Amazon is reconsidering its plan to open a new headquarters in New York City following opposition from local politicians, The Washington Post reported.
The company has not leased or purchased office space for the project, making it easy to withdraw its commitment, the newspaper said Friday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary said in a statement: "The Mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers."
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Amazon said: “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors - small business owners, educators, and community leaders. Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”
The New York Times, in its own story Friday afternoon, cited Amazon sources as saying the Post's reporting had gone too far, and that the company had no plans to pull out of the NYC project.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who has the power to veto some aspects of the Amazon deal, told NBC 4 New York that the deal presented is a bad one, adding that he is fine with being known as among the opposition.
"It's a horrible deal. If people want to say I'm responsible, I'm happy to live with it," he said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also weighed in on the reports, tweeting: "Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world's biggest corporations? Yes, they can."
But neighbors who already had their hearts set on the company coming to Queens were nervous about the Washington Post report.
"We are expanding our business in a couple of years, and everybody's excited about that," said restaurant manager Hamer Iwin in Long Island City. "That's not good news."
Eric Benaim, the CEO of the Long Island City-based Modern Spaces real estate firm, said, "I was upset. It's kind of sad that there is a small constituency of people who are against jobs. I don't know what's going on with society that 25,000 jobs is a bad thing."
"That's how New York always loses opportunities," said Mike DeAngelo in Long Island City. "They refuse things and then it goes to other places.'
Queens councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who originally lobbied to lure Amazon here, then reversed himself when the state and city offered big tax breaks, said Friday: "We are thrilled. The battle we've been waging since the mayor and governor announced their secret deal has come to fruition."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back on the idea that $2.5 billion in tax breaks were really that big.
"It's like saying instead of paying 10 percent taxes, they pay 9 percent," he said. "That's the economic package."
Amazon announced in November 2018 that the e-commerce behemoth will be splitting its new East Coast bases between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City in northern Virginia. The new headquarters would bring 25,000 jobs to New York City.
Unlike in Virginia — where elected leaders quickly passed an incentive package for a separate headquarters facility — final approval from New York state is not expected until next year, the Post reported.
The November announcement sparked protests among community members who feared the move would displace long-time residents.
Following reports of Amazon's reconsideration, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), one of the many groups opposed to the Amazon LIC headquarters, released a statement.
“New Yorkers won’t be fooled. They are rejecting a $3 billion giveaway to a multi-million dollar company that will only displace low-income communities and hardworking residents," Jonathan Westin, executive director of NYCC said. "We are well aware of the damage Amazon has done in other communities and do not want that repeated in New York. In Seattle, where homelessness have gone out control, they have refused to pay their fair share of taxes and low income residents have been left without the promised jobs.”
Amazon executives recently had internal discussions to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the company’s perspective, told the Washington Post.
“The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” the report quoted one person familiar with the company’s plans as saying.
However, the publication said that although no specific plans to abandon New York have been made, it is possible that Amazon may try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on city and state officials.
Earlier this week, Cuomo accused his fellow Democrats in the state Senate of "playing politics" by nominating a critic of subsidies for Amazon's planned campus in Queens to a state board with the power to derail the project.
The governor said on public radio that lawmakers would have to answer to the voters if their opposition to the plan scuttles the project. The comments came a day after Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins tapped the chamber's No. 2 lawmaker, Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris, to serve on the obscure but powerful Public Authorities Control Board.