Amazon ruins the communities it takes over, says NY state senator who opposed NYC deal

Key Points
  • State Sen. Michael Gianaris defends his opposition to Amazon's now-scuttled plan for a New York City headquarters.
  • Gianaris claims Seattle businesses have not really benefited from having the e-commerce giant based there.
NY Senator opposed to Amazon HQ2: I was fighting for my community

New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris on Friday defended his opposition to Amazon's now-scuttled plan for what would have been a new headquarters in the Queens section of New York City.

"Amazon needs to get ahold of what they mean to communities, and act responsibility," Gianaris said in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box." "When they come in and take over a community like that, the community dies."

The New York Post, known for its edgy cover headlines, called Gianaris "the man who killed the Amazon deal."

Gianaris, whose district includes the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens where Amazon had agreed to build, claims Seattle businesses have not really benefited from having the e-commerce giant based there.

"In Seattle, the local restaurants are dying," he argued. "It's all insular to the campus. They go home at 5 o'clock. No one is having dinner in those restaurants."

"If you're going to come to a community, and you're going to turn Long Island City into what's happened in those towns in Seattle that I mentioned, you got to come correct and say, 'I want to help this community thrive,'" he added.

In response, a spokesperson for Amazon said Gianaris' comments on Seattle were "incorrect" and pointed CNBC to a blog post on the company's impact on the city. The Amazon post said the company has paid more than $25 billion in wages to its local workforce and invested $4 billion into its Seattle campus.

The city of Seattle did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Gianaris' interview.

New York's city council holds its second hearing questioning the city and state's deal that gave Amazon three billion dollars to move a second headquarters to Long Island City in Queens. City council members criticized Amazon for its anti-union policies and its alleged cooperation with immigration authorities.
Andrew Lichtenstein | Corbis News | Getty Images

Facing a chorus of protests from Gianaris, other New York politicians and neighborhood activists, Amazon on Thursday decided against building part of its so-called HQ2 in Long Island City. The company said it will continue to build its planned headquarters in Virginia and its other planned location in Nashville, Tennessee.

"While polls show that 70 percent 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," Amazon said in the statement Thursday.

Not all New York Democrats were against the deal. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose congressional district includes Long Island City, told CNBC in a later interview on Friday that she's disappointed Amazon pulled out. "It's a terrible loss to the city's economy and jobs for its people."

Maloney, vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill, said the $3 billion in subsidies for Amazon would have only materialized if the company kept its promises on job creation and other economic development metrics. Just because Amazon left doesn't means there's an extra $3 billion that can be spent elsewhere, she added. "There is no money if Amazon doesn't come to New York. There's not a pile of money."

Gianaris opposed the incentives offered by the city to seal the deal. "When Amazon who doesn't need the money is squeezing the government for billions of dollars just to show up, we've got a problem."

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the area near Amazon's formerly planned headquarters, took the company's move as a positive sign, saying, "Dedicated, everyday New Yorkers [and] their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed."

Maloney said she hopes the New York City can go back to Amazon to try to get the company to reconsider because the city needs to diversify its economy and technology could be a key driver. "We're overly dependent on business services and financial services."

— CNBC's Matthew Belvedere contributed to this report.