NYC grassroots activists call Amazon’s bluff – and win!

Amazon, like many greedy big corporations, often loudly announce that they are planning to open a new facility somewhere with the promises of many new jobs, and will go to the city that provides them with the best deal. Cities then scramble to compete with each other to provide them with huge tax and other incentives, sometimes depriving their own people of much needed resources for schools and other public services. This is even though the corporations already make massive profits and pay little or no tax and could well afford to pay the local taxes. The corporations often demand that the details of the bidding (‘begging’ would be a better word) provided by each city be secret, better enabling them to play each city off against the others.

What is often suspected is that big corporations choose sites based on many factors that favor their interests and that the site has already been selected even before the competitive process starts. They go through this charade of competition purely to get the city they have already selected to come up with incentives. This same shakedown tactic is done by the owners of professional sports teams, who threaten to move out if cash-strapped cities don’t give them shiny new stadiums, tax breaks, and other perks.

After such an unseemly competition recently, Amazon announced that they had chosen Queens, NY as the site for their new headquarters after receiving about $3 billion in incentives. But there was a huge grass-roots outcry against the deal and in the face of this protest, Amazon announced that they were cancelling their decision. A huge billboard then appeared in Times Square attacking opponents of the deal and targeting one of its most visible leaders Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, orchestrating a barrage of abuse at the congresswoman. It was clear that Amazon was doing this to teach cities a lesson: We don’t just want your money, we also want you to be grateful to us for taking it and grovel before us, dammit! New York state’s governor and corporate stooge Andrew Cuomo joined in the attacks

But then a couple of days ago it was announced that Amazon would be opening corporate offices in New York city after all, a year after they walked away in a huff because the people of the city were not showing them enough love.

Amazon said on Friday it will open offices in New York City’s Hudson Yards neighborhood in 2021 to house its consumer and advertising teams, marking its most substantial expansion in the city since the reversal.

The move comes 10 months after the company cancelled plans for a headquarters in Queens after extensive backlash from residents and politicians, including Ocasio-Cortez. They had objected to the nearly $3bn in financial incentives the city and state had offered Amazon for the construction of the headquarters.

Ocasio-Cortez and other critics noted on Friday that this time around, Amazon is moving into Manhattan without any extravagant tax incentives.

“Won’t you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway – *without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways”, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday in response to Amazon’s move. “Maybe the Trump admin should focus more on cutting public assistance to billionaires instead of poor families.”

AOC sent out this tweet rubbing it in over Amazon admitting that the whole competition thing was largely a extortion racket.

Defenders of Amazon say that the new offices would only provide for 1,500 jobs compared to the original 25,000 jobs that Amazon had promised in its earlier plan and so this is not a ‘victory’ for the grass roots. But companies usually promise wildly inflated jobs figures when trying to win concessions, numbers that almost never materialize when the project is completed, so one should be highly skeptical about the original projections. To adapt an old saying, 1,500 jobs in hand may be worth 25,000 in the bush.


  1. says

    It was a similar story in Seattle. Business owners and “political leaders” demanding taxpayers foot the bill to renovate Key Arena to attract both NHL and NBA teams. Seattle taxpayers and a few maverick politicians rose up and said “No”. People thought the city wouldn’t get teams.

    Instead, the business owners who demanded public money went out and got private funding, and new tenants will come. All it takes is for a city or country to stand up to them.

  2. Who Cares says

    Can’t find the article anymore but it gets better. In said article the privately funded stadiums generate a profit for both themselves and the surrounding area, the public funded ones tend to be a tax money drain.

  3. says

    Maybe the link is blocked at your end, it works for me. Here’s the opening text:

    Seattle Arena group offers to privately finance arena, fix Lander Street

    SEATTLE -- Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

    The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle.

    The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.

    The offer is outlined in a lengthy letter to the Seattle’s mayor, the King County Executive, and Seattle City Councilmembers. The letter unequivocally says the group is willing to build the arena “at no cost to the City or the County,” a change from the original proposal which called for the city and county to back about $200 million in bonds to fund construction.

    A Deadspin item from December 2017 compared sports constructions. Arenas (for hockey and basketball) are many times better than those for football and baseball, being used constantly for other events (e.g. car shows, music acts, trade shows, et al). Baseball and football stadiums mostly sit dormant, wasting money and space.

  4. Mano Singham says

    Intransitive @#4,

    Thanks for that information about Seattle. I really hope other cities follow suit and call these bluffs!

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