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Froma Harrop: The star-crossed romance between Amazon and New York City

20 February 2019

Crusading NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio attacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for canceling the company's heavily subsidized move to Queens, slamming "the definition of 1 percent" for his "disrespectful" treatment of New Yorkers.

The tech giant's decision, de Blasio said, was "arbitrary and unfair to working people".

Unfortunately, it appears the outrage politics that have proliferated since the advent of social media are now on the verge of consuming New York City's future.

And for the record, NY is already home to 320,000 tech jobs. Labor unions regarded Amazon as "a hard negotiator".

The world's biggest online retailer on February 14 abruptly canceled plans to establish a corporate campus in the city's Queens borough amid a backlash from some residents and politicians over $3 billion in financial incentives promised to the company by NY state.

No other USA city has as many computer-related jobs as New York City. She didn't refrain from expressing her joy shortly after Amazon's announcement.

"Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world". He mentioned the City Council, the City Council speaker, the state, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. Together, those critics accused the company and its political supporters of ignoring community interests and failing to consult local experts.

Compounding the irony, the Democrat mayor ran for office on a "tale of two cities" platform, calling out the massive income inequality that exists in NY and promising to take steps to alleviate the problem.

Amazon's announcement has sparked a furious debate over whether local officials and activists should be blamed for losing NY an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 high-paying tech jobs, or whether the firm had reacted too rashly to public concerns. Helipads were already controversial in NY, because, you know, helicopters are extremely noisy.

There was other relevant history that should have scared Amazon: New York has repeatedly stiffed the entreaties of another enormous retailer, Walmart, which doesn't have any stores in the five boroughs, despite repeated attempts over many decades.

The proposed transportation hub for senior Amazon executives was supposed to sit atop one of the company's gleaming new skyscrapers along the East River, part of its planned second headquarters in Queens, New York. "Especially after the company admitted that such enticements were a secondary factor in its decision making?" she argued.

Amazon is the biggest employer in the tech industry.

"This deal wasn't a simple tax break".

"So it's a source of mild concern that I keep hearing that heterodox economics - specifically Modern Monetary Theory - says that we don't have to worry about where the money will come from, that because we have a printing press deficits don't matter".

"They said they wanted a partnership, but the minute there were criticisms they walked away".

Amazon seemed shocked that the masses were not doing cartwheels in the streets after it selected the Long Island City neighborhood for a new complex to employ 25,000.

However, de Blasio insisted if they'd gone through a vote and standard land-use procedures - the normal democratic channels - "I guarantee Amazon would have gone elsewhere".

One effect was that some political leaders who originally supported the Amazon plan changed their minds, and other supporters declined to speak up strongly in favour of the project. Cities and States vied desperately for the economic stimulus, with New Jersey offering $7 billion in potential credits and the Mayor of an Atlanta suburb promising to make Mr. Bezos mayor for life of a new city called "Amazon". "We could have made a powerful connection to people who really need these jobs and I'm sorry to lose this opportunity". "They don't want to go into another city and find the same repercussions".

Froma Harrop: The star-crossed romance between Amazon and New York City