharp contrast to the loving embrace they have received in Virginia, the location they selected for another satellite headquarters. They are particularly concerned, according to a person briefed on Amazon’s deliberations, about demands to allow its New York workers to unionise — something the company has refused elsewhere. “Amazon is a non-union company and did not realise this would have to change in New York,” this person said. If it so decided, Amazon could easily bolt: it has not signed a formal lease or broken ground on the new campus. Another suitor, nearby Newark, New Jersey, has offered $7bn in tax incentives. Flummoxed Cuomo aides initially assumed Mr Gianaris and other local politicians were merely sore at being cut out of the big deal. Politicians, as one observed, are always against backroom deals when they are not in the room. After some grandstanding they would eventually fall in line. But, unlike other critics, Mr Gianaris has so far refused even to take a meeting with Amazon executives to discuss the deal, demanding that it first be scrapped. “Gianaris has outplayed Cuomo,” one New York property executive remarked — although it was still early innings. Like other observers, the executive believed Mr Gianaris was trying to appeal to a small but vocal minority of leftwing activists in hopes of heading off a challenge from the progressive wing of the party led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The 29-year-old shocked the Democratic establishment by defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in last year’s primary to represent parts of Queens and the Bronx in Congress. “AOC is the ruler of Queens now, not Joe Crowley,” one Cuomo aide said. Mr Cuomo seemed to have that in mind on Friday when he accused opponents of “pandering” to fringe activists and committing “governmental malpractice” and warned that they would bear the consequences if Amazon withdrew. Mr Gianaris sounded more bemused than upset, urging the governor to “stop throwing tantrums and focus on the fact that he cut a secretive deal that’s bad for New York”. His cause has been helped by the fact that Google and Facebook have each added thousands of jobs in New York City in recent months with little fanfare or special tax breaks — something that even Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor, has pointed out. The real lure was the city’s tech talent. Mr Gianaris and Mr Cuomo have history: Mr Gianaris worked for Mr Cuomo’s father, Mario, as the then-governor’s liaison to Queens. While they have known each other for years, they are not particularly close. At one time Mr Gianaris was mentioned as a possible successor to Eliot Spitzer as New York attorney-general — although the post instead went to Mr Cuomo, en route to the governor’s mansion. Mr Gianaris instead remained in the heavily Greek part of Queens to which his father, Nicholas, emigrated in 1961. He came from Kalavryta, a Greek town in the Peloponnese that was the site of an infamous Nazi massacre in 1943. In reprisal for attacks by Greek guerrillas, the Germans rounded up and shot more than a thousand male inhabitants and burnt villages to the ground. “My father was a young boy at the time,” Mr Gianaris said. After coming to New York as a graduate student, the elder Mr Gianaris became a statistics professor at New York’s Fordham University — where his son would excel before going on to Harvard. “He went to law school. He left. He didn’t have to come back, but he did,” said Kimberly Mullarkey, 38, a third-generation Astorian and fellow member of the local Taminent Regular Democratic Club. Ms Mullarkey was impressed by the way Mr Gianaris took on utility Con Edison after Queens was stricken by an agonising 17-day blackout in 2006. “He’s a fighter. He’s willing to go against the big guys,” she said. The Amazon issue was more complicated, Ms Mullarkey allowed. While she is hardly a Democratic Socialist in the mould of Ms Ocasio-Cortez, she expressed misgivings about the company — both the secretive way in which its deal was negotiated and what its arrival might mean to the mom-and-pop shops that are still the fabric of the neighbourhood. “It’s a difficult decision,” she said, adding: “I don’t think [Mayor Bill] De Blasio understands this neighbourhood. I don’t think the governor does, either.” Amazon and its backers are still hopeful. A recent poll it commissioned showed that more than 70 per cent of Queens residents supported its plans. With time, they believe the rhetoric surrounding the company will ease and residents will be able to make a dispassionate examination of the numbers. In the meantime, the company is planning a counter-demonstration in Queens for local supporters of its plans. The $3bn in tax incentives, Mr Cuomo insists, will be more than offset by some $27bn in projected tax revenue. Moreover, those incentives only accrue as Amazon invests. “There is no business that brings 25,000 jobs any more!” Mr Cuomo reminded New Yorkers on Friday. “They don’t exist. I spend days trying to bring a business that has a hundred jobs or two hundred jobs.” But Mr Gianaris, living among his constituents, is convinced he knows better. “Either Amazon or the governor will realise this deal is a non-starter,” he predicted.
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Facing opposition, Amazon reconsiders N.Y. headquarters site, two officials say

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:55 am

Facing opposition, Amazon reconsiders N.Y. headquarters site, two officials say
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/vi ... story.html
Category: Politics
Published: February 8, 2019

Description: Amazon.com is reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City, according to two people familiar with the company's thinking, following a wave of political and community opposition. Hailed as an economic triumph when it was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), the project now faces withering criticism from some elected officials and advocacy groups appalled at the prospect of giving giant subsidies to the world’s most valuable company, led by its richest man. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.) In the past two weeks, the state Senate nominated an outspoken Amazon critic to a state board where he could potentially veto the deal, and City Council members for the second time aggressively challenged company executives at a hearing where activists booed and unfurled anti-Amazon banners. Key officials, including freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district borders the proposed Amazon site, have railed against the project.

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No specific plans to abandon New York have been made. And it is possible that Amazon would try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials. But company executives have had internal discussions recently to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the company’s perspective. The company has not leased or purchased office space for the project in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, making it easy to abandon its commitment. Unlike in Virginia, where elected leaders quickly passed an incentive package for a separate headquarters campus, and Tennessee, which has embraced plans for a smaller facility, final approval from New York state is not expected until 2020. “The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” said one person familiar with the company’s thinking. Asked to comment on the possibility that the New York deal might founder, Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said: “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors. . . . Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”
A controversial appointment
Amazon has hired a lobbying firm and a public relations firm in New York and recently advertised for a “senior community affairs manager” to “focus on developing a positive partnership with local stakeholders, community groups and nonprofits.” At the same time, the two people said company executives may be reaching an inflection point as they prepare for a third City Council hearing and a session of the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, which typically would have to okay the project. “I think now is the time for Amazon to make a decision because it has to start hiring,” said one person. “At some point, the project starts to fall behind.” New York state and city officials have played down the chances that the deal will fall through. They point to opinion polls showing strong public support for the project and say Cuomo and de Blasio will fight hard for it. But officials are furious at the nomination of Sen. Michael N. Gianaris (D-Queens), who is deputy majority leader of the Senate and a strong opponent of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, where he could effectively kill the project. Cuomo, who has not said whether he will accept Gianaris’s nomination, called the Senate action “governmental malpractice.” “It’s a very small group of politicians who are pandering,” Cuomo said Friday after The Washington Post reported Amazon was reassessing its plans. “The problem is the state Senate has adopted that position, and that’s what could stop Amazon. And if they do, I would not want to be a Democratic senator coming back to my district to explain why Amazon left.” Gianaris described the possibility that Amazon would pull out of the deal — which totals up to $3 billion in state and city incentives — as akin to blackmail. “Amazon has extorted New York from the start, and this seems to be their next effort to do just that,” he said. “If their view is, ‘We won’t come unless we get three billion of your dollars,’ then they shouldn’t come.”

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The resistance in New York contrasts with the warm welcome Amazon has received in Virginia, where Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed a law on Tuesday authorizing up to $750 million in state subsidies for the Arlington headquarters. Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) have been engulfed in recent days by scandals involving past personal behavior. But the two people familiar with Amazon’s plans said company leadership is not concerned those controversies will hamper their project. It’s unclear what Amazon might consider as a Plan B if the New York project falls through. It could forgo the incentive package and hire employees on a smaller scale, as competitors including Google are doing. Or Amazon could search for another jurisdiction to get some or all of the jobs. “We always welcome more great jobs to the commonwealth,” said Stephen Moret, chief executive of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the state’s top Amazon negotiator.
Stout opposition
Resistance to Amazon in New York is well organized and energetic, based in unions and community groups. Canvassers have gone door-to-door to warn people in Queens of looming rent hikes and displacement, much as Seattle experienced during the company’s explosive growth there. In addition to Ocasio-Cortez and Gianaris, opponents include City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Deputy Leader of the City Council James G. Van Bramer (D-Queens). Gianaris, Van Bramer and some others who previously supported bringing Amazon to the city have changed their position, partly because they were unhappy that the deal was structured to bypass City Council approval. Critics portray the New York struggle as a national test for populist forces confronting big companies’ influence, and for the contest within the Democratic Party between its grass-roots and business-friendly wings. “We are dealing with an era of unprecedented corporate power in this country,” Gianaris said. “This Amazon deal represents a tipping point that is going to set the stage for what this country is going to be going forward.” Amazon surprised the nation in November by announcing that it would split its much-publicized second headquarters between Arlington and Long Island City, with employees at each site earning an average of at least $150,000 a year. Initially, the company said it planned a single location with all 50,000 jobs. The divergent reactions in New York and Virginia arise from political and economic differences between the two, officials and analysts say. New York is a pro-labor city, whereas Virginia is a right-to-work state where employees cannot be obliged to join a union as a condition of employment. Amazon has opposed attempts to unionize its workforce and said it would do the same in New York. “What Amazon is looking to do is come in and change the values of our city,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. New York also is straining from the effects of rapid economic growth, while Arlington is eager to attract investment to Crystal City to offset the loss of thousands of federal government jobs over the past 14 years. The community around Long Island City is home to legions of grass-roots organizations that were already unhappy about gentrification. Some also fault Amazon for selling facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies and partnering with companies that work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The activists have occupied an Amazon store in Manhattan, marched in Albany and demonstrated at the office of Assemblywoman Catherine T. Nolan (D-Queens), who supports the deal. “The geography in New York has brought together a lot of threads of activism who were really ready to react to this kind of announcement and were particularly outraged,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road, an organization of low-income immigrants and communities of color. Northern Virginia, Axt said, does “not have quite the pool of amazing champions ready to jump into the fray as we’re fortunate to have here in New York.”
The clout to block the deal
In Virginia, almost all state and local leaders support Amazon’s arrival, despite opposition by Tenants and Workers United, Our Revolution Arlington and some members of Indivisible Arlington, which have staged small protests at community meetings. The Arlington County Board is putting final touches on a proposed $23 million local incentives package, which it is expected to approve in March or later. “Most people think this is a great opportunity,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D) said. The board is pressuring Amazon to sign a project labor agreement that ensures a living wage, proper job classifications and safety standards for all those employed by construction contractors and subcontractors. “They have emphatically not promised anything,” said board member Erik Gutshall (D). “But I didn’t get the sense that any of those things was a non-starter.” Residents of the neighborhoods around the Arlington site worry about rent increases, spiking property taxes and paralyzing traffic. But neither they nor the progressive groups lobbying against the company appear to have enough political clout to block the deal. In New York, critics are hoping that Amazon will tire of devoting time and money to fighting a battle it didn’t expect. “The way these fights work, you push on each and every little thing,” Van Bramer said. That approach was sure to worry Amazon, whose vice president for policy, Brian Huseman, told the recent City Council hearing, “We want to invest in a community that wants us.”



How Amazon’s big plans for New York City were thwarted by the city’s resurgent left wing
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2 ... left-wing/
Category: Politics
Published: February 14, 2019

Description: The deal drew opposition even before it was officially announced. The news that Amazon picked Queens as one of its coveted second headquarters in exchange for nearly $3 billion in tax subsidies broke the day before the 2018 midterm elections. And the negative reactions from a newly energized left-wing in New York City grew into a torrent. The company, valued at $800 billion as of early February, held a beauty pageant of a search for what was believed to be a single headquarters, only to split its workforce and settle on two already-thriving East Coast cities. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, out of favor with his party’s progressive wing, joked about changing his name to “Amazon,” a not-so-subtle wink and nod to selling out that sounded particularly tone-deaf to his Queens constituents. Most significantly, the deal was approved through a process that prevented city officials and residents from weighing in at all — let alone vetoing the plan. A little more than three months later, Amazon pulled out of that deal on Thursday in a surprise to its opponents, who assumed their resistance would be a years-long struggle against a corporate powerhouse. “This is a huge victory,” said Deborah Axt, the co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a development nonprofit in Queens. “We are thrilled. This shows that even in today’s age, with corporations like Amazon amassing such incredible political power, people standing up together for our neighborhoods and neighbors, can actually win.” The decision is a show of force for the resurgent left wing in New York City, a constellation of newly elected lawmakers, activist groups, and engaged citizens who collaborated to oppose the deal. And it is a sign of how deeply concerns about the rising cost of living, decaying infrastructure, and preferential treatment of corporations have permeated the political discussion in the city and beyond. Fights against big developers, especially along the city’s waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens, had yielded little in the way of tangible results for years, but Axt said the activists’ victory was the result of a simple change. “We’re fed up,” she said. “We’re tired of watching Jeff Bezos and his billionaire friends accumulate so much power that they dominate our economy and our democracy — and we’re standing up to reclaim it.” Amazon had stepped into a political firestorm, a cauldron of progressive energy whipped up by simmering resentments both local and national that was cresting just as the plan came together. “Here is a company that has concentrated so much power that they think they can dictate to states and cities what they’re allowed to tell their people, how much money of theirs they want to take, to grace us with their presence,” State Sen. Mike Gianaris told reporters. The fight ended much earlier than they expected, but after four months of campaigning, organizers — many of whom had full-time day jobs — were exhausted. “We knew we had a big fight ahead of us,” said Anatole Ashraf, a Queens resident and founding member of one of the groups that formed to oppose the new Amazon site, PrimedOut NYC. “We thought it could drag on for years … we were settling in for the long haul.” But that’s what made the movement successful, Maritza Silva-Farrell, the executive director of the public interest group ALIGN, said, because the people who would be affected by rising rents and cost of living were the ones leading the campaign. The formal announcement on Nov. 12, had kicked off more condemnation, as the deal’s details emerged, like the nearly $3 billion in public subsidies and the helipad, presumably for Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos (Bezos owns The Washington Post). A buzzword emerged to describe the deal, a point of focus since Occupy Wall Street galvanized the left in 2011: Corporate welfare. Within two days there was a boisterous protest held in the Long Island City neighborhood where the headquarters was planned. One city councilman noted that it had been easier for Amazon to secure the deal than it would be for a sidewalk cafe to open in his neighborhood. People in the crowd yelled things like “the mayor is a sucker.” Some speakers noted Amazon’s connections with government agencies like ICE and the Department of Defense through a contentious facial recognition software program its developed. With the same week, the New York Post ran a front page that skewered Bezos, a photo illustration that showed him in a helicopter above queens with two bags of money. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline blared.

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Many said that their initial opposition to the deal was rooted in its secrecy. The plan had been negotiated between Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Amazon without going through the traditional public approval process. that normally governs development proposals in New York City. Local elected officials said they and community groups were in the dark. “I learned about the deal, along with all of my neighbors, the minute that it hit the press, which is not exactly how a community should first hear about a huge project that would impact nearly every aspect of their lives,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents a nearby district in Queens where Amazon planned to include a distribution center, said in an interview. “It’s about making sure public due process is respected. But also that there’s an understanding, especially from executive branches of government that there are representatives for districts and neighborhoods exactly for this purpose — to ensure that community leaders have a seat at the table. This is a deal that wasn’t done with us and wasn’t for us.” Ramos, part of a crop of lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who helped inject the party with liberal energy after defeating incumbent Democrats during the primary last summer — said the opposition coalesced quickly. Activists, including some with the Democratic Socialists of America, canvassed neighborhoods in Queens and even the subway cars to educate people about the deal. Organizers urged residents to pressure their city council members. At a city council meeting in December, the company’s executives were berated by lawmakers in an unusually rowdy hearing. But the final nail in the coffin may have come on Feb. 4, when Gianaris, a vocal critic of the project, was selected by senate leaders to a state board that had the power to veto the project, in a challenge to Cuomo’s leadership. Several days later, The Washington Post reported Amazon was considering pulling out of the deal. And then Thursday’s news dropped with a thud that resonated beyond New York City’s five boroughs. "This is a huge victory,” said Kshama Sawant, a city council member in Seattle, where Amazon is based, and a member of Socialist Alternative party, who has tangled with Amazon. “This is a testament to the kind of victories that ordinary people, working people, can win when we get organized and fight back.” Silva-Farrell, of ALIGN, said that the city will have to figure out what to do with the parcel of land that would have housed Amazon’s headquarters. “We have to figure out what we want to build there, how it’ll be sustainable and how to create jobs,” she said. “We have to decide what kind of country we want for ourselves.”
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'I was not elected to be a cheerleader for Amazon': New York officials rail against Amazon's HQ2 deal amid shouts of protesters

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:23 am

'I was not elected to be a cheerleader for Amazon': New York officials rail against Amazon's HQ2 deal amid shouts of protesters in a wild hearing
Business Insider

URL: https://www.businessinsider.com/nyc-cit ... ht-2018-12
Category: Politics
Published: December 12, 2018

Description: The New York City Council held its first in a series of planned hearings about Amazon's HQ2 deal on Wednesday morning. During his opening remarks, the council's speaker, Corey Johnson, called the hearing "atypical" in its nature given how little input the council had earlier in the process. "There's a reason why the City Council is so involved in land use," Johnson said in his opening statement. "It's intended to protect the people." The state of New York pursued the deal as a General Project Plan, a state process that circumvents a local approval process that would involve the city council. Use of that program does not need approval from the city council. Amazon on November 13 announced it would split its second headquarters between the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens and a region of Northern Virginia that Amazon has named National Landing. Johnson also noted many questions he wanted to be addressed in the hearing related to how Amazon's deal with New York state and its promise of 25,000 jobs in Long Island City for its new headquarters would affect the current residents of Queens and of New York City as a whole. One concern is Long Island City's public-transportation access, which includes the struggling subway system. "The only transportation aspect of this project is a helipad," Johnson said. "This is like something out of The Onion," the satirical news site. Johnson also thanked the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which worked on the project with Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Amazon for appearing at the hearing. He suggested, however, that he did not consider the company's appearance a favor. "We shouldn't have to beg for a company that's coming to New York City to come and answer our questions," he said. "It's good you're here. This should not be a two-step tango to come here." Jimmy Van Bramer, the council's deputy leader and member whose district the new HQ2 project will reside in, gave an opening statement in which he said "we should all be concerned" given Amazon's sometimes contentious relationship with the city council in Seattle, where its first headquarters resides. "I was not elected to be a cheerleader for Amazon, and neither was the mayor," Van Bramer said, adding that Queens "must not become another Amazon company town." After Van Bramer's remarks, a cacophony of jeers erupted from protesters on the top balcony overlooking the council chamber. "G-T-F-O, Amazon has got to go," they yelled. Johnson warned the protesters that if they were not silent, they would be kicked out of the hearing. "Clearly some of the folks here engaging in civil disobedience are upset," he said. "We can't have interruptions. If it happens again, we will clear the entire balcony." The council invited both the Economic Development Corporation and Amazon representatives to answer questions from members and the public. Holly Sullivan, the Amazon executive who led the search for HQ2, and Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy, were in attendance and responding to questions. "We are still in the very early stages of this process and intend to be an active participant in the issues facing the community and make community investments that benefit New York City residents," Huseman said in opening remarks. "Most importantly, we are here to listen and learn. New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and we are grateful for the opportunity to be a contributing part of its fabric."
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Amazon Is Reconsidering Plan to Put Campus in New York

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:44 am

Amazon Is Reconsidering Plan to Put Campus in New York
The Wall Street Journal

URL: https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-rec ... 1549668969
Category: Politics
Published: February 9, 2019

Description: Executives re-evaluate $2.5 billion investment in face of opposition from local officials
Amazon.com Inc. executives are re-evaluating a planned campus in New York City, people familiar with the matter said, turning up the heat on local officials who have rallied opposition to giving billions of dollars in tax incentives to one of the world’s most valuable companies. The discussions at Amazon have caused leading government officials in New York who support the project to worry that Amazon may abandon its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to Long Island City and $2.5 billion in investment, according to a government official. Any change would be a stunning reversal after the company’s public yearlong search for a new headquarters drew bids from more than 200 locales across the country, courting the online retailing giant with billions of dollars in tax incentives. Amazon executives are deliberating whether to delay some of the initial phase of investments to get the project started, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions. The internal talks haven’t progressed to deciding whether to relocate future jobs or the campus, this person said. The recent change in conversation at Amazon accelerated after Monday’s nomination of New York state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a vocal opponent of the deal, to a state board that would allow him to veto the development plan, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Gianaris needs to be approved for the post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, fellow Democrats who have often clashed, agreed on wooing Amazon to New York with up to $3 billion in state and city tax incentives. On Friday, Mr. Cuomo reiterated his support for the deal for Amazon as he warned that local opponents could derail the project. An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement the company was working hard to demonstrate it could be a good neighbor with additional commitments such as computer-science classes and workforce training. Amazon’s change in thinking was first reported Friday morning by the Washington Post. In January last year, the company narrowed its list of possible sites for its second headquarters to 20 from 238 applicants, and spent months crunching the numbers. In September, executives decided to split the campus in half and in November said would go to New York and Virginia. Virginia’s governor signed legislation approving its incentive plan for Amazon earlier this week. Local officials in New York have questioned everything from the project’s impact on transportation to neighborhood gentrification and Amazon’s opposition to unionization. Government officials working with Amazon in New York have seen the pace of progress slow, a person with knowledge of the process said. Officials are concerned the slowdown indicates a shift in company thinking, the person said. “The drumbeat of opposition, even though it’s clearly not widespread, is making Amazon say, ‘Do we really need this?’” one government official said. Members of the New York City Council have required Amazon executives to testify at two hearings on the proposed 4-million-square-foot Queens campus. Legislators used the proceedings to air concerns about development impacts and the incentive package. Another council hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27. Other opponents include the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union—which is trying to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island—as well as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents nearby parts of Queens, and Mr. Gianaris, who represents Long Island City. Mr. Gianaris has repeatedly said the current deal to lure Amazon should be scrapped. “If they want to threaten that they won’t come here without it, that’s their decision. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be extorted,” he said Friday. Mr. Cuomo hasn’t said if he would approve Mr. Gianaris’s nomination to the state’s Public Authorities Control Board. The governor this week has restated his support for Amazon before gatherings of business and civic leaders in Manhattan and on Long Island. The new campus will help diversify the state economy and create thousands of good-paying jobs, the governor said. In a speech to a Long Island business group Friday, Mr. Cuomo blamed Democrats in the state Senate for jeopardizing the Amazon deal. “It is a very small nucleus, and it’s a very small group of politicians who are pandering to the local politics,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It would be a tremendous loss.” “The mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio’s spokesman, Eric Phillips, said in a statement. The company has recently battled with Seattle, where the city council passed a new homeless tax before reversing the decision. Amazon has slowed its development there to a crawl as a consequence of the political issues and hostile environment, according to a person familiar with the matter. The vocal political critics in New York came as something of a surprise to Amazon executives, according to some of the people, although the company believes support among local residents is generally strong.
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Amazon's First Hearing With The New York City Council Didn't Go So Well

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:53 am

Amazon's First Hearing With The New York City Council Didn't Go So Well
BuzzFeed News

URL: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/le ... l-didnt-go
Category: Politics
Published: December 12, 2018

Description: Protesters filled New York City's council chambers on Wednesday, interrupting Amazon's remarks with chants like "G-T-F-O, Amazon has got to go."

amazon-g-t-f-o.jpg

NEW YORK — Amazon representatives faced a bitter welcoming committee on Wednesday at its first New York City Council hearing to discuss the company's plan to open one of its two new headquarters, dubbed HQ2, in Long Island City, New York. When details of the deal were announced in November, the $3 billion in performance-based financial incentives that New York state and New York City offered the company led to an immediate protest. At Wednesday's meeting, the protests continued, with about 150 demonstrators from union organizations and local worker advocacy groups gathering at City Hall and filling its chambers. During the hearing, council members decried the company's "offensive" lack of transparency and accused the tech and retail giant of "ripping off" New Yorkers. "You're worth a trillion dollars," New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told the company, prompting applause and cheers from protesters in the hall. "Why do you need our $3 billion when we have crumbling subways, crumbling public housing, people without health care, public schools that are overcrowded?" The president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, James Patchett, defended the deal at the hearing, along with Amazon's vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, and Amazon's HQ2 search executive, Holly Sullivan. Both Patchett and Huseman referenced an estimated $27.5 billion in tax revenue for the state and city over the next 25 years as a result of the project. In return for the subsidies and grants New York offered, Amazon promised to create at least 25,000 new full-time jobs in the city, along with a new school with space for 600 students. (Amazon also selected Arlington, Virginia, for a second headquarters; Virginia offered $573 million in incentives for the creation of 25,000 jobs.) “We want to be a good neighbor to the residents of Long Island City and the rest of New York,” said Huseman. “We believe both our employees and community will benefit from being stitched into the fabric of the neighborhood where amenities are open to everyone.” Amazon, Huseman said, already employs 5,000 people in New York. Its fulfillment center in Staten Island pays workers between $17 and $23 an hour. Patchett also referenced a Quinnipiac University poll published last week that shows 57% of New Yorkers approve of the deal, compared to 26% who disapprove. The poll numbers did little to assuage Johnson's ire over the deal's opaque process and hefty financial incentives. Along with other city council members, he questioned the role that the financial incentives played in luring the company to call Long Island City its new headquarters' home. Amazon brokered the deal with New York state and New York City behind closed doors and with the additional secrecy of nondisclosure agreements, which are common contracts cities sign with companies that claim to have proprietary information. "So whose interest did you feel like you were representing in negotiating this deal?" asked Johnson. "One hundred percent the people of New York City," said Patchett, as protesters laughed in the audience. "I fundamentally believe this is a good deal for New York City, or I wouldn't be sitting here today." Several council members slammed New York City's Economic Development Corporation for selecting to categorize the project as a "general project plan," which allows the project to bypass public land use review processes. "I think it's fundamentally unethical with what you have done," said city council member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the district that includes Long Island City. "You should be ashamed of yourself." Patchett told the council that his agency wanted to expedite the deal rather than weigh it down with additional reviews that would be required by the city's land use review process. At other points during the hearing, protesters interjected with chants. "When Amazon workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" they yelled from the council chambers balcony. "G-T-F-O, Amazon has got to go!" At another point, a protester stood up during the hearing to say the company's promise of 25,000 jobs for the city was "smoke and mirrors." At the end of the two and a half hour hearing, Johnson asked Huseman if Amazon would schedule a public hearing during which the community could attend and voice their concerns about the project. Under pressure, Huseman eventually agreed to attend a future hearing. Johnson said the city council will schedule an additional public hearing in January or February around Huseman's schedule. Ultimately, the city council is limited in what it can do to stop or renegotiate the deal — though some state legislators, including state Sen. Michael Gianaris, have floated the idea of using legislation to block HQ2.
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Employees at Amazon's New NYC Warehouse Launch Union Push

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:09 am

Employees at Amazon's New NYC Warehouse Launch Union Push
Bloomberg News

URL: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... ation-push
Category: Politics
Published: December 12, 2018

Description: A committee of employees at Amazon’s recently opened Staten Island fulfillment center is going public with a unionization campaign, a fresh challenge to the e-commerce giant in a city where it plans to build a major new campus. Labor unrest is the latest complication in Amazon’s plan to invest $2.5 billion and hire 25,000 people in the city over the next 15 years. Several New York City politicians who were shut out of negotiations handled by the governor and mayor have raised objections to a new office park in Queens that threatens to overload mass transit and drive up rents in an already expensive housing market. Now workers in a another borough are saying the company treats them like robots and should be focused on improving conditions there rather than raking in tax breaks to build a new headquarters. The union they’re working with sees the up to $3 billion in incentives offered to bring an Amazon office campus to Long Island City as leverage to prevent the company from retaliating against them for organizing. Employees backing the union effort said in interviews Tuesday that the issues at the warehouse include safety concerns, inadequate pay, and 12-hour shifts with insufficient breaks and unreasonable hourly quotas, after which they lose more of their day waiting unpaid in long lines for security checks. "They talk to you like you’re nothing -- all they care about is their numbers," said Rashad Long, who makes $18.60 an hour and commutes four hours a day to work at the warehouse. "They talk to you like you’re a robot." A handful of pro-union Amazon employees joined community activists and elected officials at a City Hall press conference Wednesday prior to a city council hearing about the proposed major office development in Queens. There, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer denounced the government’s "bad deal" with Amazon, asking, "What do the people get, and what are the workers going to get? Where is the labor agreement?" Inside, a small group was threatened with being ejected from the council gallery when they chanted slogans and disrupted proceedings. Brian Huseman, Amazon’s head of public policy, told City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, “We absolutely respect the right of any employee to join a union.” Another Amazon executive told the council the company expects to work with unionized construction crews on the Queens development. James Patchett, president of NYC Economic Development Corp., voiced concern about “some of the reports that we’ve seen,” but said his organization is excited that Amazon is bringing jobs to the city. Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in an email that the company "follows all state employment laws," including restricting employees’ hours to 60 at most per week. She said that during the extra-busy "peak" season, many employees welcome the opportunity to work extra hours at the overtime rate, which at the Staten Island facility is $26.25 to $34.50 an hour. Not all Staten Island workers see it that way. Sharon Bleach said in an interview that she’s insulted by the company’s "power hours" in which employees are pressured to move extra fast in hopes of winning raffle tickets. "Every day they’re changing the goal -- the finish line is changed every day," Bleach said. Amazon said incentives offered by the company "are part of our company culture, and we want to make sure Peak is a fun time of year for associates who are working hard to fulfill customer orders."
Tax Breaks
Amazon is slated to reap more than $1 billion in tax breaks and grants from New York as part of the Long Island City deal. Some lawmakers have said the state’s Public Authorities Control Board should reject the development unless the company makes stronger commitments in areas including infrastructure investment, housing affordability and worker rights. Employees are working with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, which has also backed organizing efforts at the Whole Foods grocery chain that Amazon acquired last year. Amazon’s workforce is union-free throughout the U.S.. “There’s never been greater leverage -- if taxpayers are giving Amazon $3 billion, then taxpayers have the right to demand that Amazon stop being a union-busting company,” said RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum. “It’s incumbent upon the governor and the mayor to make sure that nothing happens to these workers who are standing up for their rights. If Amazon continues its union-busting activities in New York, they should call off the deal.” RWDSU has been meeting workers in person and contacting them over social media since around the time the Staten Island facility opened. Appelbaum declined to discuss the specifics of how Amazon employees were seeking to obtain union recognition, but said the company should “sit down with workers and their representatives” to discuss how to address their concerns.
Federal Labor Law
Federal labor law restricts city and state governments’ ability to directly regulate union organizing and anti-union activities in the private sector. But the law allows local governments to mandate other employment rules like higher pay or predictable schedules, and leaves some leeway for them to require “labor peace” when the government’s own funds are involved. Amazon’s months-long, continent-wide search for a new campus site spurred cities to outdo each other in lavishing perks on the company, but also fueled heightened scrutiny on how it treats employees. In October, following pressure from progressives like U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Amazon announced it would institute a nationwide $15 minimum wage for its employees, though that change came with elimination of some bonuses and stock awards and didn’t extend to workers it classifies as independent contractors. While Sanders, a Vermont independent, praised the company’s new wage floor, he and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in an Oct. 16 letter to Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos that an anti-union video used by Amazon appeared to violate federal labor law.
Training Video
Some managers at Whole Foods were shown an Amazon training video highlighting strategies to detect and discourage organizing efforts. The senators said the video, which tells supervisors they may “need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation, which could hurt customer obsession, which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence,” seemed to be telling them to make illegal threats. The video said that unions could hinder the company’s ability to quickly make changes to operations in its warehouse network designed to speed the delivery of packages to customers. “When we lose sight of those critical focus areas, we jeopardize everyone’s job security,” says a voice on the video belonging to a cartoonish avatar dressed as an Amazon warehouse manager. A group of East African workers at an Amazon warehouse in Minnesota -- with backing from the Service Employees International Union and a chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- have been organizing around issues including Ramadan accommodations. They secured private meetings with management in recent months, an incremental but unusual development. Last month on Black Friday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Amazon workers at fulfillment centers in Germany, Spain and France mounted strikes, and protests were held in Italy and the U.K. Amazon said those European demonstrations didn’t disrupt its operations. Successfully organizing Amazon in the U.S. could require millions of dollars and decades of time to accomplish, Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU’s East Coast property services affiliate, said in May. “By the time you end, it will not be Amazon – it will be something else that will be the new way that people buy things.”



New York Lawmakers Say They're in the Dark About Amazon’s Queens Deal
Bloomberg News

URL: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... on-hq-deal
Category: Politics
Published: February 12, 2019

Description: Several New York lawmakers said they still don’t have key details about the taxpayer incentives extended to Amazon.com Inc. for its planned campus in Queens, adding to growing criticism about how the agreement was struck. “Is it a done deal?" Senator John Liu, a Democrat who represents the borough’s northeast, asked Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Development, at a hearing on Tuesday in Albany. When Zemsky said finalization is pending, Liu asked him to disclose any up-front taxpayer costs to lure Amazon, one of the world’s richest companies, to Long Island City. “You have to perform, be it on jobs or the investment, before you get anything back if you’re Amazon,” said Zemsky, referring to targets the Internet retailer must hit, including those involving job creation and capital expenditures. The deal, he said, was “the largest economic development prize we’ve ever had.” Amazon settled on Queens after its search for a second headquarters site outside Seattle set off a national scramble among cities offering tax breaks and other lures. Amazon has said it will create as many as 40,000 jobs in Long Island City, and state economic development experts say the deal will generate at least $27 billion in tax revenue over 25 years. New York City residents back the deal 58 percent to 35 percent opposed, while statewide it’s 56 percent for and 36 percent against, according to a Feb. 4-7 survey of 778 registered voters by Siena College. The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points. Still, critics including New York City council members have slammed the package for Amazon, whose stock market value in September briefly hit $1 trillion, only the second U.S. company to do so, after Apple Inc. They also say key details remain kept from public view. Senator Kevin Thomas, a Democrat from Long Island whose district includes another massive project, the $1.5 billion Nassau Hub redevelopment, asked Zemsky about how state officials calculated Amazon’s tax-revenue figure. “We have a lot of substantiating,” Zemsky said. “We know from payroll and from New York City taxes and New York State taxes.” He assured Thomas and other lawmakers that some analyses already are public record, and more details will be disclosed if Amazon commits to the project. On New York public radio on Tuesday, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said opponents’ criticism potentially could cause Amazon to abandon the plan. “This is very serious,” Cuomo said.
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Jimmy Patronis thinks Miami deserved second look from Amazon

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:23 pm

Jimmy Patronis thinks Miami deserved second look from Amazon
Florida Politics

URL: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/28 ... rom-amazon
Category: Business
Published: February 10, 2019

Description: Miami-Dade Myor Carlos Gimenez said his community remains happy to take calls.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants Miami to still be in the mix for an Amazon headquarters. The Florida Cabinet member signaled continued interest in the company after reports surfaced the corporation may reconsider a New York location. Patronis tweeted to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Florida remains open for business. “Dear @JeffBezos,” Patronis tweeted. “New York has removed the ‘Welcome Mat’ AND has higher taxes than Florida. Consider coming back to your hometown of #Miami where New Yorkers relocate to everyday.” Patronis tagged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in the tweet as well. It’s unclear whether any official overtures to Amazon will be made, but Gimenez in a statement to the Miami Herald said the community remains happy to rekindle a conversation. “If Amazon is reconsidering getting out of its plan to open a headquarters in New York, as has been reported by the Washington Post, we welcome the opportunity to talk further with the e-commerce giant,” Gimenez said. The renewed interest in the company comes after a Washington Post report about local opposition to Amazon’s HQ2 plans. The newspaper said sources in the company may reconsider a New York location based on opposition from neighbors and city officials. Amazon’s plans for an additional headquarters led to massive competition among economic development officials nationwide last year. Miami ended up as the only Florida community on a list of 20 finalist locations. The South Florida Business Journal in September reported Amazon officials took a special trip to the South Florida community. But the company in November announced plans for campuses in New York City and Arlington, Virginia. Should the New York plan fall through, it’s not clear if Amazon will revisit its finalists list. Miami WorldCenter, widely considered the main Miami site in contention, told the Herald no one from Amazon has reached out. But the mere possibility Amazon may again be in the mix got South Florida business leaders talking. “This is not hard,” tweeted Miami accountant Matt Sarelson. “Miami is a better pick over Long Island City. Warm weather and a favorable tax climate will attract talent and instantly boost Amazon as the key employer in South Florida.”
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Amazon HQ2 Controversy: What Did Jeff Bezos Want in NYC Anyway?

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:00 pm

Amazon HQ2 Controversy: What Did Jeff Bezos Want in NYC Anyway?
Observer

URL: https://observer.com/2019/02/amazon-hq2 ... -weigh-in/
Category: Business
Published: February 12, 2019

Description: Amazon’s decision to settle half of its $5 billion HQ2 project in Long Island, New York City, last November was a big surprise to tech industry experts and ordinary observers alike, for the obvious reason that the Big Apple simply seemed too crowded to take in another 25,000 workers that Amazon planned to bring to the new headquarters. But before Amazon signs any office space leases or makes any new hires, reports have already emerged that the tech giant might actually walk back from New York amid a wave of local protests.

amazon-protests-in-nyc.jpg

Amazon hasn’t officially addressed the speculation yet; it hasn’t responded to a comment request by Observer, either. But the HQ2’s uncertain fate has many close watchers of the year-long HQ2 search wondering: Where will Amazon go if it really backs away from New York? How badly did it want to come to New York in the first place? And for what reasons? Joel Kotkin, an urban studies professor at Chapman University, had predicted Amazon’s East Coast picks from the very beginning, although he conceded that a gigantic city like New York doesn’t make much economic sense. “It’s really a very weird choice by economic logic, because New York doesn’t have the best engineering talent. And obviously, it’s going to put pressure on traffic and rent,” he told Observer. “It’s not going to be family-friendly. But what New York needs is the middle class.” “From everything I heard from friends up in Seattle, Amazon basically lives on people who work there for two to three years until they are burned out, and then they leave,” Kotkin added. “New York kind of has that model. So, that might be a contributing factor. But fundamentally, I thought all along that Bezos was going to pick Washington or New York for political reasons. And the nearly $3 billion incentives just make New York more attractive.” “The body of academic research agrees that the quality of the local workforce is the number one factor in a corporation’s decision of where to locate or expand, not government subsidies,” said Michael Farren, a research fellow at George Mason University whose area of study focuses on big businesses’ impact on governments. “That means most money spent on economic development is wasted—it’s just icing on the cake that the corporation would have already picked. But the practice continues because it allows politicians to claim credit for ‘creating jobs.'” If Jeff Bezos was seriously looking for an economically efficient destination for Amazon’s new headquarters or eventually walks away from New York, Kotkin suggested that most metropolitan areas in the Midwest would make a great choice—even from a political point of view, too. “In states like Ohio or Indiana or Michigan, Amazon would have been worshiped as a savior,” he said. “And unlike New York, they would have been able to accommodate the housing demand for new employees.” “I think what happens with the Silicon Valley types is that they live in their own world where the only places that exist are New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle and San Francisco,” Kotkin added. “I think Amazon is a great company and provides great service, but it’s not doing much for middle America. Bezos could have used the [HQ2 search] as an opportunity to send a message to the middle part of the country that the tech industry wants to help the middle class. But he didn’t.”
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Will Andrew Cuomo's Amazon subsidy cart be upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Postby smix » Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:54 pm

Will Andrew Cuomo's Amazon subsidy cart be upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/will-an ... sio-cortez
Category: Politics
Published: February 12, 2019

Description: Let’s stipulate that Amazon is a very popular company with consumers. It delivers quality goods at often amazing prices, which has led to it hitting a market worth of a trillion dollars. But taxpayers have a right to be more ambivalent as the company flexes its clout to extract tax subsidies and other privileges from state and local governments desperate to have Amazon build facilities in their backyards. Take New York City, where Amazon is now reportedly rethinking its proposed deal to build one of its two new headquarters in Queens due to growing local opposition. Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among the fiery opponents of the deal. Her fellow Democrat, Governor Andrew Cuomo, had joked he would do everything, including changing his name to “Amazon Cuomo,” in order to close the deal. His generous subsidy package eventually won the nationwide bidding war (the second site will be in Arlington, Virginia, which offered an equally extravagant offering).Both cities are expecting about $2.5 billion in Amazon investment and 25,000 jobs. Governor Cuomo and other New York officials will see that Amazon will receive $1.525 billion in direct tax incentives in a process that involved almost no transparency, no public comment or any independent audit of the cost of the subsidies. The New York City Council was frozen out of the process and local land use policies were ignored. The problem with such deals is that the promised job benefits are often exaggerated, while the costs of lost tax revenue are fixed no matter what happens. Amazon claims the subsidy package it will get in New York amounts to $48,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs it will create. But guesstimates often don’t reflect the final reality. Analysts at a think tank called Good Jobs First have shown that the final average subsidy of huge corporate subsidy deals with governments amounts to an average of $658,000 per job. Take what happened in Wisconsin, where a bungled subsidy-for-jobs deal may have contributed to the defeat of GOP Governor Scott Walker last November. Walker and other Wisconsin officials delivered more than $3 billion in subsidies to Foxconn, a Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer, in exchange for the company building a manufacturing plant near Milwaukee. The groundbreaking took place last June and among the attendees was President Trump. But the deal quickly began to unravel. The promise of 13,000 jobs (at a subsidized cost of more than $230,000 per job) has proven ephemeral, as Foxconn says it may now downsize the manufacturing plant into a “technology hub” that would employ fewer people and might include workers imported from Taiwan and South Korea. Reason magazine has also reported on the human cost of the Foxconn deal. Eminent domain is already being used to displace homeowners in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, where Foxconn will be building. Wisconsin is turning over 1,000 acres to Foxconn without getting a penny in compensation. Abuses such as Foxconn amount to crony capitalism and have attracted critics on both the right and the left. Ocasio-Cortez, who has made “democratic socialism” her rallying cry, is cheering the news that Amazon may back out of the deal. Last Friday, she tweeted: “Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations?” The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page found itself in the unusual position of agreeing with Ocasio-Cortez. It called the deal Governor Cuomo struck with Amazon part of a political racket: “Cuomo taxes New Yorkers at confiscatory levels, giving himself more money to spend. Then he turns around and takes credit for sparing powerful interests from those taxes.” But Cuomo isn’t about to let anyone upset his apple cart. He calls attempts by New York state senators to kill the Amazon deal a form of “governmental malpractice.” He told reporters on Friday that “It’s a very small group of politicians who are pandering.” Perhaps he might look in the mirror to discover where the largest share of shameless behavior in this matter can be found.



Amazon blasts Ocasio-Cortez, says 'we don't want to work in this environment in the long term'
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/tech/amazon-bla ... -long-term
Category: Politics
Published: February 15, 2019

Description: The fallout from Amazon's decision to walk away from its planned headquarters in New York is ratcheting up after a company spokesman publicly blasted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers, saying they had made it a hostile environment to do business. "If you talk to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it's 'Never Amazon,'" Jodi Seth, the head of policy communications for Amazon, told NBC News in an interview on Thursday. "If you talk to [New York City Councilman Jimmy] Van Bramer, it's unions." Seth added that "it wasn't any one incident" that drove the Seattle-based tech giant to its decision, adding that the virulent political discourse that occurred over the past three months was what led to the decision. "It was that the environment over the course of the past three months had not got any better. There were some local and state elected officials who refused to meet with Amazon and criticized us day in and day out about the plan," she said in the interview. Seth, who has been at Amazon since October 2017 according to her LinkedIn profile, said the company did not know whether the "deal would be approved until a year from now," but said it was "pretty confident" in the approval, mentioning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "was working hard to make it happen, but looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don't want to work in this environment in the long term." In a fiery statement on Thursday, Cuomo blamed the shocking decision on socialist democratic darling Ocasio-Cortez and others like her. "[A] small group [of] politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community – which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City – the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state," Cuomo said publicly. "The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity." Upon hearing the news, Ocasio-Cortez, who has an undergraduate degree in international relations and economics, cheered Amazon's decision.

aoc-nyc.jpg

Ocasio-Cortez's reaction led to significant blowback on social media from prominent businessmen and economists across the political spectrum. The lost jobs would have paid on average $150,000 per year. Amazon, which currently employs 8,000 people in the state, according to NBC, said it would disperse the 25,000 jobs throughout its 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada, including some in New York. However, Seth added that Amazon does not intend to re-open talks with New York lawmakers and does not intend to find another headquarters for the jobs. "That's pretty firm," Seth told the news outlet. Amazon said it would proceed as planned with the second part of its HQ2, which will be built in Northern Virginia, as well as its operations center that it said it would open in Nashville. In addition to the 25,000 jobs, Amazon would've brought $2.5 billion in investment and eventually 8 million square feet of office space to Long Island City as part of the deal announced last November. The Jeff Bezos-led company said it would have generated "incremental tax revenue of more than $10 billion over the next 20 years as a result of [its] investment and job creation."
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