Amazon rethinks NYC campus

The Associated Press

State Assemblyman Ron Kim, center, speaks at a rally opposing New York’s deal with Amazon on the steps of New York’s City Hall on Dec. 12, 2018.

The Washington is reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City, according to two people familiar with the company’s thinking, following a wave of political and community opposition.

Hailed as an economic triumph when it was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the project now faces withering criticism from some elected officials and advocacy groups appalled at the prospect of giving giant subsidies to the world’s most valuable company, led by its richest man. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

In the past two weeks, the state Senate nominated an outspoken Amazon critic to a state board where he could potentially veto the deal, and City Council members for the second time aggressively challenged company executives at a hearing where activists booed and unfurled anti-Amazon banners. Key officials, including freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district borders the proposed Amazon site, have railed against the project.

No specific plans to abandon New York have been made. And it is possible that Amazon would try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials.

But company executives have had internal discussions recently to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the company’s perspective.

The company has not leased or purchased office space for the project in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, making it easy to abandon its commitment.

Unlike in Virginia, where elected leaders quickly passed an incentive package for a separate headquarters campus, and Tennessee, which has embraced plans for a smaller facility, final approval from New York state is not expected until 2020.

“The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” said one person familiar with the company’s thinking.

Asked to comment on the possibility that the New York deal might founder, Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said: “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors ... Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”

Amazon has hired a lobbying firm and a public relations firm in New York and recently advertised for a “senior community affairs manager” to “focus on developing a positive partnership with local stakeholders, community groups and nonprofits.”

At the same time, the two people said company executives may be reaching an inflection point as they prepare for a third City Council hearing and a session of the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, which typically would have to okay the project.

“I think now is the time for Amazon to make a decision because it has to start hiring,” said one person. “At some point, the project starts to fall behind.”

New York state and city officials have played down the chances that the deal will fall through. They point to opinion polls showing strong public support for the project and say Cuomo and de Blasio will fight hard for it.

But officials are furious at the nomination of Sen. Michael N. Gianaris (D-Queens), who is deputy majority leader of the Senate and a strong opponent of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, where he could effectively kill the project.

Cuomo, who has not said whether he will accept Gianaris’ nomination, called the Senate action “governmental malpractice.”Speech

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