Amazon’s controversial plan to build a second headquarters in the New York City neighborhood of Long Island City has been derailed, wiping out at least 25,000 high-paying jobs slated for the city, the company confirmed.
A voracious debate over an estimated $3 billion in tax incentives – which Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio supported – raged on for months as activists protested Amazon, raising concerns over hyper-gentrification across the largely industrial neighborhood.
In a statement, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant said in lieu of the aborted plan to expand in Queens, the so-called HQ2 offices would be confined to Northern Virginia and Nashville, locations previously disclosed as future sites for new Amazon development.
“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” The company wrote in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term.
“While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment,” the statement continues, “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”
The most recent poll, conducted by Siena College in upstate New York, found that, of the 776 registered New York voters polled, 56 percent approved of the deal, including the $3 billion in incentives, while 36 percent disapproved.
Amazon commenced a contest to choose the city for their second headquarters in September 2017 – the first being in Seattle – and by January 2018, the company had whittled the list down to 20 finalists. Rumors swirled for a year before Long Island City and an under-development neighborhood known as National Landing in Arlington, Virginia, were selected as destinations for the new headquarters.
In Virginia, Amazon is building a 4 million-square-foot campus, with the opportunity to eventually expand to 8 million square feet. Like in New York, the proposed plan will bring an estimated 25,000 jobs.
The company is also putting, what it’s calling, The Operations Center of Excellence, as part of a new development in downtown Nashville. That office will bring 5,000 jobs, according to Amazon.
Emily Gallagher, a local community activist who fought against the Long Island City expansion, told Inman that neighborhood activists were already fighting on multiple fronts, including the privatization of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), luxury re-zonings and against the Independent Democratic Caucus, which was disbanded after its members lost to primary challengers in the last state election.
She said the movement was spearheaded by Queens Neighborhoods United, CAAAV, Long Island City Coalition, Queens Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and local professors from City University of New York (CUNY), especially LaGuardia Community College.
“They did a lot of on the ground organizing the groups allowed us to share actions small and large and encourage each other,” Gallagher said. “We showed up to community board meetings, we wrote op-eds, we did protests and disruptions in front of the Amazon store, we got petitions signed, we did teach-ins.”
“I did not participate in all of these things but we were all taking turns helping; some of us never met, some of us worked in tandem but we were united in action,” Gallagher added. “Folks from Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and North Brooklyn united because quite frankly, we are barely holding on to what we love about these very rooted, diverse, and quirky neighborhoods and this idea was quite simply the last straw.”
Amy Herzog, a professor of media studies at CUNY was an organizer with Amazons Against Amazon, who worked in collaboration with several other CUNY groups, as well as PrimedOut NYC. Her organization was particularly focused on Amazon’s relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement.
“The organizers were incredibly smart and tactical and put pressure on local representatives to take a strong stand,” Herzog said. “I’m hopeful that this movement will maintain its momentum; it’s exhilarating to see how much power the people can have when they organize together.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, an opponent of the state’s tax incentives for Amazon, was appointed to a board with veto power over the deal earlier this month. Gianaris had circulated a petition opposing the plan. Multiple members of the New York City Council also opposed the deal.
“Companies that want to locate in NYC need to share in our collective values of participation and equity,” New York City Councilman Antonio Reynoso posted on Twitter. “It is readily apparent that this was not the case with Amazon. This is welcomed news for our residents and city.”
Amazon announced the decision in a statement, which is printed below in full:
After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture — and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.
We do not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.