Amazon pulls plug on New York headquarters after local backlash

15 Feb 2019

Amazon box. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

Amazon is abandoning plans to build a company headquarters in New York after many people voiced opposition to the idea.

E-commerce and technology juggernaut Amazon is no longer planning to create a company headquarters in the New York neighbourhood of Long Island City. On Thursday (14 February), company spokesperson Jodi Seth said: “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 itself noted that there were groups and individuals against the idea from the beginning, which made carrying out the project difficult. “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 also said that it would not be reopening the bidding process, but would proceed as planned with a headquarters site in Northern Virginia, along with a logistics centre in the Tennessee city of Nashville.

Protests began months ago

At the time the new headquarters was announced in November 2018, New York City governor Andrew Cuomo and mayor Bill de Blasio heralded it as a major job creation drive and the chance to create an East Coast rival to California’s Silicon Valley.

The company had aimed to create 25,000 jobs in the area in exchange for massive financial incentives offered by New York.  Many activists, lawmakers and union leaders were angered by the nearly $3bn in incentives offered by New York City and state to the tech company in an effort to entice it to locate in the area. Both Liberal and Conservative groups against the deal argued that Amazon did not require such generous incentives, given its roaring success as it stands.

Protesters took to the streets, voicing concerns that Amazon locating in their area would lead to longtime residents being priced out of their neighbourhoods.

New York City mayor criticises Amazon

De Blasio criticised Amazon for walking away instead of trying to hear out the concerns of the community. “You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbour and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity.”

New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said she was disappointed that New York would lose out on “hundreds of millions in investments”. Progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a different view, praising the protesters for having “defeated Amazon’s corporate greed”.

Julie Samuels, executive director of non-profit tech network Tech:NYC, said: “New York City is today one of the most dynamic tech hubs in the world, but there is no guarantee we will maintain this status in the future, which makes this news so disappointing.”

Speaking to The Verge, director of economic development policy at the Association for Neighbourhood and Housing Development, Lena Afridi, said: “Nobody checked in with frontline communities and whether they wanted these gigantic corporations in their community.”

Amazon box. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects