- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his city's choice to use incentives to lure Amazon's HQ2 when state legislators questioned the appropriateness of the practice during a state budget hearing on Monday. Because of the promise of 25,000-40,000 new jobs, "it was mission critical that this city get those jobs rather than the other cities that I thought were very, very well situated," de Blasio said. He doesn't believe the type of "national competition" which Amazon conducted that pegs "city against city" is appropriate, but he acknowledged it would take new legislation to prevent such actions in the future.
- The comments follow rumors that Amazon is reconsidering bringing HQ2 to New York amid backlash from certain elected officials, community leaders and the public, as first reported by The Washington Post. Rallies both for opponents and supporters of the Amazon deal have cropped up throughout the New York City area in recent days, especially in Queens where the HQ2 site would be built.
- Amazon has not announced any concrete plan to withdraw from New York and the rumors of deal reconsideration are based on unnamed sources close to the deal.
While Northern Virginia has already approved a definite site for its share of HQ2, New York has not. Local governments are not expected to provide full approval until sometime next year. That makes it easier for Amazon to back away from the deal if it views conditions as unfavorable for moving forward with the plan to build HQ2 in Queens.
Throughout the state budget hearing, de Blasio repeatedly brought up concerns about New York's continued economic stability and what would happen if a recession were to hit in 2019 or 2020, citing ongoing partial hiring freezes and less revenue coming into the city. He used that argument to request additional funds from the state, but also to explain why the prospect of a mega-company bringing tens of thousands of jobs to an area is so important to bolster the economy. Amazon's HQ2 isn't expected to reach its maximum employee levels for another 10 years, which would provide the cities in which it lands a longer term economic boost.
De Blasio fielded questions from numerous senators about the appropriateness of offering incentives to lure Amazon and the effect it would have both on the city and the state. He said a company like Amazon bringing 25,000 to 40,000 jobs "is a seismic impact" that will bring higher-level jobs that New Yorkers want and it will have economic benefits for the entire state. He also said the city wants to build up its tech community.
City leaders and entrepreneurs have been making efforts to transform New York into a well-known tech hub. The efforts might be paying off based on a recent report that ranked New York first in a global index of top tech cities, ahead of even San Francisco. Former NYC CTO Miguel Gamiño, who also previously served as San Francisco's Chief Innovation Officer, told Smart Cities Dive last year that city leaders aim to advance the city's tech and smart city status while preserving the rich culture — though they're not trying to be Silicon Valley.
Losing the Amazon deal certainly would put a damper on New York's march toward tech. But at this point, the reconsideration is only just a rumor. Still, it would not be surprising to see supporters — elected officials and the public alike — make an extra push in the coming weeks to make Amazon feel like its presence will be welcome in Queens.