Forget Housing–New Yorkers Will Now Be Subsidizing Amazon

For 14 months, Amazon baited North American cities with a reality-show-style contest.

The winner was promised 50,000 employees and the distinction of serving as the retail giant’s second headquarters.

Well, the wait is over.

And the winners are…

Long Island City, Queens, New York, and Crystal City, Arlington, Va., outside Washington, D.C.

What is the response from the public?

New York Rep.-elect, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, summed it up best when she tweeted:

“We’ve been getting calls and outreach from Queens residents all day about this. The community’s response? Outrage.”

Why, you might ask?

Wouldn’t Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, be doing a service introducing jobs to thousands of residents?

The problem is not so much what Bezos will bring New York; it’s what the 19 million New York State residents will bring Bezos.

New York taxpayers will be financing corporate welfare for the richest man in the world‘s helipad and offices in an area previously slated for almost 1,500 public housing units for needy families.

Politico reported on Thursday:

“Most—if not all—of that intended housing is now off the table.”

Democratic state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, stated:

“The fact that massive public subsidies are helping eliminate affordable housing units is just the latest reason this bad deal needs to be torn up and thrown away.”

In addition to scrapping the public housing, Amazon’s Long Island City headquarters will also reportedly displace over 1,000 New York City public school workers.

While Amazon claimed it will receive $2.1 billion in total taxpayer “incentives” from Long Island City and Crystal City combined, a Good Jobs First analysis reveals the actual cost to taxpayers: at least $4.6 billion–likely more.

Good Jobs First executive director, Greg LeRoy, said in a statement:

“The taxpayer costs of these two deals is high, both in absolute terms and on a per-job basis, contrary to Amazon’s artful spin. Together, we believe they exceed $4.6 billion and the cost per job in New York is at least $112,000, not the $48,000 the company used in a selective and incomplete press release calculation.”

He added:

“It is very odd that Amazon’s own press release includes information about its economic development incentives. Such information normally comes only from governors or mayors. It suggests Amazon is trying hard to control the narrative about the cost-benefit numerator, i.e., to minimize the perceived subsidy costs while maximizing the benefits.”

According to a report, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered Amazon hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to move to Queens.

About this, Good Jobs First’s Greg LeRoy said:

“Citizens have no idea what their elected officials have promised to a company headed by the richest person on earth. We don’t know what special new subsidies have been promised that will require state or local enactments. We don’t know if gentrification buffers—especially affordable housing—are included. We don’t know if clawbacks or other safeguards are included. We don’t know the cost per job. But we do know that both deals were negotiated in secret, without any public input.”

According to the Washington Post, the state of Maryland offered $8.5 billion in taxpayer-funded incentive packages during the bidding process; Newark, NJ offered $7 billion.

Rep.-elect Cortez tweeted:

“Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families. Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life…We need to focus on good healthcare, living wages, affordable rent. Corporations that offer none of those things should be met w/ skepticism. It’s possible to establish economic partnerships w/ real opportunities for working families, instead of a race-to-the-bottom competition.”

In September, Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act,” intending to require employers with at least 500 employees to reimburse the government for the food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, and other federal assistance their workers receive.

Sanders’ office explained in a press release when the senator announced his proposed legislation:

“If an Amazon worker receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300.”

In a statement, Sen. Sanders added:

“While Mr. Bezos is worth $155 billion and while his wealth has increased $260 million every single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing just to get by.

“While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages.”

In June, Sen. Sanders announced a plan to guarantee every American worker “who wants or needs one” a job paying at least $15 an hour with health benefits and retirement options.

Shortly after Sanders introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, Amazon announced it will agree to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for U.S. employees and lobby Washington to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

Image credit: Pixabay

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