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Amazon scraps plans for vast New York HQ amid local opposition

Drew Angerer / Getty Images / AFP | Activists rally in celebration of Amazon's decision to pull out of a plan to build a new HQ in Long Island City, Queens,New York on February 14, 2019.

Amazon on Thursday abandoned plans for a new headquarters site in New York City, citing opposition from local leaders angry at the huge subsidies being offered to one of the world's most successful companies.

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The New York neighborhood of Long Island City had been one of two locations Amazon selected last year after a long search for a second headquarters or "HQ2."

The online giant had promised the sprawling complex would create 25,000 new jobs in exchange for nearly $3 billion in state and city incentives -- which had riled some in the community.

"While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project," Amazon said in a statement.

"We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion -- we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture -- and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents."

Amazon said it would "continue growing" its workforce in New York which includes some 5,000 people.

No new bidding

The company said it would not reopen the bidding process but would "proceed as planned" with a headquarters site in Northern Virginia and a logistics center in Nashville, Tennessee.

It added that it "will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the US and Canada."

The New York plan had been endorsed by Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, but ran into fierce opposition from some local politicians and community activists, including newly elected Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the New York site.

Both conservatives and liberal opponents of the deal have argued that Amazon does not need what some describe as "corporate welfare."

In addition to complaints about the scale of the incentives, critics voiced concerns that the promised jobs could inflate an already overpriced housing market and strain infrastructure.

Initial reactions to Amazon's decision from the local community appeared mixed.

"I'm relieved because I'm a renter here," said one female resident, who declined to give her name. "I'm not sure these jobs would have been what the people living in this community need."

But others like David Katzen, who owns a construction company in the neighborhood but does not live there, were disappointed.

"It was a horrible decision by the local legislators to oppose it," he told AFP. "It was short sighted and ultimately what's going to happen here? Nothing. There's no good that came of this."

Amazon, the dominant online retail giant which also operates services in cloud computing, streaming media and artificial intelligence, began seeking a new headquarters, saying it was outgrowing its current home in Seattle, Washington.

Chelsea Connor of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which had protested the subsidies offered to Amazon, criticized the company for pulling out instead of renegotiating the deal.

"Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers Amazon says you do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers -- that's not what a responsible business would do," said Connor.

Scott Galloway, a New York University professor and author, said on Twitter after the announcement: "Immunities kick in and NYC finds its testicles. This is good for NYC, and America. Billionaires should not have their hand(s) out."

(AFP)

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