When Amazon.com Inc. (NYSE: AMZN) announced last November that it would build a new HQ2 building in Queens, New York, and bring some 25,000 new jobs to the Long Island City, the reaction was decidedly mixed. Politicians generally welcomed the company even though city and state governments were planning to subsidize the new HQ2 to the tune of around $3 billion.
Other politicians, notably U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, celebrated when Amazon in February announced its intention to withdraw because too many state and local politicians “oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships” needed to go ahead.
Turns out that two-thirds of New York state voters like the idea of giving Amazon $3 billion to build a new HQ in New York according to a poll published Monday by Siena College. Approval cut across Democratic/Republican party lines, upstate and downstate, men and women, old and young, and black and white according to pollster Steven Greenberg who said:
Who do New Yorkers blame? Well, there’s certainly blame enough to go around. More people think that Amazon, Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, the State Senate, and local Queens activists were villains in this saga than they were heroes. However, voters say the biggest villain was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Only 12 percent call her hero, while 38 percent label her a villain. Amazon itself was seen as the biggest villain among Democrats, but Republicans and independents had Ocasio-Cortez as far and away the largest villain, followed by the local Queens activists.”
Another politician who had a lukewarm reaction to Amazon’s move into New York City was Mayor Bill De Blasio who did not think that the city needed to give Amazon (or needs to give any business) a break on city-level taxes. Yes, he told The Guardian, 25,000 new jobs would be “nice,” but there are already 4.5 million jobs in the city.
Adding another 0.67% to the job count didn’t strike current residents of Long Island City as a great idea either. Many residents did not believe the jobs would be available to them, that they would go to new residents imported by Amazon, and end up driving rents higher in the area. Other recent corporate arrivals like Ralph Lauren and JetBlue resulted in “very few, if any new jobs” for residents of Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing project in North America. Residents had no reason to believe that Amazon’s impact would be much different.
As the Siena College poll makes clear, however, a significant majority of the state’s residents of all demographic groups want Amazon to reconsider their decision to abandon plans for an HQ2 in Long Island City. As Greenberg put it, “Clearly, jobs outweigh the cost of government incentives in the minds of most voters.”