STUMP » Articles » NY to Amazon: Come baaaaaaaack! Pleeeeeeease! » 2 March 2019, 09:48

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

NY to Amazon: Come baaaaaaaack! Pleeeeeeease!  


2 March 2019, 09:48

Oh dear lord, really?

New York officials to Amazon: Please don’t go

New York officials and business executives are pleading with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to give New York City another chance after the retailer earlier this month backed out of a plan to build a second headquarters amid fierce community opposition.

In a full-page ad in The New York Times, dozens of politicians and corporate leaders such as Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga pleaded with Bezos to reconsider.

Oh wait. Let me see if I can get a picture of this ad.

This looks like this is the one. It’s a PDF and I don’t feel like embedding it on here.

It’s an open letter, so it’s pretty plain. I’ve seen these in the Wall Street Journal & NY Times for years. (And hey – would it have killed them to put the letter in the Washington Post? Or the WSJ? You know, a paper that Bezos might actually read? Or might pay attention to, because he owns the damn paper?)

But I can copy some of the text. I added emphasis in one part.

Dear Mr. Bezos:

New Yorkers do not want to give up on the 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues that Amazon was prepared to bring to our state. A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed. We understand that becoming home to the world’s industry leader in e-commerce, logistics and web services would be a tremendous boost for our state’s technology industry, which is our fastest growing generator of new jobs. As representatives of a wide range of government, business, labor and community interests, we urge you to reconsider, so that we can move forward together.

We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming. Opinions are strong in New York—sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.

Governor Cuomo will take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval and Mayor de Blasio will work together with the governor to manage the community development process, including the workforce development, public education and infrastructure investments that are necessary to ensure that the Amazon campus will be a tremendous benefit to residents and small businesses in the surrounding communities.

New York attracts the best, most diverse talent from across the globe. We are a dynamic new center of the country’s most inclusive tech economy. We all hope you reconsider and join us in building the exciting future of New York.

Then there’s a “Sincerely,” and a list of NY honchos. (The list is longer than the letter text)

The people listed include various CEOs (no surprise there), some labor leaders, some tenant associations, university honchos, and more.


I laughed out loud at this part:

We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming. Opinions are strong in New York—sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm!


If I was so unfortunate to have been consuming something at the time, it would have come out my nose.

So, on a tangent: once I was in a cab in Dallas, and I discussed NYC vs Texas with the cabbie. I mentioned about the New York style – that people actually were very friendly and helpful in NYC, but people tend to be extremely direct. He went on about it being rude, but I said, “Look, a lot of New Yorkers I’ve known who moved down South first go on about how nice and friendly everybody is… but after about 6 months, they realize that all that niceness is surface, and they couldn’t tell if somebody hated their guts.”

It’s a difference in manner, and I understand that you may think someone being extremely blunt at you hates your guts, but no, it’s that “New York charm.” It’s generally not as foul as you may think, but one cannot acknowledge the presence of everybody around you, especially if you’re surrounded by millions of people.

If some dumbass stops in the middle of the sidewalk (aka a primary thoroughfare in Manhattan) to gape at the buildngs, you will get yelled at… just as if someone was going 20 mph in a middle lane on one of main Dallas highways because … well, I don’t know what they’d want to look at. Anyway, the cabbie understood my point about sidewalks being like highways in Manhattan.

If you are coming to visit NYC, and you are not familiar with the local manners (except Times Square – only tourists and idiots willingly go there), this is an excellent guide of how to interact with New Yorkers. And dear lord, don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk, you dumbass.


Andrew Cuomo Speaks With Jeff Bezos, Hints of ‘Other Ways’ to Clear Path for Amazon’s Return

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who was staggered by Amazon’s decision to pull out of its plans to come to New York City, is working intensely behind the scenes to lure the company back, even connecting with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, to make a personal pitch.

The governor has had multiple phone conversations with Amazon executives, including Mr. Bezos, over the past two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the efforts. In those calls, Mr. Cuomo said he would navigate the company through the byzantine governmental process.

Mr. Cuomo did not offer a new location but rather guarantees of support for the project, one person said. Amazon executives gave no sense the company would reconsider.

I bet they didn’t.

On Friday, the governor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that the company has not conveyed any change of heart. “I have no reason to believe that Amazon is reconsidering,” he said. “Would I like them to? Certainly. But I have no reason to believe that.”

A day earlier, Mr. Cuomo said that “ if the State Senate said that they would approve it, that would be helpful. But in the meantime, I haven’t heard any changes.”

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader of the State Senate, said in a statement that she had indicated her “willingness to work” with Amazon. “I have always been clear that I support job creation and was disappointed with Amazon’s decision and hoped they would reconsider,” she said.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined a request for comment.

Oh, I bet they declined.

Those familiar with the company’s thinking have insisted that the decision to abandon the New York City plan had been based on a confluence of factors, including the loud opposition and the lack of any sign it would abate.

“We think we could have gotten New York done, but you have to say, ‘At what cost?’” Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s director of global economic development, said at an event in Virginia on Thursday. “We made a prudent decision that gives us the opportunity to hyperfocus on D.C.”

The advertisement, an open letter to Mr. Bezos that was set to appear on a full page in Friday’s newspaper, is aimed at combating the notion that the opposition to Amazon was widespread, arguing that a “clear majority” of New Yorkers support the company.

“We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming,” reads the letter, paid for by the Partnership for New York City, a prominent business group. “But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.”

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the partnership, said the letter had been aimed not just at Amazon but at assuring technology companies generally that New York City welcomed their businesses: “Yes, it’s directed to Amazon in hopes they will reconsider. Equally, it is a message to the broader industry.”

I think the broader industry already heard.

The most vocal opponents, like Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, were not among the signatories.

“Our concerns remain the same,” Mr. Appelbaum said in response to Mr. Cuomo’s efforts. “If Amazon wants to come to New York, it must respect all workers and communities.”

Yes, the broader industry hears that.

One thing that has changed in the last two weeks: Ms. Stewart-Cousins, the State Senate majority leader, withdrew her nomination of Senator Michael Gianaris to the obscure Public Authorities Control Board. The position would have given Mr. Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, the ability to vote down the development project for Amazon when it came before the board in about a year’s time.

But Mr. Cuomo refused to appoint Mr. Gianaris, who declined to comment on the governor’s efforts, or to formally reject him. And so last week, Ms. Stewart-Cousins selected another Queens representative, Leroy Comrie, to sit on the board, a person who would be more likely to get the governor’s approval.

Mr. Comrie did not respond to a request for comment.

“The State Senate made a terrible blunder; everyone, including their members, knows it,” said Dani Lever, the governor’s communications director. “The governor will take over the process and can comfortably assure Amazon the approval will get done.”

Yeah, well, Amazon didn’t get to be where it was because Bezos and his managers are idiots. I wouldn’t be surprised if they say “Sorry… but it’s only business.”


We Can Put an End to State Bidding Wars

But Amazon’s original decision to accept New York’s proposed tax subsidies is not an indication of the horrors of corporate greed. Like so many recent issues surrounding the supposed failures of capitalism, the outcome was merely a symptom of a larger problem that commentators on both the left and right seem to skirt but never actually address. The question isn’t whether companies should be allowed to request bids for their business from states across the country, or whether states should respond with generous terms. Rather, the proper question is why it’s necessary for states to bid for a company’s business and provide incentives for them to move or grow their worker populations in a new area in the first place. Framed this way, it becomes clear that Amazon was looking not just for tax incentives but a business-friendly climate; the tax subsidies were merely icing on the cake. Why would it move to the city in which politicians, activists, and unions were constantly increasing their expectations of the services the company should provide?

And thus, the problem becomes apparent: states need to entice companies to come to their states, because they wouldn’t come otherwise. High taxes and excessive burdens placed on businesses do not make for a palatable environment. When a company as large as Amazon, or in a similarly controversial example from August of last year, Apple’s supplier Foxconn, asks states to bid for their business, they will fall head over heels to meet and exceed the company’s expectations. That any state would also willingly engage in secret negotiations is a testament to the lengths governments will go to appease taxpayers.

Wait, how would secret negotiations appease taxpayers? I thought the idea is that it pissed them off.

By raising taxes and allowing activists and unions to dominate the conversation, state governments are digging the political holes in which they are now finding themselves. That Amazon withdrew from the deal is not a victory for workers as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez suggests, but a failure on behalf of the state to come to terms with its own economic reality. For those that complain that New York gave Amazon nearly $3 billion in incentives, it is clear that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio felt that they had no other means to convince the company to develop in the city. That they are sticking by the deal in the face of local opposition is laudable, but it also represents an unwillingness to confront the detrimental policies that made it necessary for Amazon to require a bid from New York in the first place. Pro-business policies would tilt the equation in favor of the states: rather than politicians placating companies, the latter would come rushing to please the former. We’re seeing the negative effects of anti-business policies in states like New York and New Jersey, both of which are seeing net outflows of tax-paying residents.

That Amazon required states to bid for its business is no fault of capitalism. It is a failure of some state governments to recognize that anti-business rhetoric and policies force them to engage in these bidding wars. If activists and representatives don’t want to submit to companies in a winner-take-all competition, then they should consider making their policies competitive for all businesses. New York would not have needed to offer any financial incentives if the company saw that the city would help it thrive. Amazon would still have paid tax revenue, and, more likely than not, other tech startups would have followed, growing the taxable population even further. Capitalist policies would achieve the same goals politicians in New York claim to support.

Good luck with that.

The whole “states bidding against each other” with various subsidies and tax breaks is an issue straight out of game theory. Once you decide to play the game… well, we know where that ends.

I agree it’s best for states and cities to not do this, and just make a simple tax system for all, no breaks or subsidies for anything (individuals or businesses). But that’s not what they do in New York. Or many states. Even in the “good” states, they provide various tax breaks and subsidies for all sorts of things (like stadiums).

I really hope I don’t hear more about Amazon in New York (mind you, it’s already there — and I’ve had calls from those folks in the past. But I don’t think they need an actuary, or specifically me, for anything. If they can’t be clear as to what they want me to do… nope. Not interested. Not even if I get “free” Amazon Prime for life.) I really hope Bezos says “When I said ‘no’, I meant it. Best wishes on your future.”

But there may be non-business reasons for hims wanting a bigger NYC footprint. So he still may be played. We’ll see.

Related Posts
Taxing Tuesday: Income Tax for Chicago?
French Retirement Ages, Social Security Benefit Cuts to Come, and What is Sustainable
Taxing Tuesday: Do It Yourself Tax Migration Stats