The initial $1.5 billion in incentives for Amazon to bring up to 25,000 jobs to Long Island City in Queens ultimately won’t cost New York anything, Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted at a news conference on Tuesday.
The tax breaks over 10 years are tied to job creation, but the company is also receiving $350 million in a cash grant from the Empire State Development Corp. to help develop office space.
And the tax incentives grow to $1.7 billion for 40,000 jobs created after 15 years by the company.
“We don’t have this kind of money. We’re going to make this kind of money from this transaction,” Cuomo said. “This is a big money maker for us. It costs us nothing, nada, nothing, niente, goose egg. We make money doing this.”
Cuomo also said the decision by Amazon to bring its second headquarters to Queens along with Crystal City in Virginia “memorialized” his economic development efforts. New York was one of more than 200 cities that competed for the headquarters.
“This is day in, day out the status of economic development,” Cuomo said. “There is constant and ferocious competition between the different states and the different cities.”
But there are skeptics and critics of tax incentives, the largest New York has ever announced for a single company, on both the right and the left.
“New York State and the New York City bosses in charge continue to put corporate America above the hardworking men and women gutting it out every day in New York’s abysmal business climate,” said Republican Sen. Fred Akshar.
Another upstate Republican, Sen. Cathy Young, pointed to sports apparel manufacturer New Era announcing plans on Tuesday to close its Western New York plant next year, a move that affects 270 jobs.
“Overburdened New York taxpayers, particularly those in upstate who are seeing their communities and families decimated by job losses and lack of opportunity, have every right to be outraged by this massive giveaway,” she said.
Democratic state Sen. Michael Gianaris has also been critical of the incentives as his conference moves to take majority control of the chamber in 2019.
“We are witness to a cynical game in which Amazon duped New York into offering unprecedented amounts of tax dollars to one of the wealthiest companies on Earth for a promise of jobs that would represent less than 3 percent of the jobs typically created in our city over a 10 year period,” Gianaris said in a statement with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
“Too much is at stake to accept this without a fight. We will continue to stand up against what can only be described as a bad deal for New York and for Long Island City.”
The labor union that represents retail workers was also critical.
“New York deserves better than the deal that was struck to lure Amazon here,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “It’s hard to believe that we are giving as much as $1 billion to one of the wealthiest and largest companies in history.”
And the announcement drew a rebuke from the National Federation of Independent Business.
“New York’s small, independent businesses employ more than half of the State’s private sector workforce, pay some of the highest property and income taxes in the nation, and are in desperate need of real relief from a stifling regulatory climate,” said NFIB State Director Greg Biryla.
“Rather than cut a $1.7 billion check to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, New York State’s economy, taxpayers and communities would be far better served by seeing business, property and income tax reductions implemented across the board.”
But the announcement also created the odd pairing of Cuomo with his rival, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who cheered the announcement at the governor’s Manhattan office in New York City.
“New Yorkers will get tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs, and Amazon will get the best talent in the world,” he said. “We’re going to use this opportunity to open up good careers in tech to thousands of people looking for their foothold in the new economy, including those in City colleges and public housing. The city and state are working closely together to make sure Amazon’s expansion is planned smartly, and to ensure this fast growing neighborhood has the transportation, schools and infrastructure it needs.”
And the announcement won the support of members of the state’s congressional delegation and other Queens officials, including the borough president, Melinda Katz.
“Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke. “As the most diverse large city in America, I am hopeful that this investment will help promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity within the technology sector. I am also encouraged that this decision is accompanied by investments in NYCHA and public infrastructure. More work needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers reap the benefits of our economy and I am hopeful that this is the first critical step towards that goal.”
Labor allies of the governor, including Gary LaBarbera of the Building and Construction Trades Council, also praised it.
“It’s exciting that Amazon is making this commitment to our great city and state,” he said. “We look forward to working closely with Amazon and the community to ensure that the project includes good middle class construction jobs with benefits and high quality permanent jobs.”
As did the world of real estate.
“Amazon on the East River is no accident. It’s an outgrowth of what has and continues to make New York so special. There is no better city in the world than New York to access a large and diverse pool of talent,” said Steven Rubinstein, the chair of the Board of the Association for A Better New York.