Amazon executives had made attempts to quell local fears about its move into the city. In December, two executives attended a hearing in front of members of New York's City Council where lawmakers addressed questions about how the company would ensure it hired a diverse workforce from the Queens community it was moving into, among other concerns. Council members expressed anger over the closed-door deal and said Amazon's actions prove it was a bad neighbor.
"I see this as Walmart 2.0 and we're going to continue to fight because we object to the process that has brought us to [this] point," said Councilwoman Inez Barron, a Democrat, at the December hearing. "You're in for a battle. You're in for a fight."
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat and vocal critic of the Amazon deal who was selected last week to serve on the state board that would have had final approval of the headquarters, said Amazon's decision proves they would not have been good neighbors.
"Today's behavior by Amazon shows why they would have been a bad partner for New York in any event," Gianaris said in a statement. "Rather than seriously engage with the community they proposed to profoundly change, Amazon continued its effort to shakedown governments to get its way. It is time for a national dialogue about the perils of these types of corporate subsidies."
Local officials have also expressed concerns over Amazon's reported ties to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency through its facial recognition technology. In a statement after Amazon's announcement, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat, said, "Defeating an anti-union corporation that mistreats workers and assists ICE in terrorizing immigrant communities is a victory. Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city and state forever."
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, a Democrat, said in a statement that Amazon's hearing in front of the City Council last month made it "increasingly clear that they had no intentions of being good neighbors and committing to the required negotiations. They rejected our values of supporting working people and were unwilling to work with our local communities toward a mutually beneficial resolution. New York has the best tech work force in the nation, much of which is here in Queens, so if Amazon wants to take their jobs somewhere else with a lesser work force so they can undercut wages and workers' rights, that's their choice."
Some Amazon employees had bought homes in the Long Island City area of Queens even before the company had announced its plans to open a headquarters there, The Wall Street Journal reported in November.
In response to Amazon's announcement, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union released a statement condemning the company's decision to back out of New York City.
"Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers Amazon says you do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers – that's not what a responsible business would do," an RWDSU spokesperson said in a statement.
Politicians chimed in on Twitter, including presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said, Amazon "just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren't sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?"
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who represents the area near Amazon's formerly planned headquarters, took the company's move as a positive sign.
"Anything is possible:" tweeted Ocasio-Cortez, "today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."
Here is the full statement from Amazon:
After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can't speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.
We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.