February 13, 2019 / 7:04 PM / 5 days ago

Cities shunned by Amazon revive hopes for HQ given New York opposition

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cities that were shunned in Amazon.com Inc’s search for a secondary corporate headquarters are revisiting their bids in case one of the actual winners, New York City, rejects the corporate giant due to opposition from local politicians.

Chicago, Miami and Newark are among the passed-over finalists that have expressed interest in another chance to become the home of an Amazon project that could bring 25,000 jobs. Nashville, Tennessee, which was awarded a 5,000-person center, also said it was open to taking on a bigger role should New York withdraw from consideration.

Newark, New Jersey, some 15 miles (24 km) to the west of New York City, is willing to share the headquarters in the event its larger neighbor would be satisfied with a scaled-down project, said Aisha Glover, chief executive of Newark Alliance, the group leading that city’s effort.

“We’re definitely interested in reactivating our bid,” Glover said, stressing the importance of keeping Amazon in the New York metropolitan area.

Amazon in November announced New York City and Arlington, Virginia, which borders Washington, D.C., would share the so-called HQ2 project, splitting some 50,000 jobs between the two places as the Seattle-based company looked to expand elsewhere.

But the New York project, to be based in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan, has run into opposition from local politicians who oppose the $2.8-billion in incentives promised to Amazon in a deal secretly negotiated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Among those leading the opposition is state Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who represents the waterfront district where Amazon wants to locate. He criticized offering huge tax credits to a company that made a net profit of $3 billion last quarter and whose chief executive, Jeff Bezos, is listed by Forbes as the richest man in the world.

“The dollars are pointed in the wrong direction. Amazon is trying to take, take, take. There’s no consideration of the devastation they would wreak on the surrounding community,” said Gianaris, raising concerns about the impact on public transportation, schools and low-income housing that are already under strain.

The state senate has nominated Gianaris to the Public Authorities Control Board, which could sink the project as it has other deals in the past. In 2005, the board rejected a plan to build an Olympic and American football stadium in Manhattan.

Among Gianaris’ allies is U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rookie Democratic congresswoman from a nearby district whose progressive politics have captured a large national following.

Amazon has the support of other politicians including Cuomo, who has yet to ratify Gianaris’ position on the control board.

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators gather to protest Amazon's new location workplace in Long Island City of the Queens borough of New York, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Amazon said it is not reaching out to any finalists.

“We appreciate hearing from locations we have worked with on HQ2 and other projects. We look forward to continuing the relationship as we make investment decisions in the future,” Amazon said Wednesday.

Cuomo’s office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

While the Amazon HQ does have its New York backers, the sustained opposition has led the company to reconsider other sites.

The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, cited two unnamed sources “familiar with the company’s thinking” to report that Amazon executives held internal talks to reassess New York and consider alternatives.

But other places may be just as unwelcoming. Nearly 50 left-leaning organizations from cities on Amazon's short shortlist published a letter saying they, too, opposed HQ2. ourhq2wishlist.org/dear-jeff

Still, Amazon received 238 proposals from across North America in a year-long bidding war, and Amazon named 20 finalists. Among the cities on the shortlist were Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Newark.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he has yet to contact Amazon but that “we welcome the opportunity to talk further” with Amazon should it consider abandoning New York.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office said in a statement that he “immediately called Amazon” after the Washington Post report “to make a full-throated pitch” for the Chicago bid.

Nashville would “evaluate the project and respond appropriately” if Amazon presented a new opportunity, Jeff Hite, the senior vice president for economic development at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

The Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce declined to comment.

Slideshow (4 Images)

New Jersey made one of the more aggressive bids, proposing up to $7 billion in potential tax credits. Glover, of the Newark Alliance, said she has reached out to the New York opponents to see if a shared headquarters would be more acceptable.

“If for some reason they want to pull out, either in whole or in part, Newark and New Jersey are ready, willing and able to accommodate them,” Glover said. “So we wanted to make sure that we were sending that message to Amazon in a very clear and direct way.”

(GRAPHIC: Unpacking Amazon.com and its Prime economy interactive - tmsnrt.rs/2QOHlGs)

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami, David Shepardson in Washington, Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco, Karen Pierog and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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