Amazon Deal Deserves a Second Chance
Like most New Yorkers, I was dismayed and saddened when Amazon canceled its plans to build a new headquarters in Long Island City. This represented an enormous loss of opportunity for both Amazon and New York.
The city missed a chance to create 25,000 jobs, solidify itself as the world’s preeminent tech hub, catalyze economic activity that supports local small businesses and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue.
Amazon walked away from the opportunity to set up shop in the greatest city in the world, a place with the energy, spirit and amenities that would allow the company to attract the best and brightest tech employees.
Opponents to the plan raised concerns about how the public incentives were negotiated and whether or not Amazon would have been a good employer and neighbor. As in any heated discussion, a lot of incorrect perceptions were carelessly thrown around.
Both Amazon and New York City would benefit from taking a deep breath and another look at the situation. There is still time and room to broker a deal, in the full light of day, that will be a win for both Amazon and New York.
It’s important that Amazon understand that the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers realized the tremendous value it would have brought. Polls showed that 80% of Queens residents and 7-in-10 New Yorkers favored Amazon coming to Queens. In fact, moments before the bombshell cancelation, labor, business and community leaders were engaged in a good-faith meeting about this project.
It is also critical that those with questions about the deal understand the facts. Amazon was offered tax incentives to move here. These incentives are credits against taxes owed. Neither the city nor the state wrote Amazon a check. There is no $3 billion fund that can now be spent on public housing, mass transit or schools because Amazon pulled out. In fact, because Amazon isn’t coming to New York, we will lose out on close to $27 billion in tax revenue over 25 years.
As to whether Amazon would or would not have been a good employer: The average salary for the jobs created would have been $150,000. Many of the city’s labor unions supported the deal because they saw its enormous potential. New York is and always will be a union town. That will stand no matter what Amazon eventually does.
Amazon and Long Island City are a perfect match. From a diverse talent pool, to a thriving arts scene, to superior educational institutions, Queens has everything Amazon needs to thrive. In turn, Amazon would create jobs for local residents, jumpstart economic activity, support small businesses in our community and generate tax revenue. We have the opportunity to benefit from the lessons learned over the past few weeks and try again.
What do you say, Amazon? In this nation and city of second chances, will you meet with us again?
Thomas J. Grech is president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.