New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Amazon’s pullout from their planned Queens headquarters project “astounding,” “disappointing,” and “disrespectful to the people of New York City.”
At the beginning of the month, de Blasio said Amazon should adapt to NYC’s progressive culture in bringing a corporate headquarters to the city, and vowed to “hold their feet to the fire” to reap community benefits out of the online giant.
The Amazon announcement late last year promised to bring 25,000 jobs with an average salary of $150,000 a year, situating the hub in Queens. Yet the backroom negotiations and $3 billion in city and state tax subsidies prompted progressive protests and discontent among local residents.
“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 online giant announced Thursday. “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 percent 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.”
Amazon added that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio “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 company said it doesn’t plan to find a replacement city for the onetime New York headquarters, but would move ahead with its previously announced Northern Virginia and Nashville development plans.
“To get a call after, you know, months of attempting to build a productive partnership on behalf of this city, to get a call out of the blue saying ‘see you,’ you know, ‘we taking our ball and we’re going home’ – it’s absolutely inappropriate,” de Blasio told the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC today.
“What is so striking to me is something we should all be concerned about – is why does this company believe that it can make such arbitrary decisions with no regard for the people, with no regard for government,” he continued. “And it raises a lot of bigger questions, and there was no attempt at dialogue, there was literally – I mean, Brian, I’m telling you, I’ve never experienced anything like it. For months, working on specific details, and I had conversation with top level Amazon executives about additional investments they needed to make in the community and mass transit, and other community improvements, the fact that they had to engage the labor community, they had to address real and meaningful controversies like the ICE issue, you know, and these are the kinds of things that corporate America should come to grips with because we’re in an age of profound income inequality and people are frustrated and they’d actually like to see corporations be decent and socially conscious and good neighbors, and Amazon did the exact opposite all the way through, and astounds me – it astounds me.”
“Why did they even bother to choose New York City if they didn’t want to actually be a part of New York City and do the work it takes to be a good neighbor?”
De Blasio said he harbored “a lot of frustration with the opponents because I do not think they represented what their constituents fully needed.”
“I think they did a disservice, but I have much more frustration with Amazon for just pulling out in the dead of night and not even attempting a dialogue and not being willing to give back more when that obviously would have solved the problem,” he added.
The mayor had told WNYC on Feb. 1, “Amazon coming here means they’re now in our environment with our values as New Yorkers, as a progressive place. We want to see jobs for public housing residents, we want to see unionized employees in the distribution centers, and we’re going to fight for that. And I think this is a truism. It’s not where you begin, it’s where you end.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the news of Amazon’s pullout “incredible.”
“I mean, it shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities and they can have more say in this country than the richest man in the world,” she said.
This morning, de Blasio responded to WNYC that “as a progressive my entire life – and I ain’t changing – I’ll take on any progressive anywhere that thinks it’s a good idea to lose jobs and revenue because I think that’s out-of-touch with what working people want.”
“And when this city works – and it’s working right now – it’s because we have a strong government that invests in people which gives us a strong economy, safest big city in America, improving schools – we needed money to that,” he added. “And we were about to get more money to do that. And everyday New Yorkers figured that out real quick – some of the activists did not.”