Cuomo And Union Leaders Beg Bezos To Reconsider New York HQ2

Andrew Cuomo is begging Jeff Bezos to reconsider Amazon's decision to pull out of its plans for a New York City HQ2, according to the New York Timeswhich reports the Governor is "working intensely behind the scenes" to make a personal pitch. 

The governor has had multiple phone conversations with Amazon executives, including Mr. Bezos, over the past two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the efforts. In those calls, Mr. Cuomo said he would navigate the company through the byzantine governmental process. -New York Times

Cuomo has offered guarantees for support for the project, according to the WSJ, while Amazon executives have given no indication that the company would reconsider. 

"I’ve had many conversations with Amazon. I hope that they reconsider," said Cuomo ad a Thursday event in Long Island. "It would be helpful if the State Senate said that they would approve it; that would be helpful. But in the meantime I haven’t heard any changes."

Amazon abruptly abandoned plans for the Long Island expansion - instead focusing efforts on their "second" HQ2 in Northern Virginia. The New York location promised up to 40,000 jobs, and a much needed revival of run-down neighborhoods in and around Long Island City. In return, New York offered Amazon a cumulative $3 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, along with an agreement that the government would develop infrastructure in and around the site. 

Critics of the plan, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) - an economics major, blasted the $3 billion being "given" to Amazon as a corporate charity, and said it would be better spent fixing the city's subways and hiring more teachers. AOC's opposition to the HQ2 is widely cited as a factor in Amazon's decision to pull out of the plan. 

In response, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio explained to NBC News' Chuck Todd that AOC doesn't understand what she's talking about - and a tax credit isn't the same thing as handing money to Amazon. 

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” de Blasio agreed when host Chuck Todd said that the tax breaks offered to Amazon weren’t “money you had over here. And it was going over there.”

“Correct,” de Blasio said.

He added: “And that $3 billion that would go back in tax incentives was only after we were getting the jobs and getting the revenue.”

To further drive home the point, Todd said, “There’s not $3 billion in money —”

“There’s no money — right,” de Blasio said. -NY Post

Nevertheless, Amazon pulled out of the deal, sparking anger and confusion among New York leadership. 

On Friday, an open letter in the New York Times signed by more than 70 supportive unions begged Bezos to reverse course and build the Long Island campus

The letter was signed by more than 70 supportive unions including the AFL-CIO, local businesses and business leaders, community groups and elected officials including Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, a top Democrat, Max Rose, a first-term Democrat from Staten Island, and Carolyn Maloney, whose district encompasses the Amazon site, and the former mayor David N. Dinkins.

The letter said that Mr. Cuomo “will take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval,” and Mayor Bill de Blasio “will work together with the governor to manage the community development process.” -New York Times

"We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming," reads the letter - which was paid for by the business group Partnership for New York City. "But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone."

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the partnership, said the letter had been aimed not just at Amazon but at assuring technology companies generally that New York City welcomed their businesses: “Yes, it’s directed to Amazon in hopes they will reconsider. Equally, it is a message to the broader industry.” -New York Times

 "The governor’s office was working with the business community on how to send this message," added Wylde. 

New York State Senate Democratic majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said in a statement that he had indicated her "willingness to work" with Amazon, adding "I have always been clear that I support job creation and was disappointed with Amazon’s decision and hoped they would reconsider."

Since Amazon decided to pull out, Cuomo has been arguing in public and private that support for the project is far more widespread than certain progressive politicians would lead one to believe

"I do believe Amazon should have stayed and fought the opposition," said Cuomo in a Thursday radio interview. "It was a vocal minority opposition. Seventy percent of the people support Amazon," which Cuomo reportedly stressed to Amazon executives during phone calls. 

Opponents of the NY HQ2, meanwhile, remained sour on the idea. 

The most vocal opponents, like Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, were not among the signatories.

“Our concerns remain the same,” Mr. Appelbaum said in response to Mr. Cuomo’s efforts. “If Amazon wants to come to New York, it must respect all workers and communities.” -New York Times

Amazon isn't having it

The decision to pull out of the New York campus and "hyperfocus" on the Virginia expansion was due to a "confluence of factors, including the loud opposition and the lack of any sign it would abate," reports the Times

"We think we could have gotten New York done, but you have to say, ‘At what cost?’" said Amazon director of global economic development, Holly Sullivan, during a Thursday event in Virginia. "We made a prudent decision that gives us the opportunity to hyperfocus on D.C."