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Amazon’s abandoned New York plans a sign of things to come?

In a public statement, the company cited resistance from local politicians as the key reason for abandoning its planned project:

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.

The HQ2 project in New York had been controversial since its announcement, with many citing the rising cost of housing for locals, as well as the stress on already fracturing NY infrastructure. Amazon’s slated location for the campus had also previously been designated for schools, affordable housing, parks and commercial space.

Amazon was to receive $3 billion in state and local incentives to complete the project. The new campus was also projected to produce over 25,000 high paying jobs.

While speculation had arisen recently about the projected NYC campus, the news that Amazon was walking away from the project came as a surprise to many. The New York Times reported that as late as Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo was working to arrange meetings between Amazon executives and union leaders in an effort to shore up support for the project.

Speaking to the New York Times, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris said:

“Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves… The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.”

The fierce competition to entice the newest Amazon campus was a huge undertaking for cities all over North America. Arlington, Virginia and Queens, New York City were announced as the winners in November. At this time, Amazon says it is not exploring other options, but that could change quickly as runner-up locales reignite their campaigns for attention from the tech juggernaut.

Who should pay taxes?
Recently at Davos, historian Rutger Bregman made the case for higher taxes on the wealthy, citing America’s post-war years as an example of a higher taxes on the rich and the successful public investment generated through those revenues. The speech has since gone viral online, and a bevvy of stories have focused on the idea of tax increases on the wealthy in the U.S. But the case for America’s largest companies paying their fair share was one of the key issues for opponents to Amazon’s New York Headquarters.

Abandoning the project demonstrates wavering political support for Amazon, a company that has recently coming under increasing criticism.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been very vocal about what he sees as Amazon’s unethical behaviour in light of its wild success. The senator had campaigned for an increase in the tech company’s minimum wage and improvements in working conditions throughout much of 2018. He also chimed in during the rising opposition to the company’s new NYC headquarters.

The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro commented on the implications of the announcement for other taxpayer-funded deals with corporations across America:

The larger fallout of Amazon’s decision remains to be seen, but the conversation around large tech companies and their relationship with the public continues to become more complicated.

Opinions mixed on Amazon announcement
The response to Amazon’s announcement on social media was equally conflicted:

You can read the full statement from Amazon here.

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