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Amazon cancels HQ2 in New York after backlash

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Amazon has canceled plans to build a second headquarters in New York City, following pushback from residents and local lawmakers who were concerned about what the influx of high-skill, high-paying jobs would do to an area that’s already facing fast gentrification.

“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” Amazon wrote in a statement this morning. Amazon said it is canceling the plans because a “number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence.”

Amazon does not plan to search for another HQ2 location, but it will move forward with its existing plans to open major campuses in Northern Virginia and Nashville. It will also continue to expand its existing presence in New York throughout other boroughs.

The plans for Amazon to move into Queens were largely hashed out in secret, without input from local lawmakers. There was immediate backlash after the deal was announced, in part because of the major concessions that New York agreed to give Amazon to entice the company to move in. That included up to $1.5 billion in incentives in exchange for creating 25,000 jobs. Amazon had promised $2.5 billion in investment.

Residents and local lawmakers were concerned that those jobs wouldn’t go to the people currently living in Queens, but would instead attract outside talent who would move in, drive up costs, and push out long-time residents. Even Amazon’s interest in moving to Queens had been enough to drive sales of expensive homes and apartments, sometimes sight-unseen, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Without local support, Amazon could have found itself tied up in legal battles and arguing with zoning boards just to get development started. That could have delayed the project, and worse for Amazon, lengthen what had already turned into a bad PR move.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week it would be “governmental malpractice” for state lawmakers to oppose the deal after reports came out that the company was reconsidering. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had both been proponents of the deal and worked together to court Amazon.

The backlash has not let up since the deal was first announced in November. In recent weeks, lawmakers have described Amazon as uncaring and a bad cultural fit for New York.

“They are anti-union. They have no concern about the impact they might have on communities they join,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents Astoria, Queens, said last week, according to Newsday. “Amazon is just take, take, take and doesn’t give a damn about the communities it destroys in the process.”

Amazon’s complete statement is below:

Update on plans for New York City headquarters

After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% 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 we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.

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. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.

We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.

We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.

Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.