OPERATIONS

New York to Amazon: Don’t Drop Dead

BY Dan Berthiaume

Not every New Yorker is opposed to having Amazon open a headquarters in Queens.

In an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published as an advertisement in the New York Times, prominent New York City figures including the CEOs of financial firms such as Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs, CEOs of technology firms including SAP and Infor, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Max Rose, and Hakeem Jeffries, are publicly asking Amazon to reconsider its decision to cancel a planned headquarters in New York City.

“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,” says the letter. “A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed.”

The letter goes on to acknowledge the “rough and not very welcoming” public debate that followed Amazon’s initial announcement it would build one of two new headquarters complexes (known colloquially as “HQ2”) in the Long Island City section of Queens. However, it promises that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio will work together to ensure that Amazon gets the “workforce development, public education and infrastructure investments” necessary for the project.

In a blog post on Feb. 14, Amazon announced it would no longer move forward with HQ2 plans in New York. The post cited the opposition of state and local politicians, despite opinion polls showing 70% of New Yorkers support the project.

The New York Times has also reported Gov. Cuomo has been personally calling Amazon executives, including Bezos, to convince Amazon to reconsider. Amazon has not yet publicly responded to the letter or to the reported phone calls.

Although Amazon is not building the new headquarters in New York, the company said it will continue adding to its base of more than 5,000 employees in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Amazon also said it will not reopen the search for its second headquarters, which have come to be known as “HQ2,” at this time.

The e-tail giant will proceed as planned with its other new headquarters slated for Crystal City, Virginia. Amazon is investing approximately $2.5 billion in the Northern Virginia office, which will be housed in a 4 million-sq.-ft. energy-efficient space, with the opportunity to expand to 8 million-sq.-ft. The Crystal City office has an estimated incremental tax revenue of $3.2 billion over the next 20 years. Average wages there will exceed $150,000, with hiring of a planned 25,000 employees beginning this year.

Amazon had also planned to invest $2.5 billion into the Long Island City location, which would have had the same square footage, energy efficiency and expansion potential as the Crystal City office. The New York location had an estimated incremental tax revenue of generating more than $10 billion over the next 20 years. Average wages and hiring plans were also the same as for Crystal City.

Amazon also said it will continue with a planned new “Center of Excellence” in Nashville, and continue to hire and grow across its 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.

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