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The Case Against Amazon HQ2 Is Flimsy. Will Spin or Substance Prevail?

Before the age of Trump, much of the opposition’s case would have been swept aside on the basis that they were not material enough and can be appropriately remedied. Delaying a transformative deal like Amazon HQ2 — who does that when 238 other cities would love to be in New York’s shoes?

After all, tension between economic development and communities is nothing new, but the politics of old often turned to compromise — and substantial monetary payoff to afflicted parties — to achieve congruence.

There is however, nothing old about today’s politics.

The ascent (and success, one might argue) of Trumpian politics has left an inedible imprint on American politics on both Right and Left. Principled governance is now viewed as a domain for the weak. Slogans are more important than substance.

Be as indignant as one can be, and denigrate one’s opposition as uncaring, out-of-touch, racist, classist, sexist, you name it.

So…

NEVER MIND that the bulk of the state and city’s subsidies to Amazon are in the form of tax credits, more akin to a discount coupon than a cash voucher AND only given provided Amazon achieves promised hiring milestones.

Over a 15-year period, the return to New York is projected to be 9:1 ($9 benefit to New York vs $1 benefit to Amazon). Few of us would pass up an personal investment opportunity where our money multiplies by nine times.

Never mind that incremental tax revenues from Amazon could be used to rebuild MTA’s fragile infrastructure and provide thousands of affordable housing units for all New Yorkers, far exceeding the small number of current Long Island City residents that may be impacted by HQ2.

Oh, the 7-train might well be less congested now since more New Yorkers will reverse-commute to Long Island City for work, and more riders from Queens will get off the Long Island City subway instead of Manhattan. Never thought of that possibility? Chances are — neither has your Queens borough congressional and state/local representative.

Never mind that most private companies in New York are non-unionized and Amazon’s detractors are holding the company to a vastly different standard. And remember, most private companies do not pay anything close to the Amazon targeted average/median salaries of $150,000.

Never mind that liberalizing recreational marijuana — which many opponents of Amazon supports — could exert far greater pressure to commercial rents affecting “mom-and-pop” retail throughout New York State, not just in the immediate areas of the small tract of land that is HQ2/Long Island City.

Some of the angriest political voices in Queens oppose Amazon on the basis they were not consulted, and yet they had no similar grouses on other controversial issues that “bypassed” them, for instance, the proposed elimination of the Specialized High School Admissions Test which would have a detrimental impact on thousands of Queens residents and families.

Spin is easy because they can be condensed into a short tweet (“Let’s Kill Amazon, whoop whoop!”), and does not require fact-based follow-ups and explanation of “complex” cost-benefit-analysis math. Donald Trump is a master. For better or worse, politicians of all political stripes learned from him.


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