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Amazon executives are being broadly reported to be seriously reconsidering the company’s decision to build a campus in New York’s Long Island City, just across the East River from Manhattan in the borough of Queens, as part of its HQ2 plan.

The reason: Amazon has gotten blowback from a number of quarters, with people questioning things like the size of the incentives, the impact on local neighborhoods, the expected stresses on the city’s infrastructure, and the company’s long-held resistance to unionization, which is not the best attitude in a highly unionized city.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “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.”

According to the Journal, “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 … 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.”
KC's View:
It was somewhat ironic that on Friday, Gianaris said of Amazon, “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.” After all, the word “extort” was one that came up with Amazon in a very different context last week, used by founder/CEO Jeff Bezos to describe the activities of the owners of the National Enquirer.

But I digress.

Seems to me that there could be a real and irresolvable cultural difference here. Amazon, right or wrong, believes that communities need it more than it needs communities, but in New York, that sort of rubs folks the wrong way; it is, after all, New York.

Amazon could have a real and positive impact on Long Island City, but there almost certainly would be negatives - even Amazon, for all its size, would just be one component of an enormously complicated ecosystem and infrastructure. I have to wonder if there are places where the building would be a lot simpler, where maybe Amazon could have a far bigger and even more positive impact.

Amazon likes to change the world, but I’m not sure if it can change New York. So maybe it ought to go someplace else.