Saved from Drowning in the Amazon Flood
by Marie Gangemi
Mar 06, 2019 | 3743 views | 0 0 comments | 444 444 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The manner in which Amazon withdrew from the agreement to locate its HQ2 in New York City illustrates just how bad the deal was. Amazon was unwilling to negotiate, compromise, or adapt.

Were it to have moved to New York City, we would have been held hostage to their demands. Consider, for example, its threat to halt construction on a new facility in Seattle, its home base, if a tax it opposed was implemented.

Amazon sent several postcards to Long Island City residents that promised it would be a good neighbor and listen. It did not, however, provide a way for us to contact them and voice our concerns.

Instead, it provided us with phone numbers for Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris so we could call and tell them to support the deal. That sounds more like telling us to do their bidding than listening.

The portion of Long Island City where Amazon planned to locate, Hunters Point, has a population of approximately 29,000, according to the last census. Amazon’s HQ2 would have nearly doubled that.

In addition to transit upgrades, the area would experience a radical increase in demand for police, fire, sanitation, and emergency services, as well as increased strain on its water and sewage lines, electrical supply, and street traffic.

The arteries leading to it would have crawled to a stop. Anable Basin, where Amazon intended to build, lies within a flood plain; serving Amazon during the next superstorm would divert resources from the homes and businesses already in Long Island City.

Real estate would become too expensive for the people who live and work there, and those who managed to remain would not be able to afford to buy groceries or other essentials locally.

Yes, we lost 25,000 jobs. Remember, however, that Google brought in 50,000 jobs without cloak-and-dagger negotiations, without tax incentives, and without disrupting a community.

Yes, we lost the tax revenue those jobs would have brought, but the value is not as high as presented. The number is based on all 25,000 jobs starting at once, but the reality is that many would not start for years.

In addition, more than 50 percent of the revenue would go to New York State, not New York City, and certainly not Long Island City. The costs of hosting Amazon, however, would primarily be borne locally, before the revenues started flowing in. You cannot double the population and wait ten years to meet its basic needs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio apparently did little to advise Amazon on what New York is like. Did they really believe that a union, sanctuary city with so much diversity, individualism, fractiousness, and political consciousness that 17 candidates are running for Public Advocate in the upcoming special election would not question a secret deal that bypassed the City Council and other community organizations?

Did they think we had not heard of Amazon’s treatment of its workers, partners, and competitors? From its earliest days as a book distributor, Amazon’s business model has been to swallow everything in its path.

And did they think that trickle-down economics works any better on the local level than on the national level? Cuomo and de Blasio couched the debate in terms of tax incentives versus new jobs, ignoring the other questionable aspects of the deal, as if the people most directly affected would not mind being sacrificed in its wake.

The only real losers in the collapse of the deal are Citicorp, which lost the tenants it hoped would fill the Long Island City building it’s abandoning, and the Plaxall family, which must find a new buyer for its land.

Marie Gangemi is a resident of Long Island City.
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