On Amazon nixing H2Q plans in NYC


  • “After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens” – Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth

Amazon’s decision to back out of establishing an “HQ2” in New York City seems like a story that very much speaks to a number of different trends in 2019: the growing backlash against huge corporations and gentrification, a populist movement that plays into Trump’s appeal on the right (at least in terms of some of the current president’s stated positions when he ran for office in 2016), and positions backed by Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and more recently the emerging liberal star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City.

Amazon’s move, after taking a lot of flak over the reported $3 billion in tax breaks that New York City offered (backed enthusiastically by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and others) seems like a massive PR blunder for the tech giant. Alternatively, Amazon could have doubled down on charitable donations and community partnerships in the city to show its goodwill toward its new long term “HQ” partner (which it has done to an extent with HQ1 in Seattle). My take is that Amazon isn’t all that concerned about a PR nightmare though.

That’s how much leverage Amazon has — or at least it thinks it has — over American consumers and the American economy.

This tweet by Judd Legum, referencing a Fortune story, puts the populist backlash against Amazon in context:

  • If you go into a convenience store and steal a pack of gum that’s a crime. If you run a company that turns an $11 billion profit and pay zero in corporate income tax that’s called “being strategic”

Jason Calacanis adds another perspective:

  • An amazing victory for @AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] here, protecting New Yorkers from working for one of the greatest companies in the history of industry, while simultaneously driving future companies from considering NYC as a home.

And meanwhile, Google is investing $1 billion in its Hudson campus and “doubling its workforce” in New York City, “adding another 7,000 New York-based staff members.”

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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