How Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez and “Everyday New Yorkers” Pulled the Plug On Amazon HQ Deal

Three months ago, Amazon announced that they had picked two cities for their newest headquarters: Long Island City, New York, and Arlington, Virginia

Photo: Unsplash/@christianw

Photo: Unsplash/@christianw

Three months ago, Amazon announced that they had picked two cities for their newest headquarters: Long Island City, New York, and Arlington, Virginia. The corporation said the addition of these companies to these cities would generate thousands of jobs. In a blog post, Amazon announced that they would “receive incentives of about $1.5 billion based on job creation in Long Island City, and incentives of $573 million for Arlington.” While Arlington may benefit from the addition of this mega-company to its city, for New York it’s quite a different story. The Mayor of New York and Governor celebrated the announcement, but New Yorkers — particularly in Queens — were not so ecstatic.

For starters, the thousands of jobs Amazon would generate to Long Island City wouldn’t have been for Queens residents, but rather non-New Yorkers. Amazon said the average annual salary of its employees is $150,000, which doesn’t sound like a job for the working class residents. Building new infrastructure on a cityscape that can barely handle its current population would have been a nightmare. Ask any resident of Queens or Brooklyn how full the subway lines are, and they’ll tell you that Amazon would have made it worse.

For three months, local city officials including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Deputy Leader of the New York City Council Jimmy Van Bramer fought alongside New Yorkers to protest Amazon.

“Growing up we didn’t have much money,” Van Bramer tweeted on Feb. 1. “My stepfather was a janitor at JHS 10 in Astoria. Mom worked at supermarkets. Dad was a pressman. ALL were in Unions. How dare Amazon come here and declare war on workers?! I’m proud to help lead this fight. #UnionStrong.”

Amazon felt the wrath of New Yorkers and began getting discouraged.

“We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors — small business owners, educators, and community leaders,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to CNN earlier this month. “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.”

But New Yorkers didn’t let up. They protested, held demonstrations, rallied, and won. Yesterday, Amazon announced they were dropping plans to open its headquarters in Queens.

“We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” the company said, according to NBC News.

Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the announcement and said because of their constant fight to seek improvements to their community they prevailed.

“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” she tweeted.

Van Bramer chimed in by tweeting: “Defeating an anti-union corporation that mistreats workers and assists ICE in terrorizing immigrant communities is a victory. Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city & state forever.”

New York Sen. Michael Gianaris told NBC News that Amazon’s withdrawal shows that the company never showed in good faith how they were planning to help New York and were only interested in profiting.

“Today’s behavior by Amazon shows why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event,” Gianaris said, according to NBC News. “Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shake down governments to get its way.”

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