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De Blasio on Amazon HQ: Must 'Hold Their Feet to the Fire' on Progressive Values

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mayors conference

New York Mayor Bill 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 have prompted progressive protests and discontent among local residents.

This morning on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio said he's not worried that Amazon will decide to cancel the move.

"We went through a long negotiation to ensure that New York City would gain 25,000 jobs minimum, could go as high as 40,000. These are good-paying jobs in the technology community, the kinds of jobs that we want for our public school students, our CUNY students starting out their life, and for public housing residents," de Blasio said. "Remember, one of the biggest public housing residences, in fact the biggest public housing development in America is a walking distance from the Amazon headquarters site. And there is going to be an intensive effort to make jobs available for folks in public housing. This is exactly the kind of thing that we need for the future of this city."

De Blasio asserted that while Amazon asked for "tailor-made incentives" in negotiations, "the only incentives they got were under state law, and they were available to any and all companies."

"I think it is not surprising that there are activists raising concerns, that’s normal, that’s part of the democratic process. I don’t get any sense that changes the basics of the reality," he said. "And look, I think what we can have here is that Amazon can contribute to our economy, but also we’re going to hold their feet to the fire on the kinds of community benefits they’ve agreed to and push them to go farther, including to have union representation in their distribution centers. I think that’s the right way to go, and that’s what’s best for New York City."

The mayor said that while it takes years for the Amazon HQ to get up and running, "we’re going to be pushing for a lot more" benefits.

"Amazon coming here means they’re now in our environment with our values as New Yorkers, as a progressive place," he continued. "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."

De Blasio noted that "one of the things we said to Amazon is if you want to be a part of the solution in terms of what’s wrong in the tech community, come to New York City, come to the most diverse place on earth."