Amazon abruptly changed course on Thursday, axing its planned headquarters project in New York in the face of ongoing backlash. The change comes after politicians and others objected to nearly $3 billion in tax incentives promised by the Seattle-based technology company. The expansion was expected to bring 25,000 jobs to the city.
“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York,” a blog post from company representatives stated. The post added that Amazon already has 5,000 employees in the city, with plans to increase that number. “We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process.”
Gratitude aside, the pivot is a serious blow to the governor and mayor. Both lobbied intensely to land the project. The Seattle tech giant had planned to spend $2.5 billion building its new offices.
Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining that the project was an extravagant giveaway to one of the world’s biggest companies and that it wouldn’t provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.
“This announcement marks a landmark victory for our communities and shows the power of the people, even when taking on the world’s richest man,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of the anti-poverty group Make the Road New York, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Axt said the Amazon was going to get “taxpayer giveaways” so that it could “force its empire-building on our neighborhoods.”
Amazon said it does not plan to look for another headquarters location at this time and will continue with its plans to build new offices in Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee. The Arlington location is expected to be the same size as the New York one, with 25,000 employees; the Nashville office is expected to be smaller with 5,000. “And we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” Amazon announced in the blog post.
The Seattle Times reports that Amazon will end its growth in Seattle in coming years after its offices under construction open up. The 25,000 jobs intended for New York will be spread across its various North American tech hubs outside Seattle, the company told the newspaper.
A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.
UPDATE, 3:25 p.m.: All Things Considered host Ed Ronco talked to Teresa Mosqueda, a Seattle City Council member, about the news.
"From coast to coast, communities, organizations, unions have come together to make sure that their values as cities are reflected in final policymaking," she said. "What we saw from New York was that they wanted to make sure that there was investment in infrastructure and housing, and that local residents got access to good living-wage jobs. Those are things that should be reflected in any final decision. And I think it's important for the community voice to come through, and I think it's unfortunate that Amazon walked away."
Listen to their extended conversation below.
UPDATE, 4:55 p.m.: Ronco spoke with state Sen. Mark Mullet, a Democrat from Issaquah who represents District 5. Listen to their full conversation below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.