Feb. 8, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Amazon is reconsidering its plan to locate one of its new headquarters in Long Island City due to the heavy opposition the project has faced locally, especially by politicians, according to a report published today by the Washington Post.
The paper cited “two people familiar with the company’s thinking,” in its report, and said Amazon executives have recently had internal discussions to reassess its choice to locate to New York City and explore alternatives.
“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,” one of the sources told the Post.
Amazon, in its November HQ2 announcement, had decided to split its planned second headquarters between two locations—one in Long Island City and the other in Virginia—and open an operations center in Nashville.
The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, noted that the tech giant has not leased or purchased office space for the project in New York City, thus making it easy for the company to pull out.
The company is anticipated to begin building out its campus at Anable Basin in 2020 after receiving state approvals, and plans to occupy 1 million square feet of office space at One Court Square in 2019 in the interim.
Savanna, which owns the 53-story building once anchored by Citi, confirmed on the day of the November HQ2 announcement that Amazon had entered into a letter of intent to lease the office space.
It is unclear if the letter of intent is binding. Savanna declined to comment on the nature of the agreement.
For its Anable Basin campus, Amazon signed a memorandum of understanding with the state and city. Administration and Amazon officials, however, have repeatedly spoken to the company’s commitment in building out the project and bringing 25,000 jobs to the area, especially in the first two City Council oversight hearings on the plan.
But vocal opposition to the deal has remained steady, starting even days before the official HQ2 announcement, and forcing Amazon to launch its own campaign to bolster public support for the project.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, who represents the area where Amazon is locating its headquarters to, has emerged as one of the central critics of the plan. Just days ago, Gianaris was picked to serve on the Public Authorities Control Board, a state body that will review the Amazon project. Gianaris, with a single veto vote, could topple the plan as it stands.
His appointment, however, must be approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has strongly advocated for the project and the benefits it would bring to the state.
The Washington Post added that no specific plans to drop the HQ2 project in New York have been made, and that the company may be threatening to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials.
In a statement, an Amazon spokeswoman said, “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors—small business owners, educators, and community leaders.”
She added: “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.”
The Post’s report comes after the release of an Amazon-funded poll that found, like the Quinnipiac University poll two months before it, strong support citywide, and especially in Queens, for the project.
Cuomo, in an unrelated press conference today, spoke to the Washington Post’s story.
“We have to make Amazon a reality,” he said, according to CNBC, adding, ”For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice. And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York state to explain it to.”
In a follow-up article, the New York Times cited two people “with direct knowledge of the company’s thinking” who said the Washington Post story had gone too far and that Amazon was not planning on dropping its plans.