NY Officials, Protesters Question Giving $3B In Taxpayer Dollars To Amazon, World’s Richest Company Valued At $1T

NY Officials, Protesters Question Giving $3B In Taxpayer Dollars To Amazon, World’s Richest Company Valued At $1T

The upcoming construction of Amazon’s new headquarters in New York City has fired up a debate on many sides. Proponents cite the 25,000 jobs the tech giant has promised. Others are worried not only about gentrification in neighboring communities but about the sweetheart deal Amazon got from New York City at the expense of taxpayers.

And at a recent meeting between Amazon and city officials, the arguments got heated.

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“You’re worth $1 trillion,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, according to Geekwire. “Why do you need our $3 billion when we have crumbling subways, crumbling public housing, people without healthcare, public schools that are overcrowded?”

All told, incentives from New York City and New York state could reach $3 billion.

Representing Amazon at the public meeting were Amazon public policy and economic development executives Brian Huseman and Holly Sears Sullivan. “We want to give back to the community and we want our employees to become a part of the fabric of our new Long Island City neighborhood,” Huseman said.

Residents of the Queensbridge Houses walk in the neighborhood, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in New York. Some of those who live in the public housing complex in Long Island City are cynical whether any of the thousands of jobs that are being touted by Amazon would come to them. Others are hopeful that they’ll benefit, too. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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The new location will be in a Long Island City of Queens, New York.

Some feel it is a good deal for the city. Job creation and community benefits are major pluses, said New York City Economic Development Corporation CEO James Patchett.

Still many were not convinced. “I recommend the panel increase the fiber in your diet to help out with some of the stuff that I’ve heard here today,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams. Not only did the council members grill Amazon execs about the new site but they questioned them on everything from Amazon’s facial recognition technology to its head-tax battle in Seattle, Geekwire reported.

“We got played,” Johnson said. “Three billion dollars we’re giving away and we’re avoiding the public review process and giving away public land. I don’t look at it as a competition. They were able to pit city after city against each other to see who would give them the best deal in corporate welfare to a trillion dollar company.”

Why does Johnson feel the city got the short end of the stick? The numbers all seem to favor Amazon, which got land and tax breaks and a grant — much of it negotiated out of public view.

The three largest incentives Amazon is getting from New York are available to any company that meets the requirements, The Gotham Gazette reported. These include the Excelsior Jobs Credit Tax Program, the Relocation and Expansion Assistance Program (REAP) and the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program(ICAP). The latter two tax breaks are incentives established by the state government that affect the city tax rolls, while the former program affects state tax rolls.

On top of this, Amazon will receive a cash grant from the state called an Empire State Development Capital Grant, which could be worth $505 million. The grant is supposed to help pay for some of the costs from building the new corporate campus. New York State will be in charge of the land, which makes the property tax-exempt. Amazon will make payments in lieu of taxes that the city has said will be equal to the property tax bill the company would pay on the land otherwise. Half of the money from the PILOT will go to the city’s general fund, and half of it will go towards infrastructure improvements around Long Island City, The Gotham Gazette reported.

Like it or not, New Yorkers will have to concede that Amazon HQ2 is coming. Besides NYC, Amazon announced another location in the Washington, D.C. area.

Even New York City citizens are split on the deal. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed 57 percent of registered New York City voters approve of the deal.