NYC's Leaders Are Wrong on Amazon
Mar 7, 2019 (Updated March 21, 2019 with WSJ link)
A few days ago (last Friday, March 1), I spotted a full-page ad in the New York Times. This "Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos" was signed by the leaders of dozens of organizations and companies based in New York City.
They were asking Jeff Bezos to "reconsider" his decision to cut loose from New York City, at the conclusion of the recent HQ2 debacle.
With all due respect to the smart, accomplished people who signed the letter, how do I put this... are you kidding me?
Let's review the letter:
• The letter promises that, if Bezos brings Amazon back to New York City, "Governor Cuomo will take personal responsibility for the project's state approval and Mayor de Blasio will work together with the governor." Excuse me? Perhaps these leaders forgot that the HQ2 mess was originally created by the governor and mayor, who routed around the city council in order to push the deal through. (Also, remember Cuomo's self-abasing comment that he'd rename himself "Amazon Cuomo" if the deal went through? Good times.)
• The letter also claims that "A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed." Really? Where's the data on that? Maybe this is referencing a Siena poll covered in the Wall Street Journal that reported that a majority of New Yorkers - of the state of New York - answered the poll in support of HQ2. Many of these respondents are in cities over a hundred miles from New York City. The only data I saw from New Yorkers - of the city of New York - came from the city councilman of the HQ2 district in Queens, who said in the January 30 hearing that phone calls were coming in to his office two to one against HQ2. And this was after Amazon postal-mailed flyers throughout his district, urging constituents to call in favor. (See WSJ article: "56% of statewide voters favor building a Long Island City campus." To be fair, an alternative poll, not covered by the WSJ, found a majority of support within New York City voters: source.)
• Another flimsy assertion in the letter is that HQ2 would have brought "$28 billion in new tax revenues" to New York. Again, from the January 30 city council hearing, we learned that this number was generated by a report that was funded by the same people who put the deal together. The $28 billion number was a sales pitch, not an independent finding.
It's disappointing to see dozens of New York leaders signing a letter that's so poorly supported by the data. And I'm hardly the only critic of HQ2. Do you remember who called it a "fleecing," a "racket," and "crony capitalism at its worst"? Perhaps these CEOs missed it: it was in the Wall Street Journal. (The CEOs might also enjoy reading NYU's Scott Galloway, who called it a "con," adding that "Mr. Bezos and his board lack character.")
• Letter on the NYT site, also shown below.
• Jan 30 City Council Finance Committee hearing with Amazon, featuring speaker Corey Johnson, who starts around 1:05:00.
Full text of letter follows:
Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos
Dear Mr. Bezos:
New Yorkers do not want to give up on the 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues that Amazon was prepared to bring to our state.
A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed.
We understand that becoming home to the world's industry leader in e-commerce, logistics and web services would be a tremendous boost for our state's technology industry, which is our fastest growing generator of new jobs.
As representatives of a wide range of government, business, labor and community interests, we urge you to reconsider, so that we can move forward together.
We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming. Opinions are strong in New York - sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! 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.
Governor Cuomo will take personal responsibility for the project's state approval and Mayor de Blasio will work together with the governor to manage the community development process, including the workforce development and infrastructure investments that are necessary to ensure that the Amazon campus will be a tremendous benefit to residents and small businesses in the surrounding communities.
New York attracts the best, most diverse talent from across the globe.
We are a dynamic new center of the country's most inclusive tech economy.
We all hope you reconsider and join us in building the exciting future of New York.
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