What will they do in place of Amazon?
I stand with the Democrats on stopping uncontrollable corporate growth.
It’s one of the cases where a small mob overrules the majority.
Perhaps Amazon will learn a lesson here. New York City is a unique place on this planet, so Amazon lost an opportunity. New York, too, lost here.
That’s just a taste of what a few CNN Opinion readers had to say about the Amazon’s February 14 announcement that Long Island City would no longer be one of the two sites for its HQ2 hubs on the East Coast.
From now on, no one will confuse the Queens neighborhood with Jeff Bezos’ Valentine. The LIC plan offer had been controversial since it was announced four months ago, with proponents and opposition activists alike raising their voices. Likewise, after Amazon withdrew the offer; reactions were swift, furious and remarkably lacking in consensus
CNN Opinion published an op-ed by CNN anchor John Avlon on Feb. 15 that took issue with Amazon’s cushy tax status but also deemed the decision a “a face plant, an epic fail.” That’s in stark contrast to the reaction of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who hailed Amazon’s retreat on Twitter. Everyone from New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio to presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren to film icon Cher shared their reactions on social media and in the press; former mayoral candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon offered an “Amen.”
We wanted to know what CNN Opinion readers were thinking about this critical decision, whose impact is still being discussed and resonating in cities across America (many of which put in their own bids for HQ2). Were you cheering or jeering? Did you see the pullout as an economic setback to the city or a blow struck on behalf of the little guy?
Your answer: all of the above – and more. Thank you to all the readers who weighed in. Here is a sampling of your responses. Some have been lightly edited for clarity and flow, and the views belong to the authors.
Amazon should have connected more with the community
I’m neither cheering nor jeering. My thoughts are: Amazon should have met more with those in the community. Discuss with the community their own thoughts on the company moving to New York City and their community. Find out from those who live in the community what their thoughts are on how they could be of service to the community not only by providing jobs, but by working with the city and state to provide affordable housing, transportation, day care and health care facilities to uplift the community as well via the incentives they are were receiving. These are actual supportive measures that would have probably help ease Amazon’s move into the community. I feel you have to become a supportive part of the community for the community to have placed TRUST in Amazon.
Barbara Wilson Brooks, New York, NY
An Amazon investor weighs in
As an investor in Amazon and a New Yorker I feel that Amazon is not known to be a great employer. I have a problem with that. Perhaps Amazon will learn a lesson here. New York City is a unique place on this planet, so Amazon lost an opportunity. New York, too, lost here. I do have a concern with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s friendliness to big business (which is fine by itself) along with his concurrent anti-union and anti-blue-collar stances (which is not good for New York). New York deserves a better politician.
Surajit Sen, Buffalo, NY
Seattle could have been an example
I think Amazon correctly assessed that the relationships with local politicians would always be hostile. I applaud them for wanting harmony. Could Amazon do more to protect and enhance the existing communities? Most definitely. Constant criticisms and hostility are not the way to make that happen. Did New York give away too much to get Amazon? Quite possibly. The business model of communities making big subsidies for business needs to change. Think sports arenas. This needs to end. The businesses get as much from the community as does the community from business. The economics need to be more equitable. Amazon benefited enormously from Seattle being a great community with a solid middle class. Unfortunately, the rapid influx of $150,000/yr. jobs (not middle class) has decimated the middle class in Seattle. That was not Amazon’s intent but it happened.
Open, honest and respectful conversations between Amazon (and other businesses) and local elected officials about how to do what is best for both the business and the community could lead to some real breakthroughs. The hostile New York local politicians were not respectful of Amazon. This is classic and also a huge mistake. They are right to want to protect the local communities. But ongoing hostility, disrespect and holding hostage are not a winning strategy. Genuinely working together to benefit both is a winning strategy. I think Amazon would have been willing. Unfortunately, some powerful local New York officials were not willing. And that is the tragedy.
Carol Thompson, Clinton, WA
Running Amazon off was counterintuitive
What will they do in place of Amazon? The $3 billion was not money that NYC has laying around. It was breaks for Amazon if they showed up. NYC is not better off so what really is the gain for running them off? Net sum zero. The cost of living is already through the roof. I am not convinced that this was in the best interests of the people of NYC. Running Amazon away in the name of poor people seems counterintuitive. They certainly are not going to see an extra benefit from jobs not manifesting there. I am sure Chicago would take whatever the inconvenience would be.
Renee Baker, Chicago, IL
This decision wasn’t simple, but it was symbolic
I am 100% against Amazon being “wined and dined” by cities across the USofA, so NYC refusing Amazon’s HQ is a win in my mind. Many studies have shown large tax breaks rarely benefit the cities providing them, and with so many city governments struggling financially I think refusing to basically give away money to near-monopolistic corporations like Amazon is the right thing. Calling this an “epic fail” for Dems just speaks volumes about the polarization of American politics and the reporting by the American media. As if only Democrats were against it, or only Democrats would lose (or win…) by refusing Amazon.
Like most decisions, this one isn’t simple but is symbolic. For me, when Amazon starts paying its workers a living wage, and at least a $15/hr. minimum wage to its entry-level workers then it will get more of my respect. (Note from editor: After the announcement of HQ2 and amid criticism of employee conditions, Amazon pledged in October 2018 that it would begin paying all its US workers $15/hr.) Currently, Amazon treats its warehouse workers like machines, and we all know how that just doesn’t work at all. The idea that corporations/private companies are going to put the best interests of citizens at heart when making decisions is nonsensical. Capitalism is about profits, not the well-being of people, so why do people keep insisting business would care? Amazon is quintessential capitalism, and in my mind, shows how capitalism isn’t a broken system (quite the opposite, actually), it’s the wrong system. So refusing to sell out to Amazon starts to chip away, however slightly, at the massive power of corporations. More work needs to be done, but this is a good start.
James Holverstott, Detroit, MI
Decision shows how costly an agenda can be
I fail to see how anyone can view the loss of 25,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue a win without having a better plan in place. Even with the $3 billion in primarily tax exemptions, the economic opportunities that were being presented to the city would have far exceeded that. Despite what some progressives think, polling showed that the people in the city were in favor of the deal. It just shows that these people are out of touch and are willing to play with people’s lives in the pursuit of an agenda.
Robert DelVecchio, Philadelphia, PA
It’s Amazon who loses, not New York
I stand with the Democrats on stopping uncontrollable corporate growth, and the higher rents for people that will follow. We don’t need more jobs. We need lower rents so we can live in the places we work in, and not spend our lives in commuting ridiculous distances. Why should Amazon be treated like a god? No! The US is turning into Tsarist Russia with its mighty oligarchs and its downtrodden poor. NY is much better off without Amazon. It is Amazon who lost, not NY and not Democrats. I support AOC and the Dems 100%. Buzz off Amazon! You pay people so little, they have to sleep in their cars as they cannot afford the rent. And now you want to raise rents even more? Good riddance!
Martine C., Santa Clara, CA
Many New Yorkers have been deprived of a chance at the American Dream
Unfortunately, the pie-in-the-sky, rigid ideology of short-sighted politicians and hatred for Amazon destroyed the hopes of thousands of lower- and middle-class New Yorkers. All these politicians who went out of their way to squash this deal are serving not the people of NY, but their own egos. Sure Amazon has issues, but over time they could have been worked out….And certainly the up-side of Amazon coming to NY far outweighs any downside. And as for the new hero of the left, AOC, she has some decent ideas but lacks the wisdom to implement them, seems to be an immature and rigid ideologue and needs to learn from the Buddhist precept of Skillful Means. Finally, I feel very bad, being a lower class American who worked in the IT field and raised my living standard through hard work in that profession, that many New Yorkers have been deprived of an opportunity to begin their of upward climb out of poverty and into the American dream.
William Sykes, Newark, NJ
Mob rule? Try fixing the institutions that can really make social change instead
It’s one of the cases where a small mob overrules the majority. All polls that I have seen talk about at least a nominal majority of voters supporting HQ2 in NYC. It’s also a failure for NY politicians ability to message their intent, as these tax breaks were available for most companies willing to invest in NY state. For the people of NYC, this is not really a victory; Amazon walked away and took thousands of jobs. Affordable housing is a problem but Amazon is not the enemy. Social inequity is not going to be solved by fighting companies. The jobs move elsewhere and another region gets richer. Chronic underfunding of education, lack of social support that holds back people is to blame. No one is talking about fixing all those things.
Srini V., Toronto
Cutthroat competition is a hard reality for cities
There can be no doubt that Amazon’s decision to not locate in New York City is an economic blow to the region. Whether or not it will be considered an “epic fail” is another matter entirely. However, the hard reality that most municipalities have to deal with is that luring economic development, and the revenues that follow, is a cutthroat competition which pits one city or region against another. Not too surprising given the fact that we live in a capitalist society.
Abstaining from the process won’t change the way we do business. There are already several cities celebrating the fact they are getting another shot at landing an Amazon campus and putting forth their own incentive package. Economic growth requires sensible management, as most governments are aware. Furthermore, said management now requires a plan to include groups that no longer feel that they benefit from that growth and to deal with the negative bias humans are prone to. Would this story have had a different ending if the current residents of New York City were shown how they would be protected from new wealth that they fear will price them out of the neighborhoods they now live in?
David Ulrich, Wichita, KS
Ocasio-Cortez and protesters caused this; make them fix it
I think they got what they asked for. You want big companies like this to come to your areas to create thousands of jobs. It’s the government’s job to try and attract companies like this. After all, once you get one of them, other may follow. Huge benefits to local wages, opportunities, and much more. Its all good. Incentives given often make all their money back on the added revenue and taxes gained from this kind of local improvements. So all the protesters? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? They caused this, give it back to them to fix. Her lack of experience in the real world is going to cause more damage than good with stunts like this.
Gary Krieger, Portland, OR
Both sides should have made everyone a shareholder – not for show but for real
It’s an epic fail for rational thinking at every level. Local pols should have anticipated the uproar and had community representatives in on every detail of the negotiations. Amazon could have also anticipated the infrastructure and tax forgiveness uproar (ever ride the subways or pay taxes there?) and started the negotiations with that. Stupidity and arrogance and apathy and delusion all played their parts. Include, include, include. Explain, explain, explain endlessly and all the time. Make everyone a shareholder of good ideas and negotiation. And NOT in front of cameras or online.
Ken Oxenrider, Lebanon, PA
I’ve seen what tech can do and New Yorkers are missing out
I feel bad for everyone in the NY tri-state area that this opportunity will pass us by. The San Francisco Bay area is the new economic leader of the world simply due to what tech has done in the last 10 years. NY just got a chance to compete and become a secondary center for tech. That was the real opportunity. Politicians blew it completely. Tech skills are very specialized and it’s great to have areas of concentration. This was our opportunity to create a great tech ecosystem.
Ahunawar Chhapgar, Jersey City, NJ
This is so short-sighted
People had this image in their mind of the city writing a check to Jeff Bezos the moment they broke ground in LIC, when in fact, the subsidies were going to be paid out over years and only as long as Amazon was meeting its job creation targets. Any employer and job creator is going to look at this and think hard and twice more before they commit to establishing an office or factory in NYC.
This decision says “we don’t want jobs in our community.” We will all suffer. You really do have to be living in the lap of luxury when you can afford to tell 25,000 jobs to go somewhere else. It’s the mark of utmost privilege that I’m sure most cities would love to have. We just walked away from $2.5 billion in salaries PER YEAR that could have been added to New York coffers to fund desperately needed fixes for New York City’s housing and transit authorities.
This is so short-sighted. Also, it’s pure hypocrisy and NIMBY-ism at its finest. Amazon just recorded their best year in sales. From us! The consumer! So the same people saying Amazon is killing local businesses and mom and pop retailers are the same people who shop on Amazon! Would an extra 25,000 people eating out, buying coffee from the local bodega in LIC not have helped local businesses at all? Of course this is all pure speculation now because we will never get to find out. I feel bad for all the young people in Queens, who might have been inspired to work really hard in school, go to college, knowing that the opportunity to work at such a cutting-edge company was right down the street. And of course, Amazon would have offered plenty of jobs for non-college educated people. They would have needed cafeteria workers, secretaries, janitors, local waste disposal companies, local caterers….the list goes on and on. This would have lifted up the entire region. When Amazon first announced they were moving to HQ2, a lot of my friends said “we don’t need their business.” But if this is how we treat massive job creators, we soon will.
Paula Fitzgerald, Brooklyn, NY
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Amazon could have hurt NYC’s identity and tourist dollars
I didn’t think the idea to move to NYC was a good one. For one, New York is the most densely-populated city in the nation. I’m originally from Brooklyn, but now live in New Jersey — the nation’s most densely-populated state. I mention this because we simply don’t have the infrastructure to support another huge business campus. The move to NYC would have generated more traffic, and also deterred people from visiting and commuting for work. It would eventually have shattered hundreds of small businesses, upon which NYC’s tourism thrives, detrimentally affecting tourism. I ultimately think the decision to cancel the move was a wise one.
Stephanie Casella, Morris County, NJ