Amazon has decided to scrap its plan to build a second headquarters in New York's Long Island City neighborhood in Queens, the company announced Thursday, amid backlash from activists and some lawmakers.
"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 said in a statement on Thursday. "[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 decision comes after months of local opposition to the company's November announcement that it had chosen to split the site of its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, between two East Coast locations: New York City and Arlington, Virginia.
Amazon also said a third city, Nashville, had been selected for a new Center of Excellence for its Operations business, responsible for customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other similar activities.
But New York's $3 billion incentive offer sparked public outcry from Long Island City residents and local lawmakers who strongly opposed the deal, which they said would offer steep tax subsidies to the company and hurt taxpayers and the neighborhood. There were also concerns that local infrastructure, including New York's decaying subway system, could not cope with the additional residents.
To compare, Amazon agreed to $573 million in performance-based incentives from Arlington and $102 million from Nashville.
Just days after Amazon's November HQ2 announcement, New York City residents, lawmakers, and advocates gathered near its proposed Long Island City location to protest the plan. About a week later, protesters swarmed Amazon's bookstore in Midtown Manhattan brandishing signs reading "Amazon Causes Gentrification" and "No Handouts for Amazon."
A December public meeting with New York City Council members further escalated tensions. The City Council blasted Amazon's vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, and New York City Economic Development Corporation president James Patchett with probing questions about alleged secret negotiations with the city's mayor's and governor's offices, which they said had "ripped off" New Yorkers.
"You're worth a trillion dollars," New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told the company. "Why do you need our $3 billion when we have crumbling subways, crumbling public housing, people without health care, public schools that are overcrowded?"
Amazon HQ2 critics, like US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who represents the 14th District that includes a part of Queens, celebrated the news on Thursday as a victory.
"Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, an outspoken critic of the Amazon deal who represents Long Island City, was recently nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board, which oversees major capital funding projects. He told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that Amazon refused to engage with local opposition and instead "picked up the ball and went home like a petulant child."
Gianaris added that he does not know how Amazon came to Thursday's decision or what its process was.
"There was no dialogue involving me," he said.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose office helped broker the HQ2 deal along with the New York State governor's office and New York City's Economic Development Corporation, said, "You have to be tough to make it in New York City."
"We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world," he continued. "Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."
"I look forward to working with companies that understand that if you're willing to engage with New Yorkers and work through challenging issues New York City is the worlds best place to do business," said Johnson. "I hope this is the state of a conversation about vulture capitalism and where our tax dollars are best spent. I know I'd choose mass transit over helipads any day."
Senator Bernie Sanders, who pressured Amazon to increase its minimum wage to $15 last year, told BuzzFeed News that "corporate welfare" has become a more pressing concern for the country.
"Our job is to end the race to the bottom where taxpayers in one city or state are forced to bid against each other for desperately needed jobs," he said. "This is what the rigged economy is all about. I congratulate New Yorkers for standing up to the power of Amazon."
But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed disappointment and frustration over the failed deal on Thursday.
"Amazon chose to come to New York because we are the capital of the world and the best place to do business," he said in a statement. "However, a small group [of] politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community. ... They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity."
Amazon will not reopen its search for HQ2 and will proceed as planned with its deals in Northern Virginia and Nashville.
Here's the company's full statement on its decision:
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 reopen 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.