“I Hope They Learn” – Seattle Council Members Warn NY Over Amazon Impact
It seems the presence of the world’s largest listed company in your city is not as ‘awesome’ as CNBC’s six-month HQ2-seacrh series and Bezos’ PR would suggest.
As we noted previously, New York taxpayers will shell out $61,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs to be created over the next 15 years from Amazon’s new split-model HQ2 plan. This works out to nearly double the $32,000 in tax incentives that Virginia residents will shoulder for the same number of jobs, according to Bloomberg.
Additionally, while the New York regional subway, bus and commuter lines handle over 8 million people every day – the additional 25,000 Amazon workers planned for the company’s Long Island expansion will put a specific strain on a system with an already-crumbling infrastructure, reports Yahoo!.
And as if that was not enough, Bloomberg reports that two politicians from Amazon’s hometown of Seattle traveled across the country to New York to deliver a cautionary message about the company’s expansion in the city.
Members of the Seattle City Council, Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda, are urging elected officials in New York to pass legislation now that will address potential housing and transportation issues that will inevitably follow in the wake of Amazon’s decision to build a major new campus in Queens.
Amazon’s pitch to cities highlighted the company’s economic contribution to its hometown of Seattle. However, there is a growing backlash against Amazon in Seattle, where its turbocharged growth has exacerbated traffic, led to skyrocketing housing prices, and helped push homelessness to crisis levels.
Last year, the Seattle City Council was forced to reverse a tax on workers after a public rebuke from the e-commerce giant. The council had initially approved the tax of $275 per employee unanimously in an effort to combat rising homeless. Mosqueda was one of two council members who later opposed the repeal.
“This isn’t about being anti-growth or anti-corporation. It’s about corporate accountability and shared responsibility,” Mosqueda said in an interview with Bloomberg ahead of the event.
“These companies do well because of our workforce and infrastructure, and they’ll continue to do well if they invest in that infrastructure.”
Mosqueda said New York must act now with new taxes to generate revenue that will be needed for affordable housing. She also cautioned against letting philanthropic gestures pass as being adequate to address complex and costly problems of housing and transportation.
Ironically, it is not like the New York council members are unaware of the problems.
When the deal was announced, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, were quick to hail it as a huge money maker for the state and the city. Amazon is promising to bring 25,000 jobs to New York over 10 years and up to 40,000 in 15 years.
“This is a big moneymaker for us. Costs us nothing,” Cuomo said when the agreement was announced.
But, as Fox5NY reports, the council members, who have no vote on the project and no apparent path to block it, demanded to know why the city and New York state were offering Amazon up to $2.8 billion in tax breaks and grants to build the new headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.
“We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis,” raged New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat, as council members grilled Amazon executives about the company’s plan to build a secondary headquarters in New York during a contentious hearing Wednesday that was interrupted several times by jeering protesters.
“Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world’s richest company, valued at $1 trillion?”
But the last word goes to Seattle City Council member, Lisa Herbold, who said in an emailed statement ahead of the event.
“I hope they can learn from Seattle’s experiences and create a set of new expectations for corporate responsibility that can benefit the working poor who work for Amazon and other people priced out of housing in high cost cities everywhere.”
Still, who can argue with the stock market’s omniscience?
Amazon is involved “in a long-term listening and engagement process to better understand the community’s needs,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “We’re committed to being a great neighbor — and ensuring our new headquarters is a win for all New Yorkers.”