February 12, 2019

Please, Say it Ain't So!

If you're a New Yorker like me, these can be crazy times.
  • Our Sonofa Gov has his lowest favorability rating I think since he took office, even though we've now got a trifecta state government (single party control of the whole shebang) and the agenda is moving forward at a pace described by one member of the media as 'drinking from a firehose'; 
  • Our senior senator suffers as well from poor ratings;
  • Our our junior senator announced her candidacy for president and, in doing so, branded herself a liar; 
  • We're doing our taxes and feeling the pain of the Christmas present the president and the Republicans gave us back in 2017; and
  • We're maybe going to blow the Amazon deal. 
That's right - we're maybe going to blow the Amazon deal, which will bring one of the company's new headquarters locations to Long Island City (the other is being built in Arlington VA).

What does this Amazon HQ2 deal mean for the two areas?  Here's a snippet from CNN back in December. that touches on what the deal means, and what the selected cities need to be working on - now.
The to-do list for both locations includes making sure there's enough housing for new hires, improving the local transportation and infrastructure and adding nearby schools. The company says it will invest $2.5B in each place. Both will have more than 25,000 workers over time, and hiring starts next year. 
And, as that article noted, "there's still plenty of work ahead for New York and Northern Virginia."

So, Virginia is moving forward full steam ahead but what's happening in New York?

Well, take a look at these headlines:
So, what's going on in LIC/NYC? Well, folks who initially supported the plan are now upset with it, according to the WaPo article, in part because it doesn't require approval from the City Council. But there's also this:
Resistance to Amazon in New York is well organized and energetic, based in unions and community groups. Canvassers have gone door-to-door to warn people in Queens of looming rent hikes and displacement, much as Seattle has experienced during the company's explosive growth there. 
And,
Critics portray the New York struggle as a national test for populist forced confronting big companies' influence, and for the contest within the Democratic Party between its grass-roots and business-friendly wings. 
"We are dealing with an era of unprecedented corporate power in this country," (State Senate deputy majority leader Michael) Gianaris said. "This  Amazon deal represents a tipping point that is going to set the stage for what this country is going to be going forward." 
Among those critics? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district orders LIC.  From the CNN article linked above, AOC "celebrated the news that Amazon may be reconsidering the whole deal."
I think it's really encouraging to show that government and all of us primarily have a responsibility to the communities that we directly impact. When we don't consult with those communities, we absolutely need to reconsider those deals and that process. 
The anti-deal folks are getting help, it seems, from a far-away place. From the MyNorthwest article linked above,
It seems as though word about Seattle's experience with Amazon made it to New York, and while many Seattleites are panicking about the winter storm, New Yorkers are doing the same over the potential of the giant online retailer.
New York locals probably heard as much (note: about housing prices in Seattle skyrocketing between 2010 -2017) and more recently when council members Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda... went to New York to speak to local activist groups about Seattle's experience.
Gianaris has been nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board - which can kill the project if issues don't get ironed out - or if people honestly don't care about the opportunity this presents. The Sonofa Gov can reject his appointment; no word yet on whether that's going to happen. Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio are firmly committed to the project and I'm sure will bring the full weight of their influence to make sure this doesn't get screwed up.

Regular readers know I'm not the biggest fan of economic development incentives, because our experience often has been that the state and municipalities tend to get less - sometimes much less - than they are promised with projects, and corporations tend to get much more in return than they give for the privilege of having our tax dollars. (You can check some of my old posts on this topic here.)

But this?

This is a game-changing opportunity for the state of New York, and for the folks in the immediate Amazon area, the rest of NYC and the whole tri-state area, honestly, if it is managed carefully and comes to fruition.

In return for their investment of $2.5B in LIC, the company will get $3B in incentives. And NY will get - in addition to the aforementioned high-paying jobs - job training programs and countless construction and infrastructure jobs plus the economic benefits of those jobs for businesses small and large such as day care and teachers and baristas and Uber drivers and doctors and newsstand owners and food trucks and entrepreneurs and hash slingers and street performers and artists and dog walkers and reporters and nail salons and lawyers and lobbyists and oh -- don't forget all of those people and businesses paying taxes and fees to both state and municipal entities.

For its part, Amazon is moving ahead... for now. An Amazon spokesperson told CNN (per the article above)
We're focused on engaging with our new neighbors - small business owners, educators, and community leaders. 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. 
And, the Long Island City Partnership, a local economic development group, is in regular contact with the company according to the organization's president Elizabeth Lusskin.
We talk with folks from Amazon all the time. As far as they say to us, everything is great, they're excited about New York, they're working hard to get to know the community and move things along.  
One can only hope. 

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