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Amazon pulls out of its New York headquarters

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that was first published on February 14th 2019. It has been changed to reflect Amazon’s announcement later that same day.

“Delivering everything under the sun and 25,000 new jobs”, bragged a glossy flyer from Amazon about its plans to build a second headquarters in Queens. The mailer, posted to many New Yorkers last month, urged recipients to ring their state lawmakers to tell them to support the project. Too few of them called. On February 14th, in the face of opposition from local politicians, the giant retailer announced that it had decided not to proceed with its plans in the Big Apple.

In 2017 Amazon announced it was looking for a second headquarters, launching an intense municipal beauty pageant. It pitted more than 200 cities against each other to extract the most subsidies. New York was the joint winner. Its $3bn offer was not the most generous, but it became controversial. Opponents, who include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a local congressional representative, wondered why the city was giving billions to a company led by the world’s richest man. Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, thinks the firm would have settled on New York without the incentives. The Cornell Tech campus is across the river from the proposed Amazon site and the city has lots of engineers and developers.

Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, once said that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if the company came, and continued to insist that New York needed Amazon. Recent polls show that New Yorkers supported the Amazon deal, with the strongest support coming from African-Americans and Latinos. But that view was challenged in Albany, the state capital. Mike Gianaris, a state senator and Amazon foe, criticised the secrecy behind the deal and objected to what he called “corporate welfare”. Governor Cuomo reckoned such opposition from state legislators was “governmental malpractice”. During a recent state hearing Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, pointed out that 25,000 well-paid jobs would come to Queens.

Virginia, which shared the winning bid, has given Amazon a decidedly warmer reception. On January 28th its lawmakers approved its subsidy plan after nine whole minutes of debate. In its statement Amazon said that it would not be looking for a location to replace New York, but would instead proceed as planned in Virginia and in Nashville, where it is opening a new operations centre. Amazon did not get the welcome it expected from Queens. It appears to be in no mood to start searching for another home.

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