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Amazon thinks twice about shift to Big Apple

2019-02-10 HKT 02:06
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  • State Assemblyman Ron Kim (centre) addresses a rally in December opposing New York's deal with Amazon, which is reportedly reconsidering its planned New York City headquarters because of political opposition. File photo: AP
    State Assemblyman Ron Kim (centre) addresses a rally in December opposing New York's deal with Amazon, which is reportedly reconsidering its planned New York City headquarters because of political opposition. File photo: AP
Amazon is exploring alternatives to locating part of its new headquarters in New York in case the plan should fail due to local opposition, Reuters reported, quoting an unidentified source.

The online retailer has not yet acquired any land for the project, which would make it easy to scrap its plans, the source said. The Washington Post reported the story earlier on Friday.

The person briefed on the matter said that Amazon was still working toward winning approval from New York officials and had not given up on the proposal, but was considering potential alternatives to New York.

Earlier, the Post, which is owned by Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, reported that Amazon executives had had internal discussions to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives. It cited two unnamed people familiar with the retailer’s thinking.

In a statement on Friday, Amazon said it was working to engage with New Yorkers, but did not discuss whether it would change its plans.

“We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbours - small business owners, educators, and community leaders,” it said. “Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”

In November, Amazon said it would branch out from its home base in Seattle with plans to create more than 25,000 jobs in two new developments.

The world’s largest online retailer plans to spend US$5 billion on the developments in Long Island City in New York’s Queens borough, and in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, DC, and expects to get more than US$2 billion in tax credits and incentives with plans to apply for more.

Amazon has mailed flyers to Queens residents touting the economic benefits of its New York expansion.

But some residents in the rapidly transforming Long Island City neighborhood across the East River from mid town Manhattan’s skyscrapers have loudly opposed Amazon’s plan. They say they fear more crowded subway stations, an overburdened sewage system and rent increases that would drive out long-time residents.

“I would be happy not to have them,” said Terri Gloyd, the co-owner of the LIC Corner Cafe. “I think most of the neighborhood hasn’t wanted them here.” She said her neighbours may have given the prospect of Amazon a warmer welcome had the subsidy package not been so large.

A critic of the plan, Queens lawmaker Senator Michael Gianaris, was appointed to a state senate panel that has the power to block Amazon’s campus, local media including the New York Times have reported.

City council speaker Corey Johnson told local radio he is looking at subsidies for Amazon and that the plan is not yet final. One point of contention could be Amazon’s opposition to labour unions. (Reuters)