Earlier this week tech giant Amazon announced the location for two new headquarters, receiving fierce backlash from government officials and local residents.
New York City’s Queens and Arlington’s Virginia beat out 236 other bidders in a move Amazon states will result in the creation of more than 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of investment across the two locations.
A new “centre of excellence” for Amazon’s operations business was also proposed for Nashville which is expected to create a further 5,000 jobs.
According to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos the company is excited to build the new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia.
“These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.” Bezos said.
The enthusiasm of Amazon’s chief executive has been dampened by the outrage of losing bidders, government officials and local residents of the winning locations.
New York State has offered to incentivise Amazon should they meet their hiring and building promises with a $1.2 billion refundable tax credit and a $325 million cash development grant.
In Arlington they’ll net up to $573 million in cash grants if they create the jobs promised.
Amazon has come under particular fire for negotiating agreements with winning bidders in secrecy, even excluding key political figures who didn’t receive details of each package and their incentives until the public announcement on Tuesday.
Following the announcement, New York state senator Michael Gianaris and city council member Jimmy Van Bramer issued a statement labelling the deal “unfathomable”.
“We are witness to a cynical game in which Amazon duped New York into offering unprecedented amounts of tax dollars to one of the wealthiest companies on Earth for a promise of jobs that would represent less than 3 per cent of the jobs typically created in our city over a 10 year period,” they said.
Local politicians and activists looking to oppose the deals have a few legal avenues to follow in Virginia however the process is much more complex in New York due to how the deal was struck between Amazon and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo signed the deal as a General Project Plan (GPP), a specific type of development application that doesn’t require a state or city vote.
GPP’s also don’t rely on public input and oversight from offices like the Department of City Planning, the City Planning Commission (CPC), and the City Council.
“By going through the GPP they have removed this deal from any binding votes that would need to take place by the city or the state,” Van Bramer said.
Cuomo has also very generously offered to help Amazon navigate zoning regulations promising them an exemption from the city’s typical land use proceedings.
The waterfront site in Queens is not currently zoned for commercial development. On Tuesday, Cuomo said he’d use his power as a state officer to green light the project without all the fuss.
Amid public backlash many other politicians weighed in on the deal between Amazon and New York State.
New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson said: “I will always advocate for economic development and jobs in New York, but when the process is done behind closed doors, with zero community input and nearly $2 billion in subsidies to a global behemoth, I am going to be skeptical.”
The sentiments were echoed by newly-elected congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who issued a statement via Twitter stating her office had received many calls from an outraged Queens community.
“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.
“We need to focus on good healthcare, living wages, affordable rent. Corporations that offer none of those things should be met with skepticism.”
The agreement reveals that Amazon will be responsible for infrastructure improvements around the site including nearby public space and a waterfront esplanade.
They will also be required to offer programs like job fairs and technology training to the surrounding community, including the nearby Queensbridge housing projects.
Amazon are yet to issue any further statement addressing the criticism.
All dollars are in US dollars unless otherwise indicated.