New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio aren’t often on the same page, but the two political leaders have gotten in sync to implore Amazon to make good on plans to build a new headquarters in Queens.
The “HQ2” project — split with Virginia after a year-long competition among 234 cities — resulted in Long Island City being chosen, with the city and state teaming to offer some $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for an expected 25,000 new jobs. A storm of protests from New York-area politicians and activists has been brewing ever since. On Friday, the Washington Post — whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also runs Amazon — reported that company executives were reconsidering the New York pick. The New York Times, however, went the opposite way in a story asserting that all systems are still go.
Appearing on New York public radio station WNYC this morning, Cuomo said the threat of a pullout is real. “I don’t think they’re bluffing,” he told the station’s Brian Lehrer. “I think it’s very serious.”
Cuomo said he understood that the vast wealth of Amazon and Bezos makes the project inherently controversial. “But it is not a perfect world, and we subsidize rich corporations,” he said.
New York routinely offers tax breaks to companies because it has “the highest tax rate in the United States and we’re not economically competitive,” according to Cuomo. Newark, N.J., the governor noted, offered more than twice what New York City did — about $7 billion. He also cited polls showing public support for the project. “You ask any New Yorker,” Cuomo said. “Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers are stunned that we could lose Amazon.”
Amazon projects that the new operation would generate 25,000 jobs, with an average annual salary of $150,000, and direct economic benefit of $27 billion. After Cuomo and de Blasio took a victory lap last fall, outrage started building among opponents such as newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They complained about the secretive nature of the process and the idea of a tech giant taking resources that they feel should go to infrastructure, schools and other areas of need.
Cuomo said if road blocks are put in front of Amazon, the company could easily opt to put all of its HQ2 resources into Virginia, whose state legislature has already approved the deal and whose site could accommodate New York’s share of the influx. “If they leave — and they might well leave — this is going to be a blow that hurts this state,” the governor said.
De Blasio, meanwhile, reportedly told a state committee in Albany on Monday that Amazon was essential to the future growth of the city and the state. “We want to build up our tech community, so to me it was mission critical that this city get those jobs rather than other cities,” he said, according to multiple press reports.
The optical stakes are not small for de Blasio, who said today during a briefing about a winter storm in New York that he is “not ruling out” a run for president in the 2020 election. There is “always room for more progressive voices” on the national stage, he added, just a few hours after political operators for the mayor said he would visit presidential primary state of New Hampshire on Friday.