By J. David Goodman
Amazon on Thursday canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City after facing an unexpectedly fierce backlash from lawmakers, progressive activists and union leaders, who contended that a tech giant did not deserve nearly $3 billion in government incentives.
The decision was an abrupt turnabout by Amazon after a much-publicized search for a second headquarters, which had ended with its announcement in November that it would open two new sites — one in Queens, with more than 25,000 jobs, and another in Virginia.
Amazon’s retreat was a blow to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, damaging their effort to further diversify the city’s economy by making it an inviting location for the technology industry.
The agreement to lure Amazon to Long Island City, Queens, had stirred intense debate in New York about the use of public subsidies to entice wealthy companies, the rising cost of living in gentrifying neighborhoods, and the city’s very identity.
“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,” Amazon said in a statement.
The company made its decision late Wednesday, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions inside the company.
The company’s decision was at least a short-term win for insurgent progressive politicians led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Her race galvanized the party’s left flank, which mobilized against the deal, helped swing New York’s Legislature into Democratic hands, and struck fear in the hearts of some local politicians.
Not only progressive activists took issue with the Amazon deal: Michael Bloomberg questioned the incentive package earlier this month.
The company also had its supporters — in the city’s business community, among some unions and within nearby public housing, where some residents were hopeful that the project would bring jobs. A pair of polls showed broad support around the city and state.
But in the end, it was not enough to persuade the company to ride out the torrent of negative attention.
Amazon did not inform the governor or the mayor of its decision to pull out until Thursday morning, shortly before the company posted its announcement online.