"It's over," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in an interview with WNYC on Friday. "And it's astounding, and it's disappointing and it's disrespectful to the people of New York."
The news caught many off guard. Amazon clearly did not want officials to know ahead of time. According to reports, the company was still in talks with officials as of Wednesday afternoon, with little sign that an about-face was about to happen. In a conversation with CNN Bishop Mitchell Taylor, co-chair of the New York HQ2 Community Advisory Committee, said that nothing seemed ordinary during meetings with Amazon liaison on Thursday morning, just hours before
"To get a call out of the blue saying" See ya, we're taking our ball, we're going home "- it's absolutely inappropriate," the mayor said of how he was informed. "I have never experienced anything like this."
When you consider the company's tense relationship with New York's leaders and activists, it's probably not a surprise that Amazon just wanted to be done with it all. Jodi Seth, Amazon's head of policy communications, painted and problematic image in an interview with NBC News . Some local officials refused to meet with the company at all, while others cited different reasons that made it hard for the company to win broad support, including Amazon's anti-union practices and $ 3 billion in taxpayer-subsidized incentives. Seth said Amazon had little interest in working in such a contentious environment on a long-term basis and has no plans to re-open these talks with New York City or State.
While it's fair on some level that Amazon felt stymied by this political climate, the company still seems petty at the end of all this. As a tech and retail titanium that is almost impossible to avoid in daily life, the company has come to expect a certain level of fealty from the people and organizations it deals with. It's used to walk into a room and getting what it wants. In this case, dealing with activists, vocal critics and pressure from key lawmakers meant Amazon was not going to have another typically easy time ̵
I have a hard time believing that Amazon could not have handled this better. Could it have managed the conversation better? Could it be more transparent in its dealings? Could it have tried to work more closely, more functionally with the lawmakers involved? Does this whole thing now feel like a huge waste of time?
Mayor de Blasio has not shied away from characterizing Amazon as petulant, and it honestly rings true for me too. See, Amazon has not just scrapped his plans to open a headquarters in Queens; it has decided against building a second campus to complement its forthcoming Virginia campus altogether. "We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time," Amazon's statement reads. "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 US and Canada."
Clearly, the idea of having another HQ2 campus to grow into except Virginia's was important to Amazon, but not enough enough to work towards a thoughtful way. The company has been around for over 20 years, but as the dust settles here, its rash action comes off at least a little unseemly.
And now that Amazon is giving up on New York City, residents are left to deal with aftermath – for better and worse. Despite the voiced opposition from some locals and lawmakers, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last year suggested that, in general, New York City voters supported the idea of Amazon moving to Long Island City. Some are now acutely aware that without Amazon, Long Island City will not be getting 25,000 new jobs – not to mention career training programs meant to help locals find work at Amazon and companies like it. Some local businesses, who have been banking on an influx of new customers, do not have that opportunity anymore. And more broadly, some have expressed concern that by driving Amazon away, New York has sent a terrible signal to the businesses of the world in search of opportunities to grow
Meanwhile, an impromptu celebration erupted in Queens' Jackson Heights neighborhood after Amazon made its announcement, with activists rejoicing in their victories. These New Yorkers, Amazon's planned move and its secretive NY government deals were bad, prompting them to spend weeks decrying the company's backroom tactics raising awareness of the gentrification that Amazon would bring with it
It's true that New York's pitch to bring Amazon to Long Island City happened with little support from the communities that would eventually host the company. It's not likely that Amazon would have found a way to please everyone in this camp, but it's telling that the company barely bothered to try.
At the end of it all, Amazon has somehow pulled off a surprisingly impressive feat. His dealings drew the ire of activists, and his plan to leave frustrated people hoping for economic opportunity – now, Amazon has managed to become a bad guy to just about everyone involved. If nothing else, let Amazon's choice to unceremoniously walk away from the table in New York stand as a warning to cities still clamoring for a slice of HQ2. Here's Looking At You, Newark, Miami, Rochester, Warren and Danbury