The billion dollar Amazon.com headquarters construction deal, which promises to bring 25,000 jobs to New York City, could be crumbling because of political opposition, according to a report.
The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, credited executives at the company saying they are reconsidering bringing the project to the city.
“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,” an anonymous source familiar with internal discussions told the newspaper.
Mayor de Blasio, who along with Gov. Cuomo, negotiated the deal that would give the online retailer about $3 billion in tax breaks and sate and local subsidies, said he was confident the deal would go through.
“The Mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers,” de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said.
Amazon also indicated that the deal was still on track.
“We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors — small business owners, educators, and community leaders,” spokeswoman Katie Loughnane wrote in an email. “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.”
The deal has faced a barrage of criticism from local and national politicians, including state Senator Michael Gianaris, who has argued that one of the nation’s richest corporations should not be getting tax breaks from New York taxpayers.
The Queens senator had previously signed a letter asking the company to build its headquarters in New York.
The state Senate recently nominated Gianaris to the Public Authorities Control Board, which has veto power over a $500 million construction grant that was part of the construction deal.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he’d heard the deal might be on the ropes earlier this week.
“I had heard a few days ago from someone who was a big supporter of the deal that they thought that it could be in some trouble,” Van Bramer said.
While some have speculated the story might be a power play by Amazon — or even the governor — Van Bramer thought the deal was “in trouble.” And if it was some kind of a strategic move, he argued it was a bad one.
“I think there’s a possibility that this is gamesmanship and they’re trying to call a bluff — but we’re not bluffing. If in fact it is an attempt to call a bluff, it’s yet another strategic blunder in a series of blunders that the governor, the mayor and Amazon have committed since they announced the deal in November,” Van Bramer said, arguing to even suggest they might pull out “shows weakness’ on the part of Amazon.
“We had a choice here, which was to lay down and go along with something and see what we could get out of it or we could take on the richest man in the world, the governor of the State of New York, the mayor of the City of New York, and we decided to fight, and they did not anticipate how strong we would come for them, and they did not understand the power of the organizing that we were going to do against this deal,” he said.
“I think the mayor in particular and the governor have been caught flat-footed. I think Amazon seemed shell-shocked at the hearings and I’ve been shocked at how ineffective they’ve been in not just selling the deal but in responding to the criticism,” he said.
Cuomo dismissed the Washington Post story, saying it would be political suicide to kill the deal.
“For the state Senate to oppose Amazon, it was governmental malpractice,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York to explain it to, It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy. You’re there to do what’s right for the people of the state of New York.”
New York offered a less competitive package than many other cities across the country during the company’s nationwide search for a second headquarters, the governor said, but the company wanted to come to the city.
Cuomo said that the project, which has about 70% support in the local area, is not in jeopardy, but if it doesn’t go through the local politicians could face a backlash.
“I would not want to be a Democratic senator coming back to my district to try to explain why we lost it,” the governor said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) crowed over the Post report, calling it a win for grassroots activism.
“Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations?” the junior congresswoman wrote. “Yes, they can.”
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