Defending the incentive package to attract Amazon.com’s HQ2 to New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the prospect of the tech giant bringing tens of thousands of jobs to the area was “mission critical.”
“We had a real live choice to make – 25,000 to 40,000 jobs, many of them good paying, that New Yorkers really want and that would be available to a wide range of New Yorkers,” De Blasio said in testifying to the New York State Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committees. “We want to build up our tech community, so to me it was mission critical that this city get those jobs rather than other cities.”
After lobbying hard to win the deal, De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have faced a backlash from local politicians and community organizers who object to their lack of involvement in the process and $3 billion (roughly Rs. 21,000 crores) in government incentives for a company valued at close to $1 trillion (roughly Rs. 71,00,000 crores) while the city is facing budget cuts.
Seattle-based Amazon launched a nationwide search in 2017 for a site to build a second-headquarters that would eventually employ as many as 50,000 workers. The process pitted New York against cities across the country – a format that wasn’t ideal, de Blasio noted. Amazon is planning a similar site in Arlington, Virginia.
“We believed that, through careful tracking of the competition, there were several other cities poised to win,” he said. “And we had to strike the right balance.”
Amazon received incentives from existing state programs that were available to any company, de Blasio said. The city didn’t offer additional incentives.
The jobs Amazon is expected to create in Long Island City will have a “seismic impact” and yield $27.5 billion in state and city revenue over 25 years, a 9-to-1 ratio of revenue to subsidies, de Blasio said.
“We never had a single agreement that brought us that many jobs,” he said. At the same time, the mayor acknowledged that the city has “more work” to do to make sure Amazon lives up to its commitments.
Addressing a frequent concern of opponents – Amazon’s anti-union stance – De Blasio said construction of the headquarters will be done by union workers. Building-services jobs, like janitors, will also be filled by union members.
De Blasio said the city had considered other sites before ultimately selecting Long Island City as a potential future location of Amazon’s 4 million-square-foot new corporate campus. It became clear during the process, however, that Amazon preferred the Queens site, on the shores of the East River across from Manhattan. The neighbourhood is one that has been developing, and Amazon presented an opportunity to generate “more things we care about: jobs, affordable housing, fixing our infrastructure,” he said.
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