When New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor appeared alongside an Amazon executive yesterday to announce Amazon’s HQ2 setting up shop in the city, the mood was celebratory. But some locals are pushing back and considering what would need to happen to scuttle the deal.
Amazon’s decision to build a new facility in Long Island City, Queens, as well as in Northern Virginia, has been met with stiff resistance. Two local politicians, State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, have said an “unprecedented amounts of tax dollars” will be going to Amazon through tax incentive offers.
“Too much is at stake to accept this without a fight,” the two said in a statement yesterday. “We will continue to stand up against what can only be described as a bad deal for New York and for Long Island City.”
But what will that fight look like? Gianaris told The Verge in an interview that his staff was “digging into the incentive package now to see legally what we can do.” How that legal challenge might shake out isn’t clear, although he suggested there might be a question over reallocating dollars for the project. “It looks like they’re trying to use existing incentive programs on a scale never before imagined,” he says.
Earlier today, Politico noted at least one potential legislative route as well. According to the publication, some elements of the deal will be reviewed by state legislators through the Public Authorities Control Board, which requires unanimous approval for some aspects of the deal, like part of the proposed tax grants to Amazon. A vote after January, when Democrats in the state take control of the Senate, could give local critics of the deal like Gianaris leverage. (New York’s two senators have so far remained silent on the deal.)
Today, Amazon also faced pushback from the public. The cover of the New York Post showed a caricatured Jeff Bezos, bags of money in hand, soaring over the city in a helicopter, a reference to a helipad clause in the deal.
Protestors assembled against the announced plan in an attempt to turn the tide. About 150 people arrived at a protest in Long Island City, where local speakers took turns bashing the deal. “We should be investing in housing and hot water, not helicopters,” New York assemblyman Michael Blake said, after reports of heating problems in the adjacent Queensbridge projects.
“The legal route is usually the most effective one,” Gianaris told The Verge. “Of course, ramping up public pressure is always something that helps.”