By Jimmy Petutala | Stock.Market@News.Today
The discussions at Amazon have caused leading government officials in New York who support the project to worry that Amazon may abandon its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to Long Island City and $2.5 billion in investment, according to a government official.
Any change would be a stunning reversal after the company’s public yearlong search for a new headquarters drew bids from more than 200 locales across the country, courting the online retailing giant with billions of dollars in tax incentives.
Amazon executives are deliberating whether to delay some of the initial phase of investments to get the project started, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions. The internal talks haven’t progressed to deciding whether to relocate future jobs or the campus, this person said.
The recent change in conversation at Amazon accelerated after Monday’s nomination of New York state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a vocal opponent of the deal, to a state board that would allow him to veto the development plan, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Gianaris needs to be approved for the post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The governor and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, fellow Democrats who have often clashed, agreed on wooing Amazon to New York with up to $3 billion in state and city tax incentives. On Friday, Mr. Cuomo reiterated his support for the deal for Amazon as he warned that local opponents could derail the project.
An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement the company was working hard to demonstrate it could be a good neighbor with additional commitments such as computer-science classes and workforce training. In January last year, the company narrowed its list of possible sites for its second headquarters to 20 from 238 applicants, and spent months crunching the numbers.
In September, executives decided to split the campus in half and in November said would go to New York and Virginia. Virginia’s governor signed legislation approving its incentive plan for Amazon earlier this week. Local officials in New York have questioned everything from the project’s impact on transportation to neighborhood gentrification and Amazon’s opposition to unionization.
Government officials working with Amazon in New York have seen the pace of progress slow, a person with knowledge of the process said. Officials are concerned the slowdown indicates a shift in company thinking, the person said. “The drumbeat of opposition, even though it’s clearly not widespread, is making Amazon say, ‘Do we really need this?’” one government official said.
Members of the New York City Council have required Amazon executives to testify at two hearings on the proposed 4-million-square-foot Queens campus. Legislators used the proceedings to air concerns about development impacts and the incentive package. Another council hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Other opponents include the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union—which is trying to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island—as well as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents nearby parts of Queens, and Mr. Gianaris, who represents Long Island City.
Mr. Gianaris has repeatedly said the current deal to lure Amazon should be scrapped. “If they want to threaten that they won’t come here without it, that’s their decision. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be extorted,” he said Friday. Mr. Cuomo hasn’t said if he would approve Mr. Gianaris’s nomination to the state’s Public Authorities Control Board.
The governor this week has restated his support for Amazon before gatherings of business and civic leaders in Manhattan and on Long Island. The new campus will help diversify the state economy and create thousands of good-paying jobs, the governor said. In a speech to a Long Island business group Friday, Mr. Cuomo blamed Democrats in the state Senate for jeopardizing the Amazon deal.
“It is a very small nucleus, and it’s a very small group of politicians who are pandering to the local politics,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It would be a tremendous loss.”… “The mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio’s spokesman, Eric Phillips, said in a statement.
The company has recently battled with Seattle, where the city council passed a new homeless tax before reversing the decision. Amazon has slowed its development there to a crawl as a consequence of the political issues and hostile environment, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The vocal political critics in New York came as something of a surprise to Amazon executives, according to some of the people, although the company believes support among local residents is generally strong.