New York Is Giving Amazon a Helipad and New Yorkers Are Furious
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New Yorkers are infuriated the only infrastructure improvement they will see from the city’s deal with Amazon is apparently a helipad for Jeff Bezos and his lieutenants at HQ2 (and-a-half). It’s not the biggest item in the memorandum of understanding outlining the $1.5 billion incentive package, but it is laid out in detail in its own clause (see item B under section 5, Public Party Commitments).
The helipad is particularly galling to New Yorkers crammed in overcrowded subways. Recently reelected Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is celebrating the Amazon deal as a big win, faced a determined primary challenge by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, of Sex and the City fame, who campaigned on public anger over unreliable subway service.
$1.5 BILLION dollars we just paid Amazon. And we have to build Jeff a fucking helipad. Anyone who signed on to this should be shoved into the Hudson. https://t.co/DqEiZ8X7dt— Jordan Courtland (@summerduckz) November 13, 2018
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the avowed Democratic Socialist who defeated a longtime incumbent to win election as the incoming Congressional representative of the district that includes the proposed Amazon location, said on Twitter that residents are "outraged."
Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 13, 2018
Aside from Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, the announcement that New York "won" the competition for Amazon's new HQ has not been well received, including by elected representatives of the Queens neighborhood where it is slated to be built. State Sen. Mike Gianaris on Twitter condemned the Amazon incentives and announced coordinated opposition.
State Assemblyman Ron T. Kim, who represents the same Queens district, introduced a bill in the New York Legislature to redirect the Amazon incentives to buy up and discharge distressed student loans. “Giving Jeff Bezos hundreds of millions of dollars is an immoral waste of taxpayers money when it’s more than clear that the money would create more jobs and more economic growth when it is used to relieve student debt,” Kim said in a written statement.
It's worth noting that Democrats in the recent election won a majority in the state Senate for the first time in decades, giving the party a majority in both houses of the Legislature -- where they will, apparently, face off against the Democrat, Cuomo, who is governor and another Democrat, De Blasio, who is mayor.
Amazon's very well publicized national search for a new headquarters sparked a giddy competition around the country with the least wealthy areas making the most extravagant offers. Newark, N.J., a near neighbor of New York with a tenth the population and struggling with unemployment and poverty, offered a $7 billion package is coordination with the state. That Amazon has selected New York and a Virginia suburb of Washington -- two of the wealthiest areas of the country with inherent advantages, has raised complaints that wealthy corporations should not be getting incentives in the first place.
“The wheelbarrow full of tax subsidies looks even worse than we thought,” David Kallick, deputy director at the Fiscal Policy Institute, said to the Gothamist, noting that Bezos cited good public amenities and public transit, a vibrant and diverse neighborhood and an educated workforce in Queens when announcing the selection. “So, why should the state be putting up $1.5 billion and counting to ‘lure’ Amazon to Long Island City? Why should there be any subsidies at all to get a company to come to one of the most desirable business locations in the country?”