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NYC Reveals Amazon HQ Pitch, De Blasio Says Amazon Hurts NYC Businesses

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday, September 23, 2017.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office

The deadline is finally here for cities across the country to submit bids—and empty gestures, and subsidy promises, and dignity—to become the home of Amazon's second headquarters. On Wednesday evening, NYC officials shared details of the city's proposal to land the e-commerce giant. Later that night, buildings and personal data harvesters throughout New York lit up in "Amazon Orange" as a tribute to the company's official corporate color. And on Thursday morning, hours after the orange had bled out into a crisp October dawn, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that Amazon is destroying communities. That, my friend, is called closing.

"Something different is happening now that is very destructive to communities," the mayor mused during an early morning town hall meeting in Brooklyn, according to Politico. "A lot of people are turning to Amazon and other online options."

Not an hour earlier, the city's Economic Development Corporation submitted an official proposal touting New York's many qualities that make it worthy of Amazon's 8 million square-foot tentacle.

Highlighting our world class tech talent and proximity to mass transit, the proposal mentions four districts that meet the "essential criteria" for HQ2: Midtown West, Long Island City, the Financial District, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle (which includes DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and Downtown Brooklyn). According to the Times, the corporation would also have access to Governors Island—a public space that is not currently open to the public year-round—as part of their "innovation center."

"The case for New York City is simple: we are the global capital of commerce, culture and innovation," the mayor wrote in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "No city has a greater diversity of talent, of industries, and of collisions that fuel great ideas and companies."

While the city is not offering any specific subsidies to Amazon, the state's top economic official has reportedly crafted an incentive package, likely to include major tax breaks, that would be made available to Amazon should they choose any of the New York proposals (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the greater Albany area have also submit bids). A spokesperson for Empire State Development—the quasi-public organizations through which Governor Cuomo dispenses taxpayer money—declined to share details about the incentive package, and did not respond to a question about when, if ever, those figures would be made available to the public.

As it stands, New York leads the country in overall spending on these megadeals—defined as corporate incentive packages that total more than $75 million. Among those recent megadeals, New York has awarded packages to Goldman Sachs (estimated subsidy value: $425 million), mall developer Pyramid Companies ($600 million) and aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Corporation (valued at an estimated $5.6 billion).

"It's a transfer of wealth to the corporations—that's the only objectively true thing you can say about it," Greg LeRoy, the executive director of Good Jobs First, told us last month.

Other critics of the proposal include NY Communities For Change, Make the Road New York, and Showing Up for Racial Justice, whose members worry that both the mayor and the governor have rolled out the red carpet for a corporate behemoth whose relocation would do little to help the average New Yorker. At a protest outside City Hall earlier this week, the diverse coalition of Amazon-skeptics waved signs that read: "No Tax Breaks for Jeff Bezos" and "Amazon is Bad for our Communities."

The mayor—who once fought against anti-union, local-business-killing corporations, and apparently still has some reservations about Amazon's overall impact—has not let any of this get in the way of a good mega-proposal.

"Companies don't just come to New York," the mayor concluded in his letter to Bezos. "They become part of New York, interconnected with our civic life, our institutions and our broader economy. We want Amazon to be part of the New York story."

Amazon will announce its chosen destination some time in the next year. A mayoral spokesperson did not immediately respond to our questions or request for comment.

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