Amazon cancels plans to build second headquarters in New York after local protests

Sarah Harvard

Amazon has announced it has cancelled plans to build its second headquarter campus in New York City following protests. The company said it will not search for another location.

“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 spokesperson Jodi Seth said in a statement on Thursday.

Incentivised by a $3bn subsidy deal with New York City, Amazon had originally planned to build a massive complex in Long Island City, Queens.

But the deal was met with swift and strong opposition from local lawmakers, community leaders and activists, who lambasted the city for providing multi-billion dollar subsidies to one of the largest and richest companies in the world. Some other concerns include the adverse impacts of gentrification which could lead to skyrocketing the city’s already expensive rent prices and cost-of-living.

Amazon, which has received backlash for its “anti-union behaviour” and labour practices, said the new headquarters would have created more than 25,000 jobs in New York City.

In a statement, Amazon claimed that 70 per cent of New Yorkers supported its plans and investment in building the sprawling complex in Queens. It said the company decided to cancel its plans due to opposition from state and local officials.

“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,” the statement read.

In addition to its labour practices, Amazon has also been criticised for its partnerships with certain government agencies including US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last year, Amazon reportedly tried to push law enforcement and ICE to purchase their facial-recognition software, sparking concerns about whether the company is complicit in violating privacy laws.

Amazon, who has Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, as their CEO, ended their statement expressing its gratitude to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio for “graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process.”

The New York Governor offered to legally changed his name to “Amazon Cuomo” to tempt the Seattle-based company into choosing the Big Apple as their second headquarter location.

“I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” Mr Cuomo told reporters in November 2018.

The $1 trillion company also said it will not search a new location for its second headquarters at this time. However, it will continue its plans in building another headquarter in Northern Virginia and an operation centre in Nashville, Tennessee.

Critics have pointed out that Amazon’s decision and statement proves that the conglomerate has been unwilling to work with the residents and communities in Queens.

“Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” State Senator Gianaris, a Democrat representing Long Island City, told the New York Times. “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.”

Referencing the company’s statement, Mr Gianaris added: “Even by their own words, Amazon admits they will grow their presence in New York without their promised subsidies. So what was all this really about?”