Not everyone is thrilled that Amazon has been offered more than $1 billion in benefits as incentive to open up a major center in Queens. Many of those in the area that’s affected by the satellite headquarters are concerned about the additional load on transportation, education, and infrastructure that will have to be funded by taxes. It seems contradictory at best to have implicitly agreed to pay for that infrastructure while also giving Amazon tax benefits.
In response, Amazon has issued a letter, printed as an advertisement that was printed in the New York Post and the New York Daily News (not the New York Times).
First, a summary of the situation. Second, a link to the letter. (By the way, my quirky sense of humor is amused that Amazon, an almost totally internet-reliant company, has reached out to New York City residents in newspaper ads.)
In a bid to tackle its opposition, Amazon released an open letter to New Yorkers on Saturday, listing the benefits of building its massive headquarters in Long Island City.
In the letter, which was printed as an advertisement in the New York Post and New York Daily News, the online retailer described itself as “your future neighbors at Amazon” and said the announcement of the headquarters was the start of “what we hope will be a long and mutually beneficial partnership between New Yorkers and Amazon.”
The letter runs down what it says are the “details of the investment,” such as 25,000 new jobs over 10 years; career training for locals; some $27 billion in additional tax revenue over the next 25 years, according to the government’s estimates; and, helping small businesses thrive.
The last benefit explains that more than half the items sold in the Amazon store are from small and medium-sized businesses and that its Web Services branch helps launch startups. Plus, thousands of new employees will patronize local businesses once the headquarters opens, they said.
Amazon signs off by promising to partner, listen, learn and work with New Yorkers going forward.
The Seattle-based tech giant announced in November that it cut a deal with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to bring its $2.5 billion, 4 million-square-foot campus to Long Island City, but it was quickly met with protests from locals.
Depending on how many jobs it creates, the company is set to receive at least $2.8 billion in incentives from the state and city, including a Relocation and Employment Assistance Program. If Amazon surpasses its goal of 25,000 workers in Long Island City, it could receive additional state tax breaks.
The retailer could also apply for other tax incentives, including the city’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, which offers annual tax breaks of $3,000 per job, potentially worth $900 million over 12 years for Amazon.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, two Queens lawmakers who represent Long Island City, say the deal was made without the consent of the community.
While Long Island City was chosen, in part, because of its access to eight subway lines, 13 bus lines, Citi Bike service and an NYC Ferry landing as well as its proximity to Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, locals are concerned about additional stress on the subway system, which is already in need of infrastructure improvements.
Despite that, there are some officials who welcome the headquarters — Queens Borough President Melinda Katz released a statement saying that “With its organic growth, wealth of local talent and inherent global assets to foster innovation, Queens offers a dynamic mixed-use community where workers can live, ideas can synergize, and businesses can flourish.”
Amazon may begin construction within a year, though its plans will need state and community review.
Here’s the letter itself:
Happy New Year from your future neighbors at Amazon. The announcement of our new headquarters in Long Island City was the beginning of what we hope will be a long and mutually beneficial partnership between New Yorkers and Amazon.
We wanted to make sure you knew some of the details of the investment we are planning in Long Island City and for its residents:
25,000 new jobs over 10 years. We’ll hire people with all different levels of education, including New Yorkers from across the five boroughs, for jobs in software engineering, product management, program management, operations, sales, and marketing.
Career training for local residents. We’ll create programs focused on technology and relevant training that will help New Yorkers be better equipped for Amazon and other potential employment opportunities — with a focus on underrepresented residents (including internships and work-based learning opportunities).
Tens of thousands of indirect jobs in construction, building services, and hospitality. We’re committed to hiring people who live here for jobs that range from construction to food service to human resources to retail.
Over $27 billion in state and local tax revenue. These new tax revenues can be used to help the neighborhood, improve subways and buses, and build more affordable housing. The way our agreement with New York works, Amazon is eligible for financial incentives only after we make these significant investments and create the jobs mentioned above.
Supporting education. Amazon always wants to partner with communities to improve people’s lives and futures. In Long Island City, we will donate real estate for a brand-new public school for 600 students. We will extend Amazon Future Engineer, a comprehensive childhood-to-career program, to NYC to inspire, educate, and empower underrepresented minority youth to build careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and computer science.
Helping small businesses thrive. More than half of the items sold in the Amazon store are from small and medium-sized businesses, and Amazon Web Services is helping hundreds of thousands of startups launch and scale their businesses quickly and with minimal cost. In addition, the 25,000 new Amazon employees working in Long Island City will frequent local restaurants, pharmacies, clothing stores and other small businesses, helping them grow and hire.
As we move forward, we pledge to be your partner, and to listen, learn, and work together. As Long Island City thrives, so will our employees, customers, and our partnership with New York.
Happy New Year from all of us to all of you.