Two days before Amazon announced that, after months of planning, it would not be building a new headquarters in Queens in New York City after all, New York State quietly admitted that another economic development deal brokered by the state hadn’t delivered its expected results.
A solar-panel plant that the state had sponsored in 2016 as part of a big investment plan in Buffalo was on track to create fewer than the , he “did not draft separate legislation mandating the creation of the database with clear guidelines and rules,” and Abinanti is frustrated by the lack of progress made in creating it. “We can’t get any info at all as to what his plans are,” he said.
In an email, the ESD said that it’s working on getting the “Database of Economic Development Projects” up and running. It just takes time, the group said, to do it “thoroughly and thoughtfully.”
Meanwhile, the knowledge that Amazon hopes to expand in Manhattan’s West Side anyway has vindicated—but also frustrated—even lawmakers that didn’t cheer for its ouster. “Providing those incentives would have been a tremendous waste for us,” said Gianaris. “If Amazon’s going to come here anyway, if that activity is going to be generated anyway, that would be lost money that we saved.”
The office space Amazon is reportedly interested in leasing could reach up to 100,000 square feet, according to the New York Post, but it probably won’t come close to employing 25,000 people; and it is in Manhattan, not on Long Island City, where empty office buildings are ready for filling and an employment boost would be more valuable. Amazon did not respond to CityLab’s request for comment.
Though there is no evidence that Amazon has come asking for more tax breaks in exchange for this new development—and has not confirmed its intentions to fill it—Kim worries that if another tech giant plays hardball with the state, there will be no safeguards in place to deny them incentives.
“We’d hope that in light of global exposure of the barriers behind big projects like Amazon, we would have the courage to rally around this moment to hold every dollar accountable,” said Kim. “But instead, we are still making these deals behind closed doors.”
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