"We just beat the richest man in the world."
February 15, 2019 8:02 AM   Subscribe

After months of public outcry and demands for transparency, Amazon has cancelled its plans to build a corporate campus in Queens. Activists and community groups who swore they would crush the deal are elated; real estate brokers, not so much.
posted by showbiz_liz (190 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love you alive city...I will show you with my money.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:16 AM on February 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Oh my heck! Who else feels sorry for NYC real estate developers? Yeah, I didn't think so...
posted by Oyéah at 8:18 AM on February 15, 2019 [28 favorites]


In other words, despite the flurry of activity in the home buying market, Amazon had not yet dramatically changed the rental market, Miller said. Amazon’s change of heart will likely push rents down further, representing a win for renters in search of deals. In January, the median monthly rental price with concession was $2,694, according to Miller’s report.
In an area where $2,694/mo is a deal it seems like not having the increased pressure on real-estate from amazon moving in may be a good thing.
posted by sp160n at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2019 [41 favorites]


Organize.

Meanwhile, Amazon has not stopped hiring in New York, it appears. The only thing that may have been canceled is their strong-arm rip off of taxpayers.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:22 AM on February 15, 2019 [21 favorites]


a bad, fairly incomprehensible editorial from the NYT that tries to have it both/all ways but ends up just sounding fairly ridiculous and haughty about scolding people for not wanting a bad thing badly enough to negotiate it into being a slightly less bad thing:
But in grandstanding, they missed an opportunity to try to get the company to help address housing and infrastructure problems that the development, for all its benefits, would exacerbate. Perhaps they thought the city’s pool of skilled workers and many other attractions made it so irresistible that there was no need to negotiate.
ah yes: if only they had asked Amazon to pay for a bunch of stuff in exchange for their gross tax incentives. that's definitely how this works
posted by Kybard at 8:25 AM on February 15, 2019 [18 favorites]


In related news, Amazon is trying to influence Philadelphia city policy on cashless stores.

FUCK YOU AMAZON.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Real Estate developers? The city lost a chance to add 25,000 decent paying jobs. If AOC is fighting for the working person, she blew this. This is such a negative for NYC. Why would a company want to move there now? The attempt at the shakedown shows that it is not a place that favors business. High tax state, etc. 80% of the people in Queens supported the Amazon deal yet the politicians fought it because they were not consulted and did not have a chance to shake AMZN down for their own agenda.

The tax payers would have been no worse off. They are not generating any revenues now from AMZN at those sites. In exchange for $3 billion in reduced taxes and other benefits, NYS and NYC would have pulled in a combined estimate of $30 billion over 10 years or a net $27 billion. If you even cut that estimate in half, that is $13 billion. That pays for a lot of education. Look at the adjacent jobs it would have created. The pizza guy down the street, the dry cleaners, the mom and pop grocery, etc. They would have all had an increase in business.

Now, Cuomo and DeBlaz have shown they cannot deliver.

I think this fight against AMZN was misguided.
posted by AugustWest at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


Thing is, most local pols who opposed the original deal weren't even totally opposed - they just wanted to be involved in hammering out the deal, rather than having a deal sprung on them by the governor and mayor. But Amazon was not interested in renegotiating.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2019 [21 favorites]


Why Amazon Bailed on Its New York Headquarters -- useful piece from the NY Mag Intelligencer. Takeaway: 1. Amazon's still coming, just not to Queens; 2. Someone else will eventually be coming to Queens, and they too will be subsidized.
posted by neroli at 8:31 AM on February 15, 2019


The city lost a chance to add 25,000 decent paying jobs.

For whom? I doubt Amazon was gonna do all their hiring locally.

And aside from that, why were we paying them to come here? They have more money than NYC does!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:31 AM on February 15, 2019 [80 favorites]


a friend of mine in NYC said it best, I think "Ha fucking ha"
posted by supermedusa at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2019 [18 favorites]



The tax payers would have been no worse off. They are not generating any revenues now from AMZN at those sites. In exchange for $3 billion in reduced taxes and other benefits, NYS and NYC would have pulled in a combined estimate of $30 billion over 10 years or a net $27 billion. If you even cut that estimate in half, that is $13 billion. That pays for a lot of education. Look at the adjacent jobs it would have created. The pizza guy down the street, the dry cleaners, the mom and pop grocery, etc. They would have all had an increase in business.


Yes, we've seen this sort of rhetoric before - with the pro sports stadium grift, with Wal-Mart coming into town, with the Foxconn deal in Wisconsin. Turns out that it never really happens. But the tax abatements? Those are all too real.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2019 [177 favorites]


The city lost a chance to add 25,000 decent paying jobs.

No it didn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on February 15, 2019 [119 favorites]


Pro sports stadiums? That is a whole different issue because for those there is a payment of money not just a reduction in taxes. I know nothing about Foxconn in Wisc, but this is hurting the little person, the adjacent jobs and the folks AMZN would have hired. 25,000 jobs. So some of them would have moved here from elsewhere? People move to NY all the time for jobs. Then they spend their salary buying food, drinks and whatnot in the city. It is a good thing for the economy. This is AMZN standing up to a political shakedown. The politicians are stomping their feet because they could not get their usual kickback scheme. Donate to my non-profit so my family can take big salaries.

NYers are the losers here.
posted by AugustWest at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


If AOC is fighting for the working person, she blew this.

Ocasio-Cortez via Twitter:

Yeah I’m laughing @ this. Amazon was not coming to my Congressional district, had no concentrated outreach to us that I’m aware of, yet w/ no effort I defeated the richest man in the world? Doesn’t add up. Story that’s not being told: the local community organized to reject it.

RE: the mythical 25,000 jobs:

Amazon touting “jobs” (has anyone fact-checked where this 25k number even came from? How many were promised to be local hires?) ...but they refused to even consider hiring union when we insisted labor be part of the conversation. Union jobs are a key ladder to the middle class.

Again, organize.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2019 [110 favorites]


the 25k jobs figure was pulled wholly from amazon PR's ass and had no actual place in reality
posted by poffin boffin at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2019 [79 favorites]


The city lost a chance to add 25,000 decent paying jobs.

No it didn't.


How do you figure?
posted by AugustWest at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2019


If AOC is fighting for the working person, she blew this.

Median salary for developers at HQ2 was rumored to be north of $175K. If you're pulling that kind of scratch, you're probably not in the demographic AOC is most concerned with.
posted by Mayor West at 8:43 AM on February 15, 2019 [20 favorites]


How do you figure?

Firstly, as my esteemed colleagues above have pointed out, this figure was entirely fabricated by Amazon and there's no proof that a) there would have been 25,000 jobs in the first place, and b) that they would have hired entirely locally as opposed to importing people from their main office.

Secondly, Amazon is not the only business in New York City by a long shot.

Thirdly, New York City did not kick Amazon out. Amazon got asked some hard questions, and instead of answering them, decided to say "fine, I'm taking my ball and going home". I'm certain that other businesses are considering stepping up to take their place if there's the potential for a tax break.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2019 [109 favorites]


I am guessing it's because the grift machine just didn't have enough time to spin up. Alphabet's move on waterfront Toronto took a much smarter, slower, more subtle approach and I'm not sure anything can stop it now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Related:

Amazon made an $11.2bn profit in 2018 – and its federal tax bill is $0
Company is not paying a single cent in taxes for the second year in a row, due to various unspecified ‘tax credits’ and executive stock options
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2019 [89 favorites]


Meanwhile, Amazon has not stopped hiring in New York, it appears. The only thing that may have been canceled is their strong-arm rip off of taxpayers.

It's not like Amazon simply isn't going to be in one of the financial capitals of the world. There are going to be Amazon people and offices in New York City. There simply have to be.

The only "loss" here was of the billions in kickbacks directly to Amazon's coffers. None of the jobs they were going to create were going to benefit New York City or New York state or the Eastern seaboard any more than they would have if this "headquarters" wasn't going to be there. Don't believe me? Where is AHQ2 going to be, then? Have they announced their second choice to open this fabulous new facility of the future that will employ thousands of people who would otherwise have been unemployed? Or did they just abandon the pretense entirely because it became obvious that no one else would be dumb enough to hand them billions of dollars for nothing?
posted by Etrigan at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2019 [29 favorites]


Thing is, most local pols who opposed the original deal weren't even totally opposed - they just wanted to be involved in hammering out the deal,

The scum wanted their palms greased like normal but this time they got jack shit.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


How do you figure?

Because I don't take Amazon PR at face value. We've seen what happens with these deals - the first order (that is, Amazon's hiring) and second order (all the additional support of community businesses) effects never are at the scale that gets proposed. Not to mention all of the negative impact, like gentrification - which in a city that is already struggling with affordable housing is massive.

This deal was shit for the city - which is why there was such opposition when it was announced.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2019 [17 favorites]


How do you figure?

How do you figure?

Your argument thus far has been, "Amazon said they'd do these great things, with no proof or commitment, and thus should be granted billions of dollars!". If you're so focused on numbers, let's start with you citing yours.
posted by tocts at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2019 [68 favorites]


How do you figure?

Those jobs were heavily subsidized by New York. They don't need Amazon to throw 48k / year at people if that's what they really want to do. story.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


Considering the whole scheme was intended to transfer billions of dollars from NYC taxpayers to Amazon, it's astounding and disgusting to see people talking like it's the anti-HQ2 politicians who are on the take.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:49 AM on February 15, 2019 [54 favorites]


Amazon promised!

Corporations promise a lot of things. Ask Wisconsin about that amazing Foxconn deal they struck.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


As a Queens resident who was really sweating this deal, I can only say that I am elated. Same goes for every other Queens resident (and some formerly-of-Queens-but-still-in-NYCers) I've spoken to. Big thanks to all the activists, protestors, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins for doing what was necessary.

>"People move to NY all the time for jobs. Then they spend their salary buying food, drinks and whatnot in the city."
Yeah, from Starbucks, Liquiteria, and other chains that, even if they're not yet known for actually breaking unions and treating employees like garbage (which is moot because Amazon is already the well-documented king of that), gentrify the surroundings by paying crazy rents and by charging crazy prices for their food. For an example, take a look at all the empty storefronts on 5th Ave in Manhattan to see landlords holding out for the next global brand to pay whatever they ask in rent per month.

It's breathtaking to accuse opposed politicians of corruption when Amazon, Cuomo, and DeBlasio deliberately circumvented all city approval processes to ram this deal down the throats of new yorkers.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 8:54 AM on February 15, 2019 [52 favorites]


As Stephen Colbert tweeted: "I'll give you this Amazon: Telling people you're going to Queens and then bailing is one thing New Yorkers can relate to."
posted by slkinsey at 9:01 AM on February 15, 2019 [78 favorites]


Your argument thus far has been, "Amazon said they'd do these great things, with no proof or commitment, and thus should be granted billions of dollars!"

FYI Cities sign contracts granting the rules that companies must follow to get their payouts, and if the city lawyers are not hacks (probably not in Queens, possibly in middle America), then that is the factor which guarantees the number of jobs and that Amazon meets the requirements of the tax deferrments. It's not just smoke and mirrors, or if you think it is, then you have as much respect for your local city government as your average Republican does.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Here's what confused me.

Cuomo ramming a shit deal through, yeah ok. That makes sense.

De Blasio, though? Why was De Blasio trying to make this deal happen? I have a lot of trust for that guy, and so I wonder what did he see in this deal that was worth 3 billion?
posted by weed donkey at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am guessing it's because the grift machine just didn't have enough time to spin up. Alphabet's move on waterfront Toronto took a much smarter, slower, more subtle approach and I'm not sure anything can stop it now.

This was a move so stealthy that I'm pretty sure most of the city doesn't even know it's happening. I genuinely don't know what to do about it. Every day I grow to despise Toronto more and more, even as I love it.
posted by chrominance at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


But in grandstanding, they missed an opportunity to try to get the company to help address housing and infrastructure problems that the development, for all its benefits, would exacerbate. Perhaps they thought the city’s pool of skilled workers and many other attractions made it so irresistible that there was no need to negotiate.

It rules that after the entirety of North America enduring month after month of Amazon encouraging every single municipal and state official to grovel at its feet, only for the whole thing to be revealed as a sham both in that they chose the cities everyone knew they were going to at the very beginning of the process, and then that even after making their choice it apparently didn't mean anything, somehow it's someone else who's being accused of grandstanding.
posted by Copronymus at 9:05 AM on February 15, 2019 [33 favorites]


In related news, Amazon is trying to influence Philadelphia city policy on cashless stores.

FUCK YOU AMAZON.


So Philly's considering requiring stores to accept cash. Amazon is considering opening stores that don't accept cash. Amazon tells Philly that they won't open their cashless stores in a city that bans cashless stores. Philly can consider the likelihood that Amazon's making a credible threat and the possible costs of losing those stores. Amazon clearly doesn't have a monopoly on convenience stores. Unless there's more to the story, this actually sounds like a Civics 101 example of how lobbying should work.

It would be different if they were found to be threatening to withhold campaign contributions, or not open a warehouse, or not ship to Philly, or in some other way abusing their huge economic or market power.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Amazon HQ2 subsidies are deeply unpopular, but far from uncommon -- The billions in incentive doled out by New York and Arlington exemplify a broken system (Patrick Sisson for Curbed, Nov. 14, 2018)

While the article doesn't delve into the failed promises from other mega-deals, but does link to Good Jobs First, "a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families." GJF runs a subsidy tracker and has profiled some companies that leverage large subsidies with big promises. Their summary of Cabelas and Bass Pro includes some tales of failed promises:
After a brief rebellion, Washington County consented to $4 million in financing for a 165,000 square foot Cabela’s in Richfield, northwest of Milwaukee. The state agreed to cover $5 million in road improvements, as well. The county hoped Cabela’s would draw in further development, “But the Milwaukee-area Cabela’s has drawn few retailers since that 165,000-square-foot store opened in September 2006,” wrote the Journal Sentinel in 2010. “No hotels. No restaurants. No outlet stores.”
and
But are the subsidies ultimately worth it? There’s often no clear answer because public officials are, well, not watching the store. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA) looked at whether the $32 million in subsidies to Cabela’s in nearby Hamburg were paying off. Although state and local agencies had bragged about the benefits of the 2003 deal, no public officials could provide any specific numbers about the deal’s outcome. The state department of economic and community development said it was not tracking sales tax revenue, and Tilden Township said it had no data on local property tax revenues. So, concluded The Call, no one knows if taxpayers are breaking even.
Don't believe the hype. If a company, like Amazon, "forces local leaders to sign a deal committing them to warning [the company] of any Freedom of Information Act requests, and doing its best to restrict information access when possible," as noted in the Curbed article, they aren't doing that for any benefit but their own. Government deals like this need transparency, and solid before-and-after studies, with hooks to ensure that the companies pay back their subsidies if they fail to live up to their promises.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2019 [30 favorites]


In exchange for $3 billion in reduced taxes and other benefits, NYS and NYC would have pulled in a combined estimate of $30 billion over 10 years or a net $27 billion. If you even cut that estimate in half, that is $13 billion.

I have no idea where the $30 billion number comes from, and I don't see any reason why anyone should trust it. As people have already pointed out, Amazon's federal tax bill over the last two years has been $0. It paid $250 million in state and local taxes around Washington state in 2017. Is the difference supposed to be made up in the income tax on the individuals they're hiring? Because you have to hire a lot more than 25,000 people or pay extremely, extremely high salaries to make up $2.975 billion dollars a year.
posted by Copronymus at 9:10 AM on February 15, 2019 [15 favorites]


Every day I grow to despise Toronto more and more

A city that elected not one, but two "Fords"... Yeah, that place is insane, never learns.
posted by jkaczor at 9:12 AM on February 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


I almost felt sorry for the people whose knock on plans were derailed and then:
“It’s a sad day for New York when some people put socialist ideas and policies in front of a neighborhood that we're worked for 10 years trying to build,” he said.
and now I'm Nelson "Ha, Ha."
posted by Mitheral at 9:14 AM on February 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


It's clear that this deal would have benefited Amazon, but it's NOT clear that the deal would have benefited NYC - as indicated by, well, the type of back and forth in this thread and in a lot of conversation about this issue. Plenty of valid points to go around, here, and not a lot of hard info vis a vis numbers, PR, and policy analysis.

What IS clear, though, is that as soon as the question of "How can we make sure that this deal benefits NYC as well as Amazon" was introduced to the conversation, Amazon took its ball and went home.

WHICH IS PRETTY FUCKING TELLING.
posted by entropone at 9:14 AM on February 15, 2019 [125 favorites]


I'm not sure about the economics of the tax subsidy for Amazon, and whether it is net benefit or not, but I do study amazon quite a bit, and I am very sure that if they could find 25000 qualified people to hire, they will do it in a heartbeat. One of their biggest problems is hiring skilled positions, that was part of the whole purpose of HQ2.

They would hire 25000 people because they need those people.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I kinda wanna cry. I've given up on any sort of effective meaningful change and this gladdens my heart. For a brief respite from the world's awfulness.

(I worry if I dig too hard, I'll find many negative reasons to feel, but let me enjoy a moment of happiness of people power, mmmkay?)
posted by symbioid at 9:20 AM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


It's not just smoke and mirrors, or if you think it is, then you have as much respect for your local city government as your average Republican does.

I'm not arguing that there won't be contracts and rules. I'm arguing that inevitably, these deals end up being shitty for communities, despite what all the PR will tell you. This isn't exactly news. Big company demands tax incentives or else they won't bring in the jobs, and of course all sorts of PR about how this will be great for the community. Quelle surprise, the big company then obeys the precise letter of the rules, extracts the maximum they can from the community, and the moment it's no longer a lopsided deal in their favor they take off like locusts and go find a new community to swallow up.

Let's be clear: I am exactly the kind of person who Amazon would hire (I work in software, and in fact they try to recruit me literally every month or so). I don't need a job subsidy. Nobody who does the kind of work Amazon is so desperate to hire for does.
posted by tocts at 9:23 AM on February 15, 2019 [21 favorites]


I am very sure that if they could find 25000 qualified people to hire, they will do it in a heartbeat.

But would they confine their search to New York City, or would they be luring people in from Seattle?

One of their biggest problems is hiring skilled positions, that was part of the whole purpose of HQ2.

Again, what is to say that they would be searching for these people in New York City?

They would hire 25000 people because they need those people.

What is your evidence that they need that exact number of people?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


Also: the plan would have evicted lots of people in non-tech positions, who would in turn have had to try finding a new place to live in an inflated rent market. Would Amazon have hired any of them into these well-paying jobs, to compensate them for their having been evicted to make room for them?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:25 AM on February 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


Still so happy that my city "lost" out on the HQ2 deal but also still mad that the state, county and city officials offered Amazon so much. Like New York, Pittsburgh has an allegedly progressive mayor who ran against doing these kind of deals but he was right in there offering Amazon the keys to the city for nothing.
posted by octothorpe at 9:25 AM on February 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


This was a huge loss for New York for a deal that was actually popular, despite the vocal complaining of a loud minority. There are a lot of elected leaders who will have to answer for this loss of jobs in the next election.
posted by fremen at 9:25 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was part of a group of startup founders assembled to talk to a few of our PA state legislators about investing tax dollars in local technology businesses. This included State Rep. Sara Innamorato, who is lovely and also a member of the DSA.

For the founders, all of our businesses were funded by a state-run investment fund and it was our job to argue that it should be continued. Almost every founder in the room was a person of color and/or a woman. None of us came from family money and so the state funds were critical for us all to get started at the seed stage.

And yet, it came out at that meeting that for 1/10 of the money that the city of Pittsburgh was planning on giving Amazon for HQ2 we had created nearly as many jobs. Local jobs. High paying jobs. Jobs that helped people transition into the high-paying tech industry. At companies that helped to grow the local innovation ecosystem.

It was really clear to me that the idea of fighting for these larger companies needs to be scrutinized. There are better deals available if there is enough motivation for investment.
posted by Alison at 9:26 AM on February 15, 2019 [92 favorites]


but I do study amazon quite a bit, and I am very sure that if they could find 25000 qualified people to hire, they will do it in a heartbeat.

Define "qualified". One of the massive problems with the tech industry is that many of the major players do not believe in professional development - so when they say "we can't find qualified people", what they mean is "we can't find people who are ready to go from day one, willing to accept what we offer and our shitty work environment."

The proper response to this is, of course, "kindly go fuck yourself, Amazon."
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2019 [35 favorites]


for a deal that was actually popular

How accurately does a 778-person poll generalize to NY state or NYC? This is an actual question.
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2019 [18 favorites]


It was really clear to me that the idea of fighting for these larger companies needs to be scrutinized. There are better deals available if there is enough motivation for investment.

Slate had a good article on this today. Cities are no longer seeing growth as intrinsically good, but are beginning to demand that growth clearly benefit the city.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


Also how valuable is polls of random people who don't know the details of a deal they've only seen in headliens vs. committed community members?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:33 AM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


What is your evidence that they need that exact number of people?

Seriously? They have to size for some number of people. Facilities, etc. They choose 25k. If you examine their situation, and hiring, you may well conclude that is kind of low.

As to whether they will hire them from New York; well, it is a *lot* cheaper to hire locally than move people, so there is strong motivation to do so. Additionally, New York has an extremely deep talent pool; again, that is part of the reason for their choice in the first place.

The evidence is that Amazon is very likely to hire 25000+ more people somewhere; doubting that is really ignoring Amazon's trajectory. Now the role of government in that is a good debate (and whether the deal should include guarantees of hiring, etc), but really, amazon wants to hire. Amazon is trying to scale as big and fast as it can, pouring every dollar it can back into the company for growth. You can debate whether you want that, but debating it is their purpose is simply being blind.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:33 AM on February 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


This was a huge loss for New York for a deal that was actually popular, despite the vocal complaining of a loud minority.

First, that's a NY Post link.

Second, it's touting the results of a Sienna College poll while downplaying the results of a Quinnipiac poll that was basically an even split. (46% - 44%)

Third, this was how the Sienna College poll worded the question:
“Do you approve or disapprove of the recently announced deal between Amazon and New York, which grants up to $3 billion in state and city incentives to Amazon in return for Amazon locating its corporate offices in Queens, where it is projected to generate 25,000 jobs?”

The question takes the Amazon job projection at face value.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


How accurately does a 778-person poll generalize to NY state or NYC? This is an actual question.

Statistical sampling, all polls work this way. Going to a higher number of respondents tends not to make the errors that much less, so it's diminishing returns on the costs of sampling a ton of people . Most public polls usually max out at around 1,000 respondents just for that reason.

Without seeing the methodology used, a sample size of 778 would expect to have an error of somewhere slight less than 4%, but it really depends on how the sample was created, which honestly is the hardest part of any poll creation.
posted by jmauro at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


FYI Cities sign contracts granting the rules that companies must follow to get their payouts, and if the city lawyers are not hacks (probably not in Queens, possibly in middle America), then that is the factor which guarantees the number of jobs and that Amazon meets the requirements of the tax deferrments.

If that were true, it's kind of funny that MSNBC's Morning Joe—which spent its first several years chuckling in an I'm-doing-something-naughty conspiratorial fashion as they exaggeratedly swigged Starbucks cups with the logo carefully turned towards the cameras—needed to so thoroughly abandon their usual both-sidesism that they didn't have anyone on to argue either in support of or against this allegedly brilliant city government deal-making. All they all did was exclaim vehemently and at great length about the “lost” 25,000 jobs and find about 50 opportunities to mention AOC and what a foolish inexperienced Congresswoman she supposedly is.

It wasn't until this thread I heard that Amazon didn't reach out to AOC's office, though.
posted by XMLicious at 9:40 AM on February 15, 2019


Please don't just shout 'jobs jobs jobs'.

Any argument that the city would make up in eventual taxes what it lost on the subsidies is eliding the fact that it is losing corporate tax revenue and gaining individual tax revenue. That is, it's shifting the tax burden to workers, away from this hugely profitable company.

Any argument that Amazon would provide infrastructure to revitalize the area is eliding the fact that the billions of dollars used for tax subsidies could instead just be used for that infrastructure. That is, after all, what taxes are for. Make your community a good place to live and work, and businesses will locate there. It doesn't work in reverse.

And any argument that "jobs" are good and we need "jobs" is just empty rhetoric, and my god, seeing the phrase "job-killing" used unironically here on the blue is stressing me out. We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them. All the available evidence points to the fact that these jobs wouldn't contribute to that.
posted by dbx at 9:40 AM on February 15, 2019 [100 favorites]


Seriously? They have to size for some number of people. Facilities, etc. They choose 25k. If you examine their situation, and hiring, you may well conclude that is kind of low.

I can't favorite this enough. People can try to rationalize this all they want, but the simple truth is that Amazon was going to invest a lot of money to build a building and hire around 25,000 people locally. Now they aren't.

There's literally nothing here to be proud about.
posted by fremen at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Do you have another NY Post link to back up that assertion?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


Second, it's touting the results of a Sienna College poll while downplaying the results of a Quinnipiac poll that was basically an even split. (46% - 44%)

Sure, fine. Same point: having half the population inclined to support a job creating project you just killed is not a recipe to make friends at the polls.
posted by fremen at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I highly recommend this Reply All podcast (transcript is on the link as well) -- companies that come into towns for the tax breaks rarely care what the residents want or need when it comes to jobs, and are often taking advantage of the city in question. If Amazon couldn't answer questions about long-term viability and quality of life for nearby residents, chances are they are avoiding the scrutiny for a reason.
posted by Mchelly at 9:45 AM on February 15, 2019 [26 favorites]


Speaking as someone that LITERALLY just went through a job hunt in New York City, as well:

Already-existing NYC businesses have been posting about 50 new positions per day for my specific job description, which isn't even that sexy a position. I began my job search in mid-January - but found a position only three weeks later, and am still getting follow-up calls from other resumes I sent out. And my resume is probably a solid middle-of-the-pack runner.

New York City already has plenty of "jobs". What it needs are ways to make the city livable for the people who already have jobs that aren't six-figure tech-geek specialty positions, without having to take up gig economy stuff on the side. "Moar jobs" won't do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on February 15, 2019 [82 favorites]


Same point: having half the population inclined to support a job creating project you just killed is not a recipe to make friends at the polls.

I'm sure that there will be terrible, terrible consequences for Amazon then. Unless them having done those things is consequence-free because the whole objective here was for Amazon to never have to face any accountability or any taxes.
posted by XMLicious at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


seeing people bitterly defend corporate pr talking points right now feels like that early brexit thread where previously reasonable mefites were like "it's true that shady foreigners are stealing our jobs" and generally spouting farage-esque catchphrases.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2019 [77 favorites]


Cities don’t die from not allowing union busting, worker tormenting, tax avoiding corporate monopoly to be bribed into moving a few thousand people there. Cities die when they neglect or fail to invest in infrastructure, like say a mass transit system nearly everyone depends on to go to work.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2019 [56 favorites]


the simple truth is that Amazon was going to invest a lot of money to build a building and hire around 25,000 people locally

Not only is it silly to accept this assertion by Amazon at face value, but it is willfully obtuse to believe that they were going to hire 25,000 people "locally" only if they got billions of dollars in direct payments, tax breaks, and other incentives. And if they really were going to do that, then they had ample opportunity to show their work. As noted above, it's very telling that their response to "Show your work!" wasn't, "Sure, here are studies and estimates," or even "Well, we don't want to give too much away, but...". No, their response was "Fuck you, we're going home."

If Amazon needed HQ2, they'd already have broken ground. This was an attempt to get on the Foxconn-Wisconsin gravy train, plain and simple.
posted by Etrigan at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2019 [30 favorites]


There's literally nothing here to be proud about.

"Amazon has remade Seattle in many ways beyond new buildings. The city’s population has surged by about 40% since the company was founded, and nearly 20,000 people a year are moving there, often drawn by the company and its orbit. The tech industry has brought higher-paying jobs, with its average salary about $100,000. But that is twice as much as half the workers in the city earn, and the latter’s spending power is dropping sharply, creating a clear economic divide between some of the city’s population and the new arrivals.

The better-paid have driven up house prices by 70% in five years, and rents with them, as they suck up the limited housing stock. The lower-paid are being forced out of the city, into smaller accommodation or on to the streets. The Seattle area now has the highest homeless population in the country after New York and Los Angeles, with more than 11,000 people without a permanent home, many living in tent camps under bridges, in parks and in cemeteries.

“It’s incredibly difficult to find housing in Seattle now,” said Nicole Keenan-Lai, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, a Seattle thinktank focused on low-income and minority communities. “Two years ago a study came out that said 35% of Seattle’s homeless population has some college or a college degree.”

John Burbank of the Economic Opportunity Institute said there is a a direct link between the surge in highly paid jobs and the numbers of people forced on to the street.

“There’s an incredible correlation between the increase in homelessness and the increase in the number of people who have incomes in excess of $250,000,” he said. “That has grown by almost 50% between 2011 and 2017. The population of homeless kids in the Seattle public schools has grown from 1,300 kids to 4,200.”"
posted by neroli at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2019 [76 favorites]


Amazon to locate HQ2 in New London, CT. (Not really.)
posted by gauche at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


Real Estate developers? The city lost a chance to add 25,000 decent paying jobs. If AOC is fighting for the working person, she blew this.

The 25,000 jobs is essentially a made-up number by Amazon. Even if you take Amazon at face value that it would try to hire 25,000 new employees, that doesn't mean that there would be 25,000 more taxpayers. Some percentage of those people would be people in New York who already have jobs. And, even if you assume that 25,000 people from outside of New York would move there over the course of 10 years, this ignores the costs that an influx of new residents would have on NYC. Not to mention the already mentioned insane housing prices in NYC.

(I'm getting most of this from this article [Business Insider] about this study which contains the much touted ~$25 billion revenue.)

The tax payers would have been no worse off. They are not generating any revenues now from AMZN at those sites. In exchange for $3 billion in reduced taxes and other benefits, NYS and NYC would have pulled in a combined estimate of $30 billion over 10 years or a net $27 billion. If you even cut that estimate in half, that is $13 billion.
Now, Cuomo and DeBlaz have shown they cannot deliver.


The $30 billion is even more made-up and misleading than the 25,000 workers number. From the article:
Since much of the tax revenue would be realized later in the 25-year timeframe, the study estimated that HQ2 would bring in just under $9 billion in state tax revenue in 2019 dollars, versus the promised $1.4 billion in state tax incentives. The report concluded that "the benefit-cost ratio is 6.3," well below Cuomo's promised 9:1 ratio.

Critics of the study also pointed out that the estimates were based on the idea that Amazon would bring in 40,000 jobs for its New York HQ2 over 15 years. Amazon had said when it announced it would split its second headquarters between Northern Virginia and New York that 25,000 jobs would come to each over the first 10 years; it said an additional 15,000 jobs could come to Queens in the five years after the initial wave but made no firm commitment.
So, the $14 billion to the state was really $9 billion in 2019 dollars. And that number was based on Amazon bringing in 40,000 workers. The additional 15,000 workers were not even promised by Amazon. Assuming a linear relationship between workers and tax revenue that means the state revenue would really be $5.6 billion in 2019 dollars. If the city revenue scaled the same way then the $13.75 billion to NYC would end up being $5.5 billion. So your halved number is still a little high. The revenue would be ~$11 billion versus the $3 billion Amazon would get. And, again, this ignores any costs to the city and its residents that such a project would have.


I think this fight against AMZN was misguided.

Amazon took its ball and went home when it couldn't get everything it wanted.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2019 [12 favorites]


Any argument that Amazon would provide infrastructure to revitalize the area is eliding the fact that the billions of dollars used for tax subsidies could instead just be used for that infrastructure.

Those subsidies are predicated on the promise of economic expansion caused by the project. No project, no economic expansion, definitely no subsidies. Nobody is going to spend that money now because unlike before where there was a risk the expansion won't materialize, now it definitely won't materialize.

We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them.

That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...
posted by fremen at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2019


The better-paid have driven up house prices by 70% in five years, and rents with them, as they suck up the limited housing stock.

To put that into nyc numbers, the median rent for a 1br is apparently $3,070 as of november 2018. A 70% increase on that would make the median rent for a 1BR apartment in nyc $5,219. I don't know anyone who could afford that.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2019 [12 favorites]


"Worst day for nyc since 9-11, except this time the terrorists were elected." David Lichtenstein of @LightstoneGroup on #AmazonHQ2

You can always count on the big developers, who were so excited at the chance to bring in the tons of filthy lucre they would have made out of kicking out all of the poors and the "urban" populations, to come up with the stupidest metaphors for how the ungrateful peasants are the baddies.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2019 [35 favorites]


That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...

Counterpoint: Pretty much every community that has megacorps come in with lots of high paying jobs.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2019 [22 favorites]


"JOBS CREATION" is one of the ways that corporations with lots of power have consolidated even more. They've made simply the fact of hiring the only indicator of economic health - which has let them ignore whether the conditions of the jobs are actually good for people.

It lets companies hold a knife to workers' throats any time somebody brings up regulation, taxation, or anything. "But I'm a job creator" is the same thing as saying "If you implement any policy designed to ensure that benefits are distributed throughout society, to workers, to host cities, to the environment, then I'm going to fuck over the workers first."

It's important to see this for what it is.
posted by entropone at 9:57 AM on February 15, 2019 [34 favorites]


We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them.

That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...
Contrast the above with:
“There’s an incredible correlation between the increase in homelessness and the increase in the number of people who have incomes in excess of $250,000,” he said. “That has grown by almost 50% between 2011 and 2017. The population of homeless kids in the Seattle public schools has grown from 1,300 kids to 4,200.”
Lots of high paying jobs in the community can in fact make a community less healthy and less livable, which was the whole point of my comment.
posted by dbx at 9:58 AM on February 15, 2019 [53 favorites]


We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them.

That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...


As was posted before, the evidence shows otherwise. Turns out that when you bring in an influx of well paid professionals who have the money to crowd out locals, the result is gentrification and the lower classes being driven into the streets.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:58 AM on February 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


Amazon can still go to NYC, right? They just won't get paid to do so.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:01 AM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


I was listening to Stacey Mitchell (Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market) and she pointed out that [twitter]:
The big prize #Amazon has gotten out of its #HQ2 stunt is not the PR value of a bunch of city leaders singing its praises, or even the billions of $ in subsidies that it will extort from public coffers.
It’s the data.
Dozens of cities have shared reams of data with Amazon that their own citizens do not have access to. This includes intel on future infrastructure investments, land use patterns, planned policy changes, and so on.
Amazon will use this data to build out its empire: To site stores, warehouses, etc. To get in early on the right real estate. To beat out competitors because it knows things they don’t.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2019 [41 favorites]


People can try to rationalize this all they want, but the simple truth is that Amazon was going to invest a lot of money to build a building and hire around 25,000 people locally.

Amazon tried to get Boston to pony up, and thank god our idiot local government did not offer a sweet enough deal, so they went with NYC. Meanwhile, Amazon still has offices in Boston, is hiring furiously, and literally tries to hire me every week or two. The idea that these jobs won't get hired because they weren't given a big enough subsidy is ludicrous.

This is bog standard playing towns against one another for tax advantage. If everyone refuses to pay to play, Amazon and their ilk will just have to actually pay taxes like everyone else.
posted by tocts at 10:05 AM on February 15, 2019 [54 favorites]


Amazon can still go to NYC, right?

From the NY Mag link I posted above:

"What’s remarkable to me about Amazon’s statement about abandoning its plan to build a second (or third) corporate headquarters in New York is how many times it says “Long Island City.”

“We’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” the company said, adding that “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”

Amazon has to specify that it won’t be going to Long Island City because the company still intends to grow in New York City. Specifically, it says it expects to boost the current workforce of 5,000 Amazon employees who work in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Amazon is still coming here. They’re just not going there."
posted by neroli at 10:06 AM on February 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


Seattle native here. I’m having a hard time marshalling my thoughts because so much of this thread is making me furious so I’ll just say this - this city is fucking broken. This city is no longer functional or livable unless you have a very high-paying job. We’re looking at moving away, which fucking breaks my heart, which is something that ten years ago I never would have believed I found myself saying. Almost none of our friends actually live in the city because they can’t afford it. In ten years this city has gone from, for me, the best place in the world, the place I thought I’d grow old and die in, the place that always felt like home, to a place I’m desperate to leave. Amazon did most of us here no favors.
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:08 AM on February 15, 2019 [122 favorites]


Amazon can still go to NYC, right?

Sure, in that same way that kidnappers could still release their hostage even though the ransom didn't get paid.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:09 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


If everyone refuses to pay to play, Amazon and their ilk will just have to actually pay taxes like everyone else.

That is at the core of the problem, companies shop around and play the cities off against each other. So long as there is a city that meets the criteria, the one with the biggest subsidy "wins". If all the major cities took a stand and said stop, this particular problem -- tax subsidies -- would be a thing of the past.

However, wealth inequality and housing problems in communities shouldn't be placed at the feet of companies because they pay well. You need to fix your government.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:10 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Amazon can still go to NYC, right? They just won't get paid to do so.

Sure, but if you've got the option to eat out at two nice restaurants, and you've got a 25% off coupon for one-- it's a weird choice to throw away the coupon. You can argue that offering coupons is bad, but unless all the players agree...

Saw an interesting tweet from @stevesi:
In 1992 Spartanburg, South Carolina put together an "enormous" 100M+ package to lure BMW.
20 years into the "tax breaks for a giant foreign company", the whole state has transformed and become a leader in automobile manufacturing.
Which has led to a 2.8billion value add for South Carolina. So there's value to enticing companies to locations weighed against likely future gains. You can look at the plain idiocy of the agreement with Foxconn as a counterpoint, but from the little I've read the Amazon breaks were locked in with the job creation goals-- the majority of the tax breaks was married to Amazon delivering on the 25k jobs then disbursed over the years from that point on.

You see a lot of 'Amazon is robbing $X billion from schools and hospitals' but that's clearly not true, and strikes me as bordering on misleading reporting. If Amazon didn't move to NYC, those schools would get $Y, if Amazon DID move those schools would get $Y+(Amazon State Taxes-tax relief) plus all other other revenues generated by employees and second order businesses etc.

Absolutely you can argue if it's worth it once it's all broken down-- but it's not something I've really seen much reporting on, showing the second order affects, transports, rents, infrastructure upgrades etc and whether that's worth the large impact of 25k+ jobs being dropped in quickly, rather then trickled up by some other method, but feels a little naive to just focus on the $BIGNUMBER (which I think most people think is pretty much a suitcase of money given over on the day the contract's signed.)
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:13 AM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


That is at the core of the problem, companies shop around and play the cities off against each other. So long as there is a city that meets the criteria, the one with the biggest subsidy "wins". If all the major cities took a stand and said stop, this particular problem -- tax subsidies -- would be a thing of the past.

The best thing to stop this is for Congress to pass a rule taxing any subsidy at 100% or 105%, so basically if you want a subsidy from a city or state for your new whatever, they can offer it, but the Federal government will come for the exact same amount from you. It'll put an end to all of this right quick.
posted by jmauro at 10:14 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


However, wealth inequality and housing problems in communities shouldn't be placed at the feet of companies because they pay well. You need to fix your government.

Blame is like fertilizer - you have to spread it where it belongs for it to work properly. And given this:
Seattle, forced by the lack of an income tax to hunt for innovative means of raising revenue, has run into resistance from Amazon at every turn.

The friction peaked over the recent worker tax, which was expected to raise around $50m a year to help pay for affordable housing and services for people made homeless by escalating rents and property prices.

Amazon, however, in actions critics called blackmail, characterised it as a “jobs tax”, threatened to freeze construction in the city and backed a petition drive to put the issue to a popular vote in November.
There's a lot of blame that belongs at Amazon's feet.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:15 AM on February 15, 2019 [19 favorites]




This was a huge loss for New York for a deal that was actually popular, despite the vocal complaining of a loud minority. There are a lot of elected leaders who will have to answer for this loss of jobs in the next election.
posted by fremen at 12:25 PM on February 15 [1 favorite +] [!]


That was a poll of 788 statewide voters, with a margin-of-error of %4.8, and the approval was %56. That poll is worthless.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:20 AM on February 15, 2019 [12 favorites]


Amazon employees in Seattle: 40,000
Population of Seattle Metro area: 3,900,000
Projected Amazon employess in NYC: 25,000
Population of NYC Metro area: 20,300,000
% of amzn employees per pop in STL: 1.0256%
% of amzn employees per pop in NYC: 0.12315%

Doesn't really make sense to predict Amazon would've ruined NYC because "look how horrible Seattle is now!" NYC can handle it. Should we be paying Amazon for the privilege of coming here?? Heck no.

And of course, LIC locals would be negatively impacted by it, but LIC was already under that pressure. Have you seen how many high rises are there already?

And they'll be back anyway, just maybe not with an official HQ2. And hopefully without the fat subsidies.
posted by Grither at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of their biggest problems is hiring skilled positions, that was part of the whole purpose of HQ2.

If they were "smart like fox", then they would have picked a Canadian location for HQ2, they could more easily hire international talent that wouldn't be as limited by the whims of the current political regime. And, I am sure our federal/provincial/regional/municipal governments would have bent over backwards with incentives that were ultimately more beneficial to Amazon... After all, our last bailout of the auto-sector wrote off over a billion dollars in loans that will never have to be paid back, and the companies are shutting down Ontario plants left and right...
posted by jkaczor at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of blame that belongs at Amazon's feet.

That problem isn't because amazon pays well, it is because the city feels too beholden to them. Paying well is still a good idea. And if you look at that particular incident, I can see amazon's complaint: it was essentially a hack to get some money out of amazon, specifically. It's ridiculous and only necessary because there is a complete lack of a sane tax structure in the first place. Now amazon will obviously try to protect its interests, but you REALLY need to have an appropriate tax structure in place (and not some super narrow one targeting one company or letting off one company for that matter) and have housing regulations that allow affordable housing to be built. And have the citizens interest at heart enough to play chicken with the companies.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:24 AM on February 15, 2019


If they were "smart like fox", then they would have picked a Canadian location for HQ2, they could more easily hire international talent that wouldn't be as limited by the whims of the current political regime.

Amazon has presence in Canada already. Our cities just don't have the depth of talent/size to hire 25k highly skilled professionals. Maybe Toronto, maybe, but I think they have enough problems and probably couldn't even come up with the facilities to allow what Amazon wanted. And the tax structure here is stricter, on the whole, and there is likely more resistance to corporate welfare overall, depending on the government and public sentiment.

As to companies shutting down, well, they don't have the workers HQ2 wanted.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2019


It's amazing to me to see how far the Overton window has shifted, that we've got people here on the Blue arguing whether or not Amazon "should" have gotten huge subsidies to set up a huge headquarters in NYC.

What actually "should" have happened is that antitrust regulators should have long since broken Amazon up into a bunch of smaller companies. Which would then have (smaller) headquarters in a variety of cities, and each of those smaller companies would have far less leverage over any of those cities.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:28 AM on February 15, 2019 [76 favorites]


NYS and NYC would have pulled in a combined estimate of $30 billion over 10 years or a net $27 billion.

Are you sure about that?
posted by Automocar at 10:32 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


Here's that Siena Poll (the last question).

I'd like to point out that, of their total sample of 788, 40% of polled (315.2) live in NYC. I personally don't see, say, Buffalo or Cooperstown having a huge dog in this fight, except that they'd benefit a wee bit if Amazon were to pay any state taxes. I'd love to hear arguments that their opinions on HQ2 matter just as much as people who live in the city.

The sample is also 69% white. The 2009 census had NYC's population at 45.7% white. What are the demographics of the most affected neighborhoods: LIC, Astoria, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst? I leave that as an exercise to the reader.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:32 AM on February 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


25,000 jobs! Sounds great... but what kind of jobs? We all know that Amazon doesn't even give warehouse employees bathroom breaks, right? And their same-day delivery drivers are considered contractors, and thus get paltry worker protections while they are on the job, right? We know that Bezos makes the median annual Amazon salary in nine (9) fucking seconds, right? We know the company doesn't pay any federal income taxes, right?

What is with all these Amazon apologists popping out of the woodwork screaming about job creation? I'm honestly kind of flabbergasted that on Metafilter, of all places, there are people arguing that Amazon should gain more of a foothold in our communities. Unreal. They have consistently demonstrated a total lack of care for their workers and the cities in which they are situated. In a place where the average rent for your run-of-the mill apartment (with old carpets, drafty windows, no soundproofing, and one bedroom if you're lucky) is already over $2,000 a month, this would have been terrible.
posted by sockermom at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2019 [74 favorites]


Spartanburg, South Carolina put together an "enormous" 100M+ package to lure BMW...Which has led to a 2.8 billion value add for South Carolina.

Yeah, but that was in 1992. The scare quotes are there because competition among states has since driven these giveaways into the billions: ever riskier investments for ever smaller returns. It's way past time to pump the breaks on this trend.
posted by Iridic at 10:37 AM on February 15, 2019 [15 favorites]


To add hopefully a final note to this:

Amazon's highly publicized search for an "HQ2" did not come out of nowhere. The only reason they did it was because they've already done the research, and have already concluded that they could very profitably benefit from another large influx of employees.

To put it plainly: Amazon already knows it wants these employees.

To add to this, the nature of Amazon's products also means that in many cases, it does not matter to Amazon where these employees are located -- they're not building physical widgets, they're building software that can be built anywhere and sold anywhere.

So: the idea that Amazon is not going to hire these positions because NYC wouldn't roll over is absurd. They may hire them elsewhere (though probably some of them will still be in NYC and all the other cities that spurned them), but they're going to hire them. Literally the only scenario where they don't is one where we imagine that Amazon's leadership would rather spite people for not giving them tax breaks than make a bunch of money their own research has said is on the table if they bring on more talent.

The only purpose of this "HQ2" exercise has been for Amazon to try to find someplace stupid enough to bankroll them to do a thing they were already going to do (and are still likely going to do).
posted by tocts at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2019 [16 favorites]


I'm not arguing that there won't be contracts and rules. I'm arguing that inevitably, these deals end up being shitty for communities, despite what all the PR will tell you. This isn't exactly news.

I am sitting here laughing at the people sternly lecturing us about the benefits we are throwing away, as if you didn't even need to get out of this state and this decade to see how this can play out. All you have to do is cast your eyes a little northward to contemplate the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo: $750 million for a Tesla/Panasonic facility that was supposed to hire 3000 people and doesn't seem to have exceeded 800 in the years since it was built.

I'm not saying that a LIC facility would necessarily have been a catastrophe. There would have been significant damage to the community, but it's not impossible that a deal could have been negotiated with a reasonable possibility of offsetting benefits. But it's extremely striking that the instant Amazon got even modest local pushback (because, c'mon, people holding signs at protests don't make land use rulings), it quit, without even trying to negotiate in the slightest. That tells you everything you need to know about what kind of neighbor it would have been.
posted by praemunire at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2019 [36 favorites]


I'll also note that the Spartanburg BMW plant employs 8,800 people in a city of 38,000. The equivalent in Queens would be the creation of 547,234 middle class jobs.
posted by Iridic at 10:42 AM on February 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


> We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them.

That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...


Only if the people who take those jobs choose to live in those communities as opposed to commuting in from Scarsdale or New Rochelle or Stamford, but you go on and keep telling yourself that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


The only reason they did it was because they've already done the research, and have already concluded that they could very profitably benefit from another large influx of employees.

As has been pointed out in this very thread, there's a much clearer reason that Amazon did this that has nothing to do with jobs - to get cities to give them reams of future planning data that they would normally keep private - data that Amazon will then use in their future planning to outmanuver their competitors.

As cons go, it's a doozy.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


Which has led to a 2.8billion value add for South Carolina. So there's value to enticing companies to locations weighed against likely future gains.

If you're going back to a single example dating from 1992 to prove that your policy is going to work, I presume you're also willing to cite the Washington football team's dominance of the NFL since winning the Super Bowl in that year.

I'll save you the effort. They've won two playoff games since then.
posted by Etrigan at 10:52 AM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


Dozens of cities have shared reams of data with Amazon that their own citizens do not have access to. This includes intel on future infrastructure investments, land use patterns, planned policy changes, and so on.
Amazon will use this data to build out its empire: To site stores, warehouses, etc. To get in early on the right real estate. To beat out competitors because it knows things they don’t


Your city has a 10 year master plan with all of this in it, which you can go look up. This is not super secret data.

And the master plan is usually a wish list anyway. For example, New Hampshire's bid included reference to a Manchester/Boston rail line which um, is not going to happen any time soon or if all.

This is not to say that I liked what Amazon did, but as someone married to a city planner the idea of them having secret intel is odd. Half his day can be spent arguing with developers who don't file things on time for the public comment period.
posted by damayanti at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


If you're going back to a single example dating from 1992 to prove that your policy is going to work, I presume you're also willing to cite the Washington football team's dominance of the NFL since winning the Super Bowl in that year.

Also, 1992 predates the Clinton administration as well as the advent of the entire Internet economy.

In case people haven't noticed, there have been some minor changes in the way capitalism works since then.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


Another day, another city, another tech giant:

Internal documents obtained by the [Toronto] Star show Sidewalk Labs plans to make the case that it is “entitled to … a share in the uptick in land value on the entire geography ... a share of developer charges and incremental tax revenue on all land.”

These future revenues, based on the anticipated increase in land value once homes and offices are built on the derelict Port Lands, are estimated to be $6 billion over the next 30 years. Even a small portion of this could amount to a large, recurring revenue stream diverted from the city into private hands.

Slides from a presentation given to parent company Alphabet in November, marked “proprietary and confidential,” show Sidewalk Labs does not intend to construct buildings on the majority of the Port Lands, but wants to benefit from its increased value once other developers build there.


That's right. They want to extort a revenue stream in the form of taxes from the City of Toronto and its residents.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:11 AM on February 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


By the way, here's some more backstory on how the initial deal got pushed through without the city-level oversight that would normally be required:

Normally, a company looking to build more than 4 million square feet of office space over several city blocks would have to submit to the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a lengthy process that requires oversight from community boards and borough presidents, and approvals from the City Council, the City Planning Commission, and the mayor.

Amazon is sidestepping the ULURP gauntlet by having the state overrule the city’s authority: Cuomo plans to approve the tech campus through a General Project Plan under the state Urban Development Corporation Act, which exempts the project from City zoning and the ULURP process [...but] the text of the law requires that the site of the development is “a slum, blighted, deteriorated or deteriorating area.” In the case of an industrial project, the bar is even higher: a project has to be in a blighted area, and also in “a condition of substantial and persistent unemployment or underemployment.”

[...] the median rent in LIC is $2,450/month.

posted by showbiz_liz at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2019 [17 favorites]


Ha fucking ha

Almost verbatim my reaction, along with a "fuck yeah."

Extraordinarily proud of my city today. Cuomo can go jump off his precious bridge and take that tool BdB with him.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:17 AM on February 15, 2019


Won't someone please protect the giant corporation from... [checks notes]... from people who don't want to be exploited?
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:20 AM on February 15, 2019 [21 favorites]


De Blasio, though? Why was De Blasio trying to make this deal happen? I have a lot of trust for that guy, and so I wonder what did he see in this deal that was worth 3 billion?

De Blasio has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, from my perspective. He's done some legitimately good things, but he's far from being the progressive leader his campaign suggested he would be. TBH I wouldn't be surprised if he was thinking about Amazon donations to his future presidential campaign when he signed on to this deal.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:21 AM on February 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


IIRC, BdB ran headfirst into the NYPD right out of the gate and got badly beaten, and since then...

NYC needs a reformer, but it needs one that can take on some of the worst corruption in the US in a city the size of a state that is also a world financial center. We need, like, a Robert Moses who uses his powers for good, and I don't think one exists.

Or the rest of us need to break the various ...cartels? do we call them cartels? running the city, one by one.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:28 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


we need a woman, i am tired of men, what have they done for us lately
posted by poffin boffin at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2019 [17 favorites]


I wouldn't be at all surprised if our current City Council speaker Corey Johnson is the next mayor - he's certainly running. And he's walking the progressive walk so far, including calling out de Blasio on a lot of stuff. But who knows? De Blasio was my first choice in his election too.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:44 AM on February 15, 2019


twitter thread from barry ritholtz:
FYI: About the Amazon HQ2:
Man, so many people are getting this wrong. No, Amazon did not pull out of the NYC deal – and a lot of people have done a terrible job trying to explain this.
A few details that will make things clearer.
...
The answer to who killed this deal: NY State Sen. Michael Gianaris
...
As a fire-breathing Wall Street working capitalist, allow me to share my crazy idea:
Build your own fucking HQ on your own goddamned dime.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:03 PM on February 15, 2019 [15 favorites]


I want to say that it doesn't necessarily matter if the general populace liked the idea of HQ2 when polled on it.

The task of the political is not, despite what a lot of politicians pretend in order to weasel votes and avoid accountability, to deliver whatever is most popular. It is to deliver what is best, and to sway people to that cause.

In the struggle for marriage equality, discussing whether it had majority support was only ever useful as a marker of what was possible. Discrimination isn't good even if it has widespread support.

The same applies to these more economic matters. We shouldn't shy away from, say, the road to equal pay, just because it may upset a lot of workers. We should do it in ways that show workers that it's in all their best interests, sure, but we shouldn't accept the widespread idea that it has to hurt men's incomes and job security.

TL:DR just because a solid chunk of people hold false consciousness, it doesn't mean we go long with their delusion. It means we challenge it, we educate people.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:07 PM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


Johnson really really wants to be mayor and it would be nice to have an openly gay mayor for once ( he had a good speech on his own experience being HIV+ in his support for the new york health act) but a LOT of activists i know completely avoid electoral work now cause they worked on the BdB campaign and got harshly burned by it.
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


twitter thread from barry ritholtz

I mean, stopped clock and all. But:

My favorite part of watching self-professed capitalists try to discuss why they oppose this is how they literally cannot figure out any way to describe this except as "socialist". Dude, if this was socialist we'd be talking about taking government control of the company. When a company thrives by exploiting leverage on the political class to gain undue access to resources that the government holds a monopoly on, that's not socialism, that's the fucking definition of crony capitalism.
posted by tocts at 12:28 PM on February 15, 2019 [17 favorites]


But also we should nationalize Amazon - it's a gigantic state level Monopoly that all of us pay into even if we never use Amazon services and yet we have no say in how it runs.

If they don't want to pay taxes then they can become a wing of the post office
posted by The Whelk at 12:34 PM on February 15, 2019 [30 favorites]


Congrats to the activists who worked so hard on this for a well-deserved win. Chicago is taking notes.

(Thanks for nothing, Pritzker, you fuck.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:46 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


We need healthy, livable communities, and we need economies that help promote and sustain them.

That sounds like something we get with lots of high paying jobs in the community...


*drives past minor tent city on my way to get a burrito*
posted by atoxyl at 12:59 PM on February 15, 2019 [16 favorites]


Serious question, what exactly is Amazon’s monopoly? I see their huge market power but I'm confused as to what Amazon has monopolized.
posted by forforf at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is one of those things where the symbolism means more than the actual deal falling through. Amazon in particular losing out = YAY. Most any other company = snooze. Mostly because Amazon is the new Walmart.

On the one hand, I think subsidies for business ventures are generally not good practice. On the other, in this particular case, it's not as if the Amazon deal falling through and losing subsidies will free up billions of NYC tax dollars that can now go to fix subways and housing or whatever. Rather, the opposite effect will be the case: the loss of potential taxes. Sure, this is a victory of you're some kind of libertarian ideologue. But a pretty hollow victory for everyone else who sees it as a victory.

Whether the taxes are the result of corporate taxes or income taxes is is an interesting debate, but pretty irrelevant. Amazon being in NYC or not will not change how NYC's tax revenue is collected.

The idea that Amazon shopping around for a good deal as being "telling", presumably in some bad way, is silly. This is now any venture is done. From personal decisions all the way up. Corporations, companies, individuals, "take their ball and go home" all the time. As well as anyone should.

The idea that Amazon should hire locals, is just weird. It would be strange for a location such as this particular one would be chosen with the idea that it would import all its workers. If that were true, Amazon almost certainly do better relocating almost anywhere but NYC. But even if it were to import its workers, it's bizarre why one should declare that a bad thing. As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

And the idea that Amazon should be broken up or nationalized... yeah, we should build colonies under the sea, too. C'mon, people.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


from Ma Amazon to:

Amazon Atlantic
Southwestern Amazon
Pacific Amazon
AmazonSouth
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on February 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


In related news, Amazon is trying to influence Philadelphia city policy on cashless stores.

I don't see that one as so bad. If their business plan is to develop a cashless store, and they can't do that there, then they should just leave. No harm asking if the law can be changed.

Couldn't one solution to that be a kiosk that sells cashless cards for cash?
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:16 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Eurozon
Amazonia
Afrizon
Amasean
posted by mwhybark at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


The BBC was created by nationalizing a monopoly of broadcasters and the steel industry was very nearly nationalized in the 50s and the extremly popular Medicare For All plan would effectively nationalize the insurence industry.
posted by The Whelk at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


...and nationalize WalMart too!
posted by mwhybark at 1:23 PM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Serious question, what exactly is Amazon’s monopoly?

They're a monopsony (that is, a dominant buyer), which is in some key ways worse. If Amazon controls access to the market, then you have to do business on their terms, or else you're fucked.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:27 PM on February 15, 2019 [20 favorites]


As most Americans are within a 2-hour driving distance to a Walmart they would make excellent Civic. Engagement centers
posted by The Whelk at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of Amazon or this deal, but I'm not sure why we should assume that the communities in the neighborhoods around the proposed locations would also mostly be opposed. Anecdotally my friends who were the most vocal in favor of the deal were also the ones who were most vocal in their support of Cynthia Nixon in the primaries, who was mostly popular among white people and in NYC had the most support in neighborhoods that are rapidly gentrifying. If there's one thing the past few years has taught me there are often perspectives that I'm just not aware of because they're not held by people who are very online.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 1:32 PM on February 15, 2019


But even if it were to import its workers, it's bizarre why one should declare that a bad thing. As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

OK - but what are locals entitled to get out of this deal?

We're already dealing with skyrocketing rents and gentrification here, not to mention overstretched and crumbling transportation infrastructure. If a company is going to come here with a proposal that will intensify those problems, it seems rational to ask them to pay their fair share of taxes in order to mitigate them. But when we tried to put that deal on the table, Amazon walked.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:36 PM on February 15, 2019 [22 favorites]


But even if it were to import its workers, it's bizarre why one should declare that a bad thing. As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

Which is precisely why Amazon's whole HQ2 bullshit has been a shakedown operation! Given that Amazon is going to employ those people in one/some of a limited number of locations in the North American job market come what may, it is a net economic negative that cities are compelled (by Amazon's economic power) to bend over backwards to get those jobs in their job markets. But that's the reality of where we are right now.

There are only three possible responses to this problem of the extraction of public wealth through strong-arm tactics:
(1) Regulation preventing companies from seeking/obtaining these unearned tax-breaks.
(2) Intervention to break up monopolies like Amazon on antitrust grounds (anyone who thinks this is wildly implausible really needs to read a little US political history).
(3) Shrugging your shoulders and saying "well that's just capitalism: rich people get to have different rules if the push hard enough. Oh well, anything on TV?".

Those are your options. I personally favour a mixture of 1 and 2. But a bunch of people in here seem to think that the only responsible thing to do is 3, which is basically to keep our eyes on the floor and not upset the people running this racket because...well... I don't really know why. Either they need to make these hires or they don't, and either way the whole process was a fucking scam from start to finish.
posted by howfar at 1:44 PM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


This is a terrific bit of writing about this issue from a New Yorker and tech worker.
posted by liamcampbell at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


But even if it were to import its workers, it's bizarre why one should declare that a bad thing. As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

Dude, if one of the points Amazon was using to sell itself to our city was "we're bringing X number of jobs to the city," then every one of those X jobs should be offered to the city. Their pitch was "we'll create 25K jobs!" It wasn't "We'll create 25K jobs but most of them will be for the people we're relocating from Seattle, so we're really only creating 1K new jobs for New York!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on February 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Wow, so people actually think that New York City needs Amazon? It's just about the only city in the country with enough clout to be able to tell multi-billion dollar corporations to fuck off.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:56 PM on February 15, 2019 [34 favorites]


>What are the demographics of the most affected neighborhoods: LIC, Astoria, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst? I leave that as an exercise to the reader.

It's a good question. Here's what the census department has to report for the affected 12th district. For all the focus on AOC, it is worth noting that Carolyn Maloney (D), who represents the 12th district, was for the plan (as were, as reported, most New Yorkers, even most Queens voters).

In the case of AOC, though, I wonder. The Siena poll cited above shows the breakdown by race of those who supported Amazon's coming to LIC. Approval among African Americans was 71%, with 25% against; among Latinos, 80% for, 17% against. AOC's 14th district demographics are here. Barring a different poll targeting her district, one might assume the numbers are roughly the same.

If so, and if I were politically minded, or I were Joe Crowley and wanted my old job back, I would seriously consider taking a shot.

(Assuming of course, that that district still exists next year....)
posted by BWA at 2:29 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


One thing I've realized following a number of arguments about this: "What, you want to go back to the 1970s?" is the NYC version of "What, you want the country to turn into Venezuela?"
posted by neroli at 2:31 PM on February 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


But even if it were to import its workers, it's bizarre why one should declare that a bad thing. As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

We have a very different idea of what a "city" is. Queens isn't a random collection of buildings, its the people that make, use, develop and maintain the buildings, as well as live, love, fuck, fight, die within their walls. Cities can't exist without people, they aren't natural. Your question, to me, is just a more abstract way of asking why a group of people should be entitled to their own bodies.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2019 [22 favorites]


but I do study amazon quite a bit, and I am very sure that if they could find 25000 qualified people to hire, they will do it in a heartbeat.

AMZN has a terrible PR problem with regards to hiring engineering people. I tell the recruiters that reach out that I'll take no less than double my comp to even consider an offer. (Hell, Amazon and moving from SoCal to NYC would probably take triple.) Since the recruiters keep responding and I have to eventually just ignore them, I'm guessing I'm not the only one starting off the conversation with ridiculous numbers.

Also, to all those who are celebrating because they think 25k tech workers are not coming to The Big Apple: It's already happening right now. The difference is that the other companies bringing in all that expensive talent aren't doing the "#HQ2" bullshit.
posted by sideshow at 2:57 PM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


One thing I've realized following a number of arguments about this: "What, you want to go back to the 1970s?" is the NYC version of "What, you want the country to turn into Venezuela?"

Considering that the crisis of the 70s where caused by large companies holding the city hostage (seriously read FEAR CITY ) and a political era of austerity coming to power, this could signal a turning point in conventional wisdom.
posted by The Whelk at 3:21 PM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


The idea that Amazon shopping around for a good deal as being "telling", presumably in some bad way, is silly. This is now any venture is done. From personal decisions all the way up. Corporations, companies, individuals, "take their ball and go home" all the time. As well as anyone should.

This is not how you live in a healthy community. Refusal to negotiate, to compromise, to listen to the concerns of others in an environment where we share resources and a future simply to maximize your own gain is the ultimate in contemptible selfishness. You may or may not be able to pull off living that way (spoiler: you're not), but, if you try it, you can't be surprised if no one wants you in the neighborhood.

I mean, this is actually arguing that it's somehow wrong or silly not to invite a rude giant who plans to order you around to come live in your neighborhood, because that's just what rude giants do! The intensity of some people's abasement before power can be breathtaking sometimes. Unless it's power they don't like. If what you are is a power worshipper, if you think power is entitled to dictate its own terms, you should be bowing humbly before NYC's capacity to tell Amazon to eff off.
posted by praemunire at 3:39 PM on February 15, 2019 [23 favorites]


But would they confine their search to New York City, or would they be luring people in from Seattle?

Amazon continues to build new office buildings with space for thousands more desks in Seattle. I don’t think shrinking their Seattle footprint is the reason for HQ2. Rather, they’ve decided Seattle can’t keep up with their growth indefinitely.

That said, HQ1 in Seattle pulls in new hires from around the country and the world, bringing in lots of folks who are not locals. HQ2 will do the same, wherever it is.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:52 PM on February 15, 2019


I know I shouldn't be, but I am absolutely amazed at the number of people (here and elsewhere) chiming in to throw their support behind Amazon and Jeff Bezos. What is it about us as a species (or perhaps that's too general and it's us as a country) that, when we see someone with obscene amounts of wealth and power, we throw ourselves before them and offer them more money and power?
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


I think some of the people who use the product(s) don't want to feel badly about it so they attempt to vindicate/excuse the company.
posted by Selena777 at 4:16 PM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


That said, HQ1 in Seattle pulls in new hires from around the country and the world, bringing in lots of folks who are not locals. HQ2 will do the same, wherever it is.

That's really the problem for them in NYC. There is literally no reason to bring in anyone new with the existing talent pool.
posted by mikelieman at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2019


Ehh. HQ2 or no, Amazon will continue hiring in NYC. They send their talent recruiters to NYC, find the top talent there, and make them a relocation offer to bring them to wherever their HQ is. That's literally how all the tech giants work. I know heaps of friends from Asia and Australia who have taken up relocation offers to the US, whether it's for FB, Google, Amazon or Apple. I hear we collectively lost at least 50 engineers to Apple in the US who wanted to poach talent for their car project, which never eventuated. Our professors at the top universities in Melbourne complain about the academic brain drain from Australia to the US.

So yes, having a HQ in New York will make it easier and cheaper for Amazon to access talent on the East Coast, but in the large scheme of things their other HQ2 will serve a similar purpose.

From my perspective, the industry I worked in was tied very closely to government subsidies: our industry as a whole purchased about $3 billion a year from local businesses and employed about 50,000 workers in well paid union jobs. The number we wanted / needed (as an industry, split across dozens of firms) was about $300 mil a year. At some point it became politically unsustainable so the government cut the incentives, and the industry evaporated entirely. Most of the 50,000 workers are now unemployed, working part time, or now in lower paying non union jobs. Unemployment is around 25% in the district + adjacent districts from our site. From the corporation's perspective, that's just part of operating under uncertain business conditions. Things change and we move on: our factory site is now being turned into a factory manufacturing wind power generators. Subsidies are not always automatically bad or good - they shape the landscape of our nation, and we should be judicious and careful about how they are applied.
posted by xdvesper at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


From New Orleans, thank you New York! Fuck Amazon! Fuck their sleazeball negotiation tactics!

I only hope every city Amazon approaches takes a page, these scum always play us off each other
posted by eustatic at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


i invite anyone supporting amazon over the city who told them clearly to fuck off with their bullying nonsense to pay the difference in my rent (just mine! not the literally thousands of recently insecurely housed people in Seattle!) between about 8 years ago and now. Though I’ve moved 7 times in that time, into increasingly shittier apartments seeking to keep my rent stable, it appears after some research that the rent in my current rat trap Central District studio has increased $800. I’m willing to only blame amazon for half of that, and I accept paypal.
posted by zinful at 8:25 PM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


Serious question, what exactly is Amazon’s monopoly?

They're a monopsony (that is, a dominant buyer), which is in some key ways worse. If Amazon controls access to the market, then you have to do business on their terms, or else you're fucked.


They also have a monopoly on book retail, eBooks, and web services.
posted by Merus at 9:31 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


two conflicts:
1) who whom:

do the details of the deal work out to NYC losing or gaining any NET economic benefit. Hard to calculate because economics is numeroloy masquerading as statistical forensics. Maybe paying Jeff $3 dollars in bribes for him to buy $3 in candy from you is a good deal, maybe its not. But we know that if amazon or walmart etc had to play by the same rules as any other business, their advantages would be less.

2) are companies people, specifically, are companies fuedal lords. The "laissez faire" set seems pretty eager to grant any blue-chip a fiefdom. Is there anything rich people or their legal fictions can't demand of us?
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 9:31 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


The reason why (some) people are pushing back is that tax incentives can be a perfectly cromulent tool for economic development. Like many other tools, however, they can and have been severely abused by those whose goal is to make government dysfunctional.

I agree that in this instance it probably wasn't a great deal for New York generally and LIC in particular based on what I've read.

The other thing that's bugging me is how people blame Amazon not for the things Amazon actually does (treats many workers negligently, using contractual relationships to deflect blame, etc), but for the NIMBYism and dysfunctional government controlled by land developers that prevents the construction of affordable workforce housing.

Like it or not, people want to move to cities. That means we must either build housing for these new residents or suffer the rent increases that result from having insufficient housing. There are reasons to push back against the default modes of development which push out the poorest of a city's population, but a lot of it is less about protecting residents and more about protecting the existing aesthetic and railing against the necessary increases in density because it changes the character of existing neighborhoods.

We desperately need to find a middle ground between preservation of existing residents and neighborhoods and new housing. It's easier said than done when the biggest profits are made by pushing out the most vulnerable, however.
posted by wierdo at 9:34 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


Count me as a former Seattleite who got pushed out of the city — when I was making 90k a year it was too expensive to live in the neighborhood where 5-10 years prior I felt secure on less than 25k. I’m so disgusted by anyone who brushes off the heartbreak of all of us who watched our city’s soul be crushed by Amazon, who watched hate crimes go up with the rents, gay bars be demolished with quality of life, and thinks NYC is missing out.

Of course it’s larger, but we have so much evidence that the presence of Amazon doesn’t make for a livable city or create good jobs. I don’t know if any laws have changed this yet but all the new “affordable” apartments in Seattle gave incentives to Amazon workers on their $2500 studios and weren’t interested in renting to anyone who wasn’t a perfect tenant, making the city even more unfriendly to even solidly middle class people. Anyone below that? Good fucking luck.

It’s sick and disheartening that the lessons of our present, not even our past, here on the west coast are ignored in favor of repeating PR blasts.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:05 PM on February 15, 2019 [20 favorites]


"Amazon is welcome to build buildings and hire workers in New York City any time. They are not welcome to billions of dollars in tax breaks while fighting against the right of their workers to unionize. Fuck off with that.

Many people will say that NYC just lost something meaningful. But the reality is that an entire nation, and an entire movement of people who believe that corporations and billionaires should not control our country, just gained something more meaningful. We gained a concrete sense of what is possible." So, What Did We Learn?
posted by The Whelk at 12:16 AM on February 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


how people blame Amazon not for the things Amazon actually does

Here is something Amazon actually did directly related to housing in the city.

Honestly, knowing that this is the kind of thing they do once they gain leverage, why would any city interested in governing itself try to bribe them to come in?
posted by praemunire at 12:32 AM on February 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


Giving corporations big tax breaks, or even worse giant grants, to build factories/ offices because 'oh but they'll provide jobs!' is bullshit in my opinion. Why are you giving millions of dollars/ pounds to a company that has money instead of, I don't know, just giving it straight to the people who need money instead. Why give it to the giant, a-moral, money-sucking corporations in the hopes they'll pass a little on? It enrages me. And it just means small businesses are even more fucked, because not only can they not compete on bulk order prices or supply chain, but they also don't get the same tax breaks! Yay!

Pay for your own goddamn business you vultures.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:55 AM on February 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


Every day I grow to despise Toronto more and more

A city that elected not one, but two "Fords"... Yeah, that place is insane, never learns.



In Toronto's defense, they only elected one Ford. The rest of Ontario elected the other. Provincially speaking, Toronto is now a pocket of orange in a sea of blue.



Eurozon
Amazonia
Afrizon
Amasean


We have always been at war with Amasean.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:01 AM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Pay for your own goddamn business you vultures.

I like to phrase this as, "If your company needs subsidies, you suck at running a business"
posted by mikelieman at 5:12 AM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I guess in further defence of Toronto, the part of Toronto that drives the economy, the part that is actually Old Toronto -- instead of Scarborogh, the various Yorks, and Etobicoke -- didn't vote for either Ford. That's the "magic" of amalgamation.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Giving corporations big tax breaks, or even worse giant grants, to build factories/ offices because 'oh but they'll provide jobs!' is bullshit in my opinion. Why are you giving millions of dollars/ pounds to a company that has money instead of, I don't know, just giving it straight to the people who need money instead.

Answer: state capacity. Its much easier (meaning, possible) for city governments to give tax breaks than it is for them to distribute public goods.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:04 AM on February 16, 2019


Look at the adjacent jobs it would have created. The pizza guy down the street, the dry cleaners, the mom and pop grocery, etc. They would have all had an increase in business.

Yep, mom and pop places like Pizza Hut, Whole Foods, Walmart... Any new development is not going to woo homespun independent businesses to them. They are generally going to bank on filling most of the space with set chains. Not only will the majority of this increased revenue get funneled away to non-local headquarters, the economy of scale of the larger chains will allow them to undercut the prices of the mom and pop places and drive them out of business. That assumes that the massive jump in rental rates don't force them to close down first. Very few local businesses survive when gentrification moves in.

This is pretty much the same thing that happens in small town USA when the Walmart opens up right off the interstate and kills Main Street.
posted by Badgermann at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Genuine question: if trading 3b for 25k jobs is a good deal for everyone... why shouldn't NY just hire 25k people at 120k/yr (or double at half)? Isn't there plenty around town that needs taking care of?
posted by BS Artisan at 9:18 AM on February 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


From last December: New Google Campus Accelerates Tech’s March Into New York
Google said on Monday that it planned to create a $1 billion campus just south of the West Village. The internet company’s push into one of Manhattan’s most famous neighborhoods positions it to become one of New York’s biggest occupants of office space, allowing it to double its work force in the city to more than 14,000 over the next decade.
There was no mention of $billion subsidies for Google. Why were we about to give Amazon $3 billion?
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:36 AM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Closed Door meetings on Unions preceeded Amazon withdrawal

Indeed, looks like a massive anti-union action which surprised everyone involved on the NY side. They'll bring the 25k jobs if and only if they are allowed to be shitty hand-to-mouth subsistence jobs with no possibility of improvement.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:13 AM on February 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


A Better Way to Attract Amazon’s Jobs

Virginia offered Amazon $550 million in job-creation grants, which the company will receive only after delivering the proposed 25,000 jobs, with additional subsidies available if the company creates as many as 37,850 jobs. Virginia’s relatively small offer to Amazon reflected the state’s very few as-of-right incentives.

Virginia threw into the package more than $1 billion in additional taxpayer funds to build a pipeline of technical workers and improve transportation. This portion of the “subsidy” will not go directly into Amazon’s pockets but into Virginia schools, universities, and local agencies. It is nearly twice the amount offered to Amazon, a signal that investing in the local work force is more important than offering sweeteners to Amazon.

Finally, the governor’s office, key state legislators and city and county council officials worked together to address anticipated concerns from their constituency, whether from rural areas or in the neighborhoods surrounding National Landing, the proposed site for the new Amazon facility.

posted by praiseb at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


For those asking why DeBlasio was so keen on wooing Amazon: Why NYC leaders are so thirsty for Amazon (and maybe you should be)

It comes down to one word: density. NYC is NYC because of its incredible density, and that creates unique circumstances. That density is now a liability for the city’s economy, creating challenges for which NYC leaders are hoping Amazon might be the panacea.

(Aside: I am not commenting here about Amazon as a company, or if the tax incentives process used to win HQ2 were ethically “right” – fair arguments exist against – but pointing out that why NYC leaders like Cuomo and de Blasio are so desperate for this deal).

posted by joedan at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2019


Genuine question: if trading 3b for 25k jobs is a good deal for everyone... why shouldn't NY just hire 25k people at 120k/yr (or double at half)? Isn't there plenty around town that needs taking care of?

The city has an actual public defender shortage, hiring a couple thousand more of them would save money in the end by reducing incarceration. Costs money to keep people in cages.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 AM on February 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


As if locals are somehow entitled to jobs by virtue of being locals.

I feel like I remember some thread on here where someone was like, "what, just because someone's human means they deserve some baseline of respect?" And the answer there was pretty much the same as it is here, which is: in some fundamental, cosmic sense, no, of course not. In the sense of not being a shit human by basically any reasonable ethical measure, yes, totally. Still, I guess it's not surprising that positions like the pro-AMZN ones in this thread bottom out in this type of low-level sociopathy.
posted by invitapriore at 1:06 PM on February 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


Ironically, many of us here on MeFi are quite adamant that restrictions on immigration are for the most part immoral (another way of saying that jobs aren't "for" locals just because they were there first) in the national context. Funny that the very same sentiment is described as low-level sociopathy when applied to smaller political units.
posted by wierdo at 1:14 PM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Funny that the very same sentiment is described as low-level sociopathy when applied to smaller political units.

There is a vast and cavernous difference between international immigration on the part of people who are fleeing war-torn or economically collapsed countries and are seeking to have a decent chance at a far and livable life in a free society, and moving cross-country because the big corporation you work for that opened up an office in another state decided that promoting from within and moving you was cheaper than looking for a new hire in that new state.

And this is more about Amazon getting massive tax breaks to set up camp here anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:50 PM on February 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


I've lived in NYC for a decade, 3 of those in LIC. Amazon's approach was peak "if we can gain advantage by leveraging our size and skill and it's not illegal, it would be morally wrong not to!"

The perspective that NYC leadership is desperate to replace declining I-banker and hedge fund money with tech would hold more water if Google, Facebook, IBM, and dozens of other high profile firms didn't already have offices and intense recruitment efforts in play here. Amazon just played the loudest, most conspicuous con because they're used to being able to push everyone else around and the leaders in question wanted a quick fix to their revenue and housing challenges.

Like 104% of all desperate quick fixes people in power try instead of compromise, hard work, and genuine leadership where your privilege may need to be sacrificed for the good of your organization... this was a stupid idea that attracted a hungry predator.

LIC has had high rises half constructed with no tenants since the post-recession bust that are only now getting finished. It also has thriving neighborhoods with dozens of local banks, shops, restaurants, and non-high-rise real estate. All of this is mixed in with historic oddities like driving schools and strip clubs held over from the time when it was all warehouses and parking for department of transportation gear in disuse. And, of course, it has several housing projects with both the rich history of low income families and challenges of integration with the surrounding communities those entail.

The point is Amazon might have bought some space. It wouldn't have fixed the unnecessary train problems on the 7 or E train, definitely wouldn't have helped any of the thriving neighborhoods keep thriving, but certainly would have raised my rent in anticipation of all that magic money they were going to imply they'd spend.

I'm glad they are "backing out." I'm glad it was union pressure that so conspicuously did it. I can't help but feel like this is still only step two of a much longer con that we open ourselves up to by conflating success in business with the common good. Mistaking job promises for anything but a dangled carrot above an industrial meat grinder.
posted by abulafa at 2:40 PM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's not that I don't recognize the distinction, it's that I think characterizing people here as exhibiting low level sociopathy to be hyperbolic and rude.
posted by wierdo at 2:44 PM on February 16, 2019


All of this is mixed in with historic oddities like

"Why would I go to Queens? I don't need new tires."

also, I'd believe NYC is tax-hungry when they go about enforcing all the currently outstanding fines on real estate developers and landlords and stop just giving away tax abatements to developers. There's plenty of money there.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:46 PM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I dunno, seems fair to treat someone who equates multi-billion dollar corporations with refugees and people seeking honest work like they're a sociopath until they've managed to demonstrate otherwise.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:58 PM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Regarding "jobs for locals" vs "jobs for immigrants" with regards to Queens: famously, Queens has more languages than anywhere in the world — here's where they're found
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


also, I'd believe NYC is tax-hungry when they go about enforcing all the currently outstanding fines on real estate developers and landlords and stop just giving away tax abatements to developers. There's plenty of money there.

Yes thank you there’s literally millions in underenforced, underclaimed fines and violations out there. A modest investment in a wage theft/violation task force would reap huge returns.

It’s a jobs program for making sure your shitty boss or landlord doesn’t have one anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 3:31 PM on February 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Just in case you thought that other tech companies were better than Amazon: Google is reportedly hiding behind shell companies to scoop up tax breaks and land
posted by octothorpe at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2019


I dunno, seems fair to treat someone who equates multi-billion dollar corporations with refugees and people seeking honest work like they're a sociopath until they've managed to demonstrate otherwise.

Or you could read the words as written and assume that when the word "people" is used that it doesn't refer to Amazon, but to actual people who would like to work for them or any other employer.
posted by wierdo at 5:09 PM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


So you're saying corporations are people, my friend? But people who want to work for any other employer? What exactly is stopping the people from moving to NYC, such that opposition to the Amazon deal is somehow like Nationalists wanting to build a border wall?
posted by XMLicious at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Or you could read the words as written and assume that when the word "people" is used that it doesn't refer to Amazon, but to actual people who would like to work for them or any other employer.

They're free to move to NYC if they can find a job there at some non-Amazon company. Nobody's building a wall to keep Seattle software engineers out of Queens.

But if a multi-billion dollar company wants massive tax giveaways from a municipality, it's only fair for said municipality to ensure that the people who already live there benefit from the deal.

Really, the immigration analogy couldn't be less relevant to the actual situation here.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


Actually I feel like I may be missing something here, because you responded to a comment about being "pro-AMZN" without using the word "people", I don't think, wierdo...
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 PM on February 16, 2019


I just set up an IRL event for this coming Tuesday's meeting of Community Board 1, plus wine, in case Astoria/LIC folks want to, e.g., hear what the Community and Economic Development committee has to say about the swiftly changing fortunes of the Amazon deal. (Or share our varied? perspectives in person.)
posted by brainwane at 6:52 PM on February 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it would help if I pointed out that the analogy was explicitly referring to the notion of jobs being "for" locals and in response to someone literally saying that disagreement with that notion is sociopathic.

In that respect, I find the analogy more apropos than most.
posted by wierdo at 8:20 PM on February 16, 2019


This dispute is bizarre to me. Locals would be hurt by this deal in specific nonfungible ways. It's their rents going up, their stores being driven out of business, their streets and subways getting more crowded. What are they getting in return? Job opportunities should be one of the most obvious answers. I'm not going to say that the welfare of Seattle software engineers is of complete indifference to me, but I certainly don't see any need to pay taxes in order to subsidize moving them in here.
posted by praemunire at 8:56 PM on February 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Perhaps it would help if I pointed out that the analogy was explicitly referring to the notion of jobs being "for" locals and in response to someone literally saying that disagreement with that notion is sociopathic.

In that respect, I find the analogy more apropos than most.


This helpful "as written" pointing out of a word you didn't use in your own comment, which I'm also now noticing put the word "for" in quotes despite that not appearing in the comment responded to either, and now further helpful interpretation of your interlocutors supposedly wanting "people who would like to work for [Amazon] or any other employer" to not get jobs, does not at all seem like an actual attempt to help anyone understand this discussion, but rather seems like an attempt to retcon the entire thread and shoehorn other people's opinions into something like xenophobia to try to make your desired thesis fit.

There's no valid analogy and being pro-AMZN at the expense of any actual humans who actually live in the city they've targeted for exploitation is in fact a type of low-level sociopathy, as far as rhetorical use of medical terminology goes. A specific company mixing in relocation of specific already-existing jobs with a falsified estimate of the number of jobs it's supposedly going to "create", but is in no way bound to create and probably would have failed to create, is an egregious form of deception. Resenting a company engaging in such deception is in no way a type of xenophobia.
posted by XMLicious at 6:11 AM on February 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'd like to point out that, of their total sample of 788, 40% of polled (315.2) live in NYC. I personally don't see, say, Buffalo or Cooperstown having a huge dog in this fight, except that they'd benefit a wee bit if Amazon were to pay any state taxes. I'd love to hear arguments that their opinions on HQ2 matter just as much as people who live in the city.

The sample is also 69% white. The 2009 census had NYC's population at 45.7% white. What are the demographics of the most affected neighborhoods: LIC, Astoria, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst? I leave that as an exercise to the reader.


The region most opposed to the deal, according to the poll, is upstate. The ethnicity most opposed to the deal is white, by a huge margin.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2019


It occurred to me that Bezos very likely thinks he's John Galt here.

Guess what, Bezos? John Galt Didn't Take Subsidies. He was a True Man, and you're a pathetic wannabe. (If not clear, this is just angry satire. I do like the idea, though, of taking the Randian-type Libertarian Principles and using them against these guys, showing how they don't measure up by comparison to their fictional hero. Jeff, do you use public highways dude? For shame!)
posted by sylvanshine at 11:54 PM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


Nah, Randiots are all about taking advantage of externalities and laughing about how they've optimized the system in their favour.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:06 AM on February 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


Open Letter From New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Regarding Amazon

Guy's just ripping into people:
The polls showing seventy percent of New Yorkers supported Amazon provided false comfort that the political process would act responsibly and on behalf of all of their constituents, not just the vocal minority. We underestimated the effect of the opposition's distortions and overestimated the intelligence and integrity of local elected officials.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:34 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Libby Watson: Bootlickers Never Learn
The saga of Amazon’s search for its second headquarters, but then it turned out to be fore a third as well, but then back to just a second one, was enlightening. It showed us just how thirsty and embarrassing city officials could be, and how many billions of dollars in tax “incentives” they would be willing to give up to attract high-paying tech jobs. It showed how the idea that American democracy is at all transparent, or really functioning at all, is a lie. It showed cities would do more to placate Amazon than they would to keep their own citizens safe, with Columbus promising Amazon it would create a task force on its high murder rate; apparently, murders only matter if they happen to highly-paid Amazon employees. It showed there’s always money to be found in government coffers for corporate Job Creation. It showed us that the media is full of neoliberal cretins.

More than anything, it showed how willing Amazon was to lie—most notably, about the idea that they would ever have picked anywhere but New York, with its massive and already highly-skilled labor market, and Crystal City, with its proximity to Washington and the power (and juicy federal contracts) therein. They never meant any of this, but they made all those cities dance for them anyway.

Today, we learn of yet more evidence of their utter disdain for local politicians. You may remember the sordid tale of Seattle’s “head tax” from last year: Seattle’s City Council passed a per-employee tax on companies that make more than $20 million that would have raised money for homelessness services, but then repealed that tax less than a month later after Amazon and other businesses complained. Among the toys Amazon threw out of its pram before it won: It warned if the tax stuck, it would pull out of bringing workers to 722,000 square feet of space it had leased in a new tower named Rainier Square
[...]
The head tax is going to make us sublease all our space, warned Amazon. But then the head tax was repealed, so surely Amazon would go ahead and bring its jobs to the tower?

Apparently not. GeekWire reported today Amazon will in fact sublease all of its space in the building, meaning it won’t bring those new Amazon jobs to that building. In a statement to the Seattle Times, Amazon claimed they were “always evaluating our space requirements and intend to sublease Rainier Square based on current plans.”

It would seem like they were lying about the original threat, then, since they won but went ahead and did it anyway. But you can’t expect anything else from a corporation, least of all Amazon. When it comes to business decisions, corporate executives don’t think in terms of what’s morally right or whether it’s bad to lie.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:00 AM on February 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Gee, it's almost as if Amazon's management already has a viable plan for making a lot of money by increasing staffing and now is fishing for idiot local governments staffed by politicians who would give away billions to a corporation that doesn't need it as long as they can claim they "created jobs".
posted by tocts at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


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