NY Comptroller Optimistic on Amazon HQ2 Deal

But Scott Stringer says arrangement must also benefit New Yorkers.

Following Amazon’s recent news to split its new second headquarters between offices in New York and Virginia, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer voiced his praise of the deal but cautioned that the move must also benefit the city.

“In exchange for the promise of thousands of new jobs and local investments in Long Island City, Amazon brokered a deal to potentially receive nearly three billion dollars in incentives from the city and state,” the New York City comptroller said in a statement. “They also get to bypass the local rezoning process for their proposed site that significant construction projects like Hudson Yards and Cornell Tech had to face.”

The deal, which promise 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in capital spending from the e-commerce giant, was finalized after a year of more than 200 proposals from cities vying for Amazon’s new main office. The plans will be divided between Long Island City in Queens, and Arlington, Virginia.

“It is clear that this is a good deal for Amazon, but it must also benefit the countless New Yorkers who will feel the effects of Amazon’s massive presence in Long Island City by the way of congested roadways, stressed mass transit, and a severe shortage of affordable housing,” said Stringer.

However, Amazon’s decision has sparked some backlash against the online retailer, as the two locations are in big cities. Since the tech company already employs plenty of workers in densely populated areas such as California’s Bay Area and Seattle, Washington, its main headquarters, people on social and mainstream media outlets have said smaller cities would have benefited more.

Other complaints are that Amazon is getting large tax breaks from New York and Virginia— to the tune of a combined $3.4 billion in incentives and grants.

“Cities opened their books to the company to prove their viability as a second home for the retailing giant,” Jonathan Schieber of TechCrunch wrote. “In return, Amazon got reams of data on urban and exurban centers that it could use to develop the next wave of its white-collar office space, and more than $2 billion worth of tax breaks from the cities that it would eventually call home for its new offices.” 

Pivot, a podcast on Recode, even went so far as to call the decision a “con-job.”

“This was never a contest,” host Scott Galloway said of Amazon’s nationwide solicitation. “It was a con meant to induce ridiculous terms that they then took to the cities all along that they knew they were going to be in.”

Galloway noted that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has houses within 10 miles of each headquarters location.

Regardless of that controversy, Stringer welcomed the economic potential of “HQ2,” adding that “any company looking to tap into New York City’s talent pool and vast resources should be willing to make its case in a public, transparent way.”

“We will continue to analyze the specifics of this deal, but before a shovel hits the ground or a lease is signed, Amazon, the city, and the state must engage in a community-based planning process and make a commitment to connect local residents with good paying jobs,” the comptroller said.

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