Amazon is canceling its plans to build a 25,000 person office in New York City in an extraordinary twist to the “HQ2” story that has dominated the news for more than a year.
The company announced the deal was off Thursday, blaming “a number of state and local politicians” who vowed to fight the deal. Elected officials and community leaders in New York have been mounting an opposition effort to stop the project, taking particular issue with the $3 billion government incentives Amazon was eligible for.
“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,” Amazon said in a statement
Amazon does not plan to re-open its HQ2 search, a year-long competition between cities eager to host the Seattle tech giant’s second headquarters. Instead Amazon “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,” according to the statement.
Last November, Amazon announced it would split its 50,000-person second headquarters between Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., and New York. Each location, Amazon said, would house between 25,000 and 40,000 tech workers. The company unveiled plans to open a smaller, 5,000-person office in Nashville the same day. Amazon has been warmly welcomed in Northern Virginia, where officials approved $750 million in subsidies after just nine minutes of deliberation.
But Amazon faced a chillier reception in New York City. The day Amazon announced the winners of its HQ2 contest, New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris convened a protest in Queens. The opposition movement grew and scored a major victory last week when Gianaris was named to an oversight board with the authority to torpedo the deal.
“Today’s behavior by Amazon shows why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event,” Gianaris said in a statement. “Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shakedown governments to get its way. It is time for a national dialogue about the perils of these types of corporate subsidies.”
Richard Florida, a high-profile urbanist who has been critical of the Amazon HQ2 search since the beginning, said Thursday’s announcement revealed the tech giant’s “true colors” in a tweet.
1. Amazon has shown its true colors. It refuses to deal reasonably with its hometown of Seattle or any community that asks for it to pay its freight. This is abusive & shows how awful the entire process was & is. https://t.co/H00b05O28X
— Richard Florida (@Richard_Florida) February 14, 2019
Despite vocal opposition to the Amazon deal, polling showed most New Yorkers favored the project. Researchers from the Sienna College Research Institute surveyed 778 registered voters in New York last week and 56 percent of them said that they approve of the deal. The results lined up with a December poll by Quinnipiac University that showed 57 percent of registered New York City voters approved of the deal.
But elected officials representing Queens, along with labor leaders and activists vowed to resist the project and criticized the lack of transparency in the bidding process.
“Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers Amazon says you do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers – that’s not what a responsible business would do,” said Chelsea Connor, Director of Communications for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a statement Thursday. The union was part of the group fighting Amazon’s New York plans.
In its statement Thursday, Amazon said it 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.”
Earlier this week, GeekWire sat down with Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development who helped lead the HQ2 bid for Northern Virginia. Hoskins said Amazon had not contacted his office specifically about relocating the 25,000 planned jobs in New York City to the Arlington area.
Asked if Arlington has room for more than 25,000 Amazon workers, Hoskins said the agreement with Amazon already includes an option to create as many as 37,850 jobs by 2034. “We can easily accommodate both of those numbers,” he said.
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said there are no plans to ask Amazon to shift their intended New York City investment to Arlington.
“We are not changing what we want from Amazon,” Dorsey said. “We have a path for 25,000 and up to 37,850. We are comfortable with that and not making a play for any more [jobs].”
Here’s Amazon’s full statement:
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.