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Facing opposition, Amazon reconsiders NY headquarters site, two officials say (washingtonpost.com)
160 points by ihuman 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 199 comments

I can't even try and take an article like this seriously. I understand it says in the article that Jeff Bezos owns the WaPo, but the way it's written sounds like Amazon trying to make a threat. Just look at the way the article starts off.

> Amazon.com is reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City following a wave of opposition from local politicians, according to two people familiar with the company's thinking.

Amazon isn't considering bringing 25,000 jobs to NYC out of the goodness in their heart. It's a business play where they are doing what they think is most profitable for them. They want to be in NYC because it's the largest market in the US. I think their plan all along was to come to NYC. They just thought they could stage this elaborate "pick my city" nonsense and get a bunch of tax breaks. This article just sounds like them whining that people caught on.

Exactly. The whole HQ2 Willy Wonka show was never going to move to some area that really really needed it. NYC is currently a boom town, and I as a NYer am disappointed that we gave them such a huge amount of tax breaks. I support NY perhaps lifting some of its bureaucracy to make such a large move here possible, but do not support giving Amazon money.

Amazon needs NYC because it has a metro area of 20 million people with more developers than Silicon Valley, and also many other skilled people in management and business. The days of someone moving to a company town to work for them are over as you have seen with GE moving to Boston and other corporate moves. Nobody is going to move to a small city to work for Amazon.

Yea, if you need 25,000 employees in a sector your choices are pretty limited to the areas where there are tons of those employees already living it seems to me unless you want a difficult hiring process. I know I wouldn't really want to live in an area where the jobs in my field were Amazon and very little else.

I'm very disappointed that NYC gave one of the largest companies in the world by valuation 3bn in tax breaks while the subway crumbles, although I don't think it was particularly a bad deal, but it's hard to accurately calculate when that will pay off by.

I'm just a bit disappointed that in a time of unprecedented wealth inequality and company concentration our nation's setup to reward the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations.

NYC should have said "here's what we decided a good offer would have been, we're going to invest it in startups, and infrastructure. Come here if you want to be around the great minds that will be attracted to a diverse and rich in ideas environment."

I also wouldn't be surprised if NYC does reward small companies and this is just another thing too.

NYS likes personal income tax. 25,000 high-paid employees who aren't in financial services yield revenue and diversification. NYC likes property tax. Raising property values in Queens makes the city significant amount of revenue.

Dropping it in Queens maximizes benefit to NY, as you're less likely to lose households to New Jersey or Connecticut.

But NYC cares about tax revenue just like you or I care about income. In one move, HQ2 will bring NYC/NY State a very attractive amount of tax revenue. It is the most logical thing for city officials, who constantly want more funding, to do what exactly what will bring more funding the quickest.

In one move, HQ2 will bring NYC/NY State a very attractive amount of tax revenue.

How much, approximately?

Or do you just think it will be... "a lot"?

Ballpark state income tax at 6.5% of $250K * 25K = $406M/yr, with city tax on top.

Ballpark property tax at $12K * 25K = $300M/yr

Ballpark state sales tax at 4% of $50K in spending * 25K = $50M/yr

Naturally, some of the property tax is displacing existing property tax payers and some of the income tax will be lost to other employers moving out of NYC area, but it seem quite reasonable to be OoM $500M per year at scale.

You know you're living in a bubble if you think all 25,000 employees will make $250,000 per year. That is not anywhere close to average.

For one thing, they won’t all be engineers. Cost of living is also lower than SV.

6.5% of $250K x 25K = $406M/yr,

It only takes a minute or two verify that $250K is a completely unrealistic estimate for the average salary of a likely HQ2 employee. In fact the state's own estimate is around $150k. The property tax estimate is similarly skewed -- on top of the fact that you're ignoring the additional cost of services to support all these people.

I'm not saying there's benefit-to-cost ratio argument to be made in favor of HQ2 (if everything were to boil down to those terms) -- just that you seem to be, well... pulling numbers out of the air.

What services will cost more for the city? Public transportation will have a ridership subscription boost, property values will go up for local owners, service businesses will have ~25k more potential customers...

I understand your concern about pulling the numbers out of the air, but I think the commenter above made a stronger case for those numbers than you have with the "cost" numbers. Just a thought to consider

For some cities 25k is a big deal. For NYC it’s rounding error.

NYC is big enough to have a healthy relationship with Amazon, and part of that is knowing is that you’re the seller, not the buyer.

For some cities 25k is a big deal. For NYC it’s rounding error.

The point is that the gain in revenue from income and property is being presented as basically just "free" money. It's not.

What services will cost more for the city?

The usual costs per new resident (that property taxes are normally earmarked for) perhaps?

> I'm very disappointed that NYC gave one of the largest companies in the world by valuation 3bn in tax breaks while the subway crumbles, although I don't think it was particularly a bad deal, but it's hard to accurately calculate when that will pay off by.

Giving the New York subway more funding is as bad as lighting it on fire: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

I'm not so sure about that. I actually know two people who moved from NY to SEA for Amazon, in part b/c NY is so incredibly expensive. Both were actually disappointed that neither HQ2 announcements were for places with significantly lower COL than SEA. These were millenials starting their career + families though, not people who had established NYC salaries and a condo or co-op.

That said, it does definitely make sense to get a piece of the NY talent pie for a company with as much growth + turnover as Amazon. I understand that choice much better than the NoVa choice.

Apart from the state/city taxes, there’s little difference in NYC and Seattle any more. My rent has barely moved in the last three years; my friends in Seattle are complaining about ridiculous rent increases. I visited a year ago and did not see a massive difference in prices for every day goods and services. Unsure about housing market though.

> Apart from the state/city taxes

That’s a pretty big difference though! I suppose with NYC you don’t have the cost of owning and operating a car, though.

You can live car free in Seattle. It depends on who you work for and where they are, but it is doable. People carpool and such to go hiking and to events, and Lyft/Uber is pretty good.

I second this, as someone actually doing this thing. :) And with light rail extensions and transit expansions it's getting better all the time.

As someone who did the move a year ago:

Rent is comparable, but the apartments would be very different. 1BD 10 min walk away from work in SLU can be found for $1500/mo with in-unit washer dryer, secured package room, etc. To get the same level of amenity would require going further out into the boroughs and being subject to the whims of the MTA.

Goods and eating out are more expensive, but that's because Seattle has its min wage at 16/hr already, and unlike New York businesses do actually pay their workers the minimum wage. (Paying under the table is rampant at minority-owned businesses; those cheap supermarkets in NY Chinatown didn't get there through mystic eastern business practices.)

Oh definitely you do get much more for the same amount in Seattle today, but it was ~1200 three years ago. Meanwhile rents in NY have pretty much stayed the same (except for minor increases) for me and my peers.

I hear that prices have flatlined /fallen recently; let’s hope it stays that way.

Amazonian who has lived in Manhattan the past decade. The two neighborhoods I've lived in over the past 5 years have seen 20-30% increases: Chelsea and Upper East Side. Not sure that folks are seeing minor in Brooklyn either.

$1500!? The place I was in was $2.2k for all of that on Dexter.

Now I pay $2.6k...so

A lot of apartment buildings have opened on Dexter. I used to live there and got a renewal for significantly cheaper after paying $2200. (I ended up moving anyways because SLU is a giant dead zone.)

Everybody was offering not only cheaper rent, but concessions (1-3 months free). Supply has finally outpaced demand.

NoVa makes a lot of sense for the large US government markets Amazon is pursuing.

Absolutely - this seems to have been the biggest driver in this decision. If you're mere steps from the Department of Defense and the alphabet soup of agencies, you're well positioned to lobby them on your products and services. Crystal City is akin to MV and San Francisco 30 years ago.

It's about to blow up.

DC has a stronger IT job market than possibly Silicon Valley and New York. DC has been a top city for IT talent and is probably the best of the three due a significantly lower cost of living.

Unfortunately, all of the programming jobs here are either in publishing (low pay) or government contracting (bureaucratic headaches).

And while the cost of living is less than NYC and SF, it ain't exactly cheap either.

Amazon's decision to come to Crystal City makes sense to me because there are a bunch of young college grads and no competition from the other FAANG companies.

If you're a young, ambitious, programmer trying to decide where to start your career though, I'd suggest going to SF/SV, NYC, Seattle, or Boston because those places provide more options.

Interesting, I always heard the nice parts of DC are about as expensive as Seattle, and the traffic is even worse. I've known a few people to take software gigs for government contractors in that area, but none of them stayed around very long - said the salaries were not great and that they weren't getting any of the perks of tech culture that are common elsewhere (no casual dress code, were micro-managed, lots of lazy coworkers). I imagine it was just the specific body shops that hired them that were the problem though.

Northern VA - McLean/Tysons is the third wealthiest zipcode in the country currently. Houses are a million plus for 3 bed 2 bath ramblers.

As far as the traffic, it's the worst in the country just about, usually fluctuates between the worst or 2nd worst.

Most major tech companies have some presence in DC and those that don't are coming here everyday it seems.

>Houses are a million plus for 3 bed 2 bath ramblers

In the Bay Area, that's a heck of a deal.

Maybe, but salaries around DC are WAY below SV or NYC. The pay and perqs of gov't/DoD contracting can never compete with SV startups or NYC finance; not even close.

That’s funny because everyone I know at Google or Facebook in SEA is trying to move to NYC!

Yeah, I live in SEA and have at a job with a little bit of mobility. When my rent in SEA became comparable to NYC, I seriously thought about just doing NYC instead. But then I realized I would probably still be renting forever without much savings if I wanted to live to my standards of comfort, and I probably wouldn't actually use many of the cool things NYC offers - so I decided to move to Raleigh instead.

I worked pretty hard (IMO) to get out of Raleigh so that’s funny to hear.

Hah, small world. I lived there for a while before Seattle and only left b/c I wanted faster career growth. But now I've got FAANG creds that let me work remote for the same salary, so it's a game changer. I will be so happy to have Bojangles and Cookout back in my life.

I’d like to do that someday.

Took me 4 years since graduating from the same school you went to, but I've received multiple offers now for remote work that pays doubles my new-grad salary in Raleigh (which was actually pretty decent as far as Raleigh salaries goes). So don't undersell yourself, seems like you're on a good path. Hit me up (this username at gmail) if you seriously think about coming back to Raleigh in the future or switching to remote work, the place I work is usually hiring.

> NYC is currently a boom town,

- The subway is crumbling with no tangible realistic plan to fix it.

- Housing crisis is getting worse. New York is consistently at the top, or near the top of the "losing residents to other cities" list. NYPost recently reported on "The Exodus of New York's middle class"

- With some of the highest taxes in the country, Cuomo recently stated NY lost 2.3 billion in tax revenue, with NYC alone losing 1 billion of that, and now there is a looming showdown on the state budget coming up. Area corporations are seeking relocation to cheaper tax areas. As they say, "Every day is tax day in NYC"

This is a little ridiculous.

1) Subway: yes, it needs major infrastructure investments. It isn't crumbling - isn't that a little melodramatic?

2) I call BS. Housing prices in most neighborhoods in NYC have deceased over the past year: https://www.businessinsider.com/nyc-housing-asking-sale-pric...

3) and yet, major tech companies are interested in starting or expanding their presence (exhibit Amazon, exhibit https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/17/google-...)

It's only ridiculous if you view NYC through some rose tinted glasses, most the rest of the country are staying away

Responding to your points.

1.) Most online rags and news reports describe it as "crumbling" so these aren't my words. I have no interest in being melodramatic, I'm merely relaying the portrait painted by most people reporting on the subway.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gyk9m3/borough-hall-nyc-s... https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vbmmym/the-history-behind...



2. You call BS. I call that article proving my point. You are having a market correction due to the mass exodus.

3. Name other major tech companies besides Amazon which hosed over the city and held them hostage for sweet heart deal?

I don't know one person that has said "oh I know, I'll move to NYC for a tech job" San Fransisco maybe. Austin? Definitely.

I just don't know how you can paint a billion dollar loss in tax revenue (2.3 billion state wide), and falling housing prices due to decrease in demand as a "boom"

The mere fact that NYC bent over backwards so far to attract Amazon is actually telling to me.

I'm from buffalo but live in nyc now and feel the same way, but I noticed a lot of people I know in buffalo seem to think they could pull the same level of talent in smaller cities.

If you paid the NYC level salaries, you could.

Once you start talking 25k jobs, you can build a new city out of that.

If you're the sort of billionaire who wants to take a shot at developing a modern Utopia, by whatever metrics you personally care about, buy a few square miles somewhere, move your corporate headquarters and 25k jobs there, and go nuts playing sim city with real people.

Sure, not every potential employee is willing to uproot themselves and move to Bezosburg, but not every potential employer is willing to move to New York or Silicon Valley or Louisville. But between a good salary and the appealing amenities of Bezosburg, you should be able to attract plenty.

Do you have a source for the claim that NYC has more devs than silicon valley? The only source I could find was about tech jobs, not just devs. It says

>[NY's] tech work force, according to most analyses, is less than half and perhaps one-third that of the Bay Area.


What’s wrong with tax breaks? It’s like people are under the impression that the government is actually paying Amazon. If Amazon didn’t get any tax breaks, they would have gone somewhere else.

The people who don’t want Amazon in Queens don’t actually live there, all the protests are in Manhattan.

People are protesting the likely rise in rents that an Amazon HQ will cause. But the real problem is government regulation. If real estate developers could build housing without all the NIMBYs yelling to their city councils or if they could build without onerous regulation about fire escapes or whatnot, people would have housing.

All this regulation that is supposed to help consumers actually hurts them. It’s not like with regulation companies will do the same thing as if they didn’t exist. Many companies will just opt out.

I’m guessing I’m going to get downvoted, but I honestly believe that regulation is the root of all evil and most social ills (like healthcare costs, pharmaceutical prices, etc).

But instead of protesting the bad incentives government creates, people just blame the “greedy” corporations.

> without onerous regulation about fire escapes

History education in America may have failed you - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fi...

Did you, er, believe fire escapes were stupid and unnecessary? I don't understand.

I mean, I would personally decide to live in a building in NYC without a fire escape if I could get, say, 50% cheaper rents.

I’m sure many others would to. Maybe you wouldn’t, but then you don’t have to live there if you think the risks are too high, right? I would just like to choose the risks myself, instead of other people deciding for me.

That’s not unreasonable, don’t you think?

That is incredibly unreasonable, because

1) Fires tend to spread. Fire codes are not just for your own benefit, they're for the benefit of everyone around you.

2) If you live in a fire trap and it eventually catches on fire, firefighters will run unnecessary risks when they rush in to try to save you. It's not fair to them to put them in that situation.

3) You talk about choosing the risks yourself, but your life is connected to other peoples lives in countless ways. Your choice of how much risk to take on affects many more people than just you. That's why it's totally fine for society to insist on fire escapes.

But where is the line drawn? Clearly drinking or smoking or doing drugs has the same problem, should all those things really be illegal? How about abortion? Or deciding to name your child "Dick Head Jr."? Or having kids?

If you take your line of reasoning to its natural conclusion, you end up in a society without any personal freedom or choice.

The problem isn't that fire escapes are bad. It's that regulation slowly and surely just inches forward, consuming everything in its path.

If your first assumption about people is that they are too stupid to make choices for themselves, the natural conclusion is despotism. Do you think you're too stupid to make decisions yourself as well?

Would you be fine with someone telling you that maybe you are too stupid to have kids? Or maybe too stupid to drive a car? Or too stupid to decide what profession you want in life (you would write terrible code, so it's in the public interest that you become a janitor where your stupidity can't hurt anyone else)? Or maybe you're so stupid that we should just take you off the street?

OR, maybe, just maybe, you and the market should decide these things for yourself.

Edit: In regard to the fire fighter thing. Individuals could just pay insurance for fire protection. It naturally would be cheaper in places with fire escapes. There's no reason why public services like fire fighters or ambulances have to be public, they would probably just function more efficiently as private entities.

I think there's a big difference between "a society without any personal freedom or choice" and one where there are certain regulations for the public good. Some examples might be hate speech laws or food safety. Those do put concrete limits on the behaviours of individuals and corporate entities, but help guide society to grow and operate in a way considered healthier than if left alone.

I'm skeptical of the notion that regulation "slowly and surely just inches forward" naturally. Maybe you could explain a bit?

>If you take your line of reasoning to its natural conclusion, you end up in a society without any personal freedom or choice.

Your entire argument hinges on slippery slope fallacy. Implementation of a thing in a restricted doesn't necessarily lead to an unrestricted implementation of it.

Nobody is saying "you are too stupid to decide fire safety for yourself." We are saying "it is cheaper (more efficient) to have specialists decide fire safety guidelines and implement them universally, than it is to guarantee equal knowledge of fire safety for all citizens."

Because, a free market isn't free if it's unfair. Your libertarian argument requires perfect fairness, or it's immoral. And obviously, perfect fairness in a free market system is... a high barrier to cross.

So, regulation. Efficient, fair. Flawed, but not broken, and not nearly as exploitable as "the free market."

By the way - what happened before the fire safety regulations? People died, horribly, tragically. If you believe they deserved to die because they didn't educate themselves on fire safety, your expectations are far too high. Do you know how planes, electricity, your car, roads, clean water, sewer treatment, food safety (at the source, not cooking), radiological and chemical safety systems work? Do you know how to use a tomahawk missile to enforce your sovereign borders? No? Maybe you don't deserve the protections they offer then.

Along with the other stated reasons, this is in line with one of my original points: you don't have the sufficient education on fire safety to be making that decision in an informed way.

You, personally, may be a fire inspector, but you in the royal sense are not - the general population. Any given individual. It is far more burdensome to guarantee that everyone has enough knowledge about the risks and functions of fire, to make a fair and reasoned decision about fire safety in their buildings, than it is to just enforce a fire code.

I don't understand what is the uproar about regulation.

Regulations are there because companies will do whatever gives them more money, damn the impact on the environment/people/anything else.

That's the upside of regulation, yes. The downside of regulation is that it makes everything terrible in different ways. FRA regulations is why the U.S. can't buy ready-made trainsets from Europe for a fraction of the cost. Housing regulations increase prices and become a vehicle for propping up property values. A lot of the things hipster millennials care about (e.g. walkable cities dense neighborhoods, fiber internet, affordable housing, public transit) are directly prohibited by regulations.

There's actually a decent-sized group of people in queens that oppose Amazon moving in. Anecdotally I've known some people in queens who've had rents raised mid-lease and more that are looking for new places to move to. There's also concern about what's going to happen to the public housing in LIC.

As an aside, regulation is necessary, the trick is finding a balance. Regulation is very necessary, it's why if someone has wronged you, you're able to take them to court. It's why your medicine is likely to actually be what you purchased and reasonably effective (look at historic curealls for the alternatives) and why fires are relatively small nowadays (ie a house or two are burning down, not the whole district or city. Regulation has probably added 20 years to the average life. On a semi-related note, http://confreaks.tv/videos/devopsdaysnyc2018-the-history-of-... is extremely worth watching.

> Regulation has probably added 20 years to the average life.

The huge increases in life expectancy happened in the 19th century, not the 20th. There hasn't been much increase since the advent of heavy regulation.

>> I honestly believe that regulation is the root of all evil and most social ills

Well we can just end the conversation here then. "Regulations" are what prevent child labor. They're what help curb pollution. They're how we kept plaster of paris out of milk. The fact that you're somehow assuming that ALL regulation is evil shows a willful ignorance to the evils committed when they weren't in place.

There is good and bad regulation, just as there are all kinds of good and bad laws. You're going with a whole LOT of really terrible generalizations here.

It’s not that in the absence of regulation, companies are going to be scrupulous, it’s that the cure is worse than the disease in the first place. After all, many regulations are actually lobbied for by the big corporations themselves, to prevent small companies from competiting with them.

Good, that's a fantastic example of "regulatory capture," one of the downsides to the very existence of a government at all.

So, what's your alternative solution to regulation, that both prevents plaster of paris in milk but also regulatory capture?

I say we should publish blogs or whatnot about bad products, and then capitalism will figure it out. After all, without the government, only corporations that are providing value will continue to exist. The reason why many corporations today aren't providing real value is because of rent-seeking.

So the best example of a free market here is from China...

Chinese companies made a bad product (in this case poisoned baby formula)... And so now there's a thriving market in buying formula in countries that have all the regulation and shipping it in at an even higher markup.


>I say we should publish blogs or whatnot about bad products,

1. With what piece of hardware will you write this post? What assurance do you have that the manufacturer will allow you to write negative blog posts about them or their partners?

2. Via what infrastructure will you connect to what network, upon which to publish? What assurance do you have that you will be allowed to use that infrastructure to publish negative content about that infrastructure owner or their partners? What about the owners of the network?

3. Upon what websites or domains will you publish these? How will you share them? What assurances do you have that they will remain visible and accessible?

>then capitalism will figure it out

"Hand wave" fallacy. There's no substance to your argument. This is a meaningless statement.

> After all, without the government, only corporations that are providing value will continue to exist.

Evidence for your claim? Supporting argument?

> The reason why many corporations today aren't providing real value is because of rent-seeking.

Evidence for your claim? Supporting argument?

Based on what you've said, why should I believe you have a better solution that regulatory status quo? Enacting change requires solid evidence, arguments, logic, and reasoning. Wouldn't you agree it would be foolish to undertake a new endeavor without a majority of the above?

Suppose you had a car dealership. Cars were flying off the lot. No discounts or rebates needed. Google comes in and buys 10, Facebook takes another 10. Amazon then comes in and asks for 25 and wants a $5000 rebate for each car. You give it to them. That rebate was still in the margin of what you were making, but now all your other loyal customers that had no problem buying your product for the quality of what you sell now want concessions too. Yes you still "made money" but you devalued a premium product that was selling well for no good reason. The better move business wise would be to tell the person that wants a discount to go to someone willing to offer it. Amazon needs NYC as well.

If Google comes in with an order for 25 cars too, instead of 10, they can get the discount as well.

Quantity discounts are normal and commonplace, and do not result in single item prices being forced down to match.

Businessmen aren't fools.

> onerous regulation about fire escapes

We live in a society. Societies have rules. One of the rules of our society is we don't move people into dangerous tenements where they're likely to burn to death because they're trapped and can't get out.

I for one, would like to make those decisions myself instead of the government deciding for me.

The implication that you are competent enough to accurately assess that threat and all others like it is so ridiculous that nobody should take you seriously.

You could say the same thing about having children, or deciding what to eat in the morning. Or deciding what to do with your life.

Could you explain to me how you would draw the line? People can't and shouldn't be protected from themselves.

A good example is that I got addicted to heroin. It was terrible, yet, I believe that drugs should be legal and that people need to make their own choices, regardless of the consequences.

That's an untenable position, for the following reasons.

First, I want to define "you" as follows:

Multi-usage identifier. "You" functions as stand-in for a hyper rich financier, an immigrant single mother of 2, a college kid working to fund education, a middle aged janitor, etc etc. Any given person existing in the USA.

I'll use "fire safety regulations" as the example.

Your argument is untenable:

1. Individually, you do not have the experience or education to make an informed decision regarding fire safety (be it, determining whether you want to work in a location given the fire safety mechanisms they have chosen, or, choosing to eat in a location given the fire safety mechanisms they have chosen, etc).

2. You probably don't have a choice in the fire safety mechanism implementations of where you eat, work, live. You more than likely are forced to make those decisions based on factors such as the need to have money to eat (place of employment), the need for a heated place to live in the winter (place of residence) that is within your budget, etc. Therefore, there is no "government choosing for you," there is no "you choosing for you," it is whoever owns the building.

3. As evidenced in rapidly developing nations, those that do have the power to make decisions regarding fire safety mechanisms will, deliberately or otherwise, make bad ones, without government regulation and enforcement.


Don't forget that regulations aren't just an enforcement mechanism, they're a standards one. The government pooled our resources to find "the best" standard way to make fire safety in buildings acceptable. That allows builders and parts manufacturers to efficiently develop a standard set of fittings and equipment. It literally saves everyone money, while saving lives.

'You probably don't have a choice ...' is a reach. The rest is well-argued.

Anyway the most telling point is if OP gets his wish, then next time a bunch of people burn to death the public will clamor again for mandatory fire escapes, inevitably. We aren't the sort of people he wishes we were.

I’ve never really heard a claim like this. What regulations lead to higher prescription drug costs and higher healthcare costs generally?

FDA approval process requires a ton of upfront R&D resources with zero guarantees. This is mostly a good thing but it's not black and white. Malpractice law is another example of regulations driving the price up, we can't get rid of malpractice law but the structure matters.

I don't agree with the poster above, but one common cited example is that emergency rooms are required to treat all patents regardless of their ability to pay. So they have to raise prices for everyone else in order to manage the risk that someone won't pay.

I always thought the high prices in the US was because of not having universal healthcare - when you are buying for millions of people, you can have lower prices? It's not like the US is the only country that regulates drugs?

United Healthcare, a US insurer, covers 40M people. That's bigger than the entire population of Canada, but Canada has cheaper drugs.

Good point, thanks

For an extensive article on how regulation dramatically increases health care costs:


We can't import generics from Europe leading to shortages.

Wait are you serious or is this incredibly subtle sarcasm?

For higher drug costs, see "Regulation and Pharmaceutical Innovation" by Peltzman, which shows through statistics that the 1962 FDA regulations have resulted in a large increase in drug costs with no net increase in safety. (While more bad drugs have been blocked, this is counterbalanced by good drugs taking much longer to be approved. Unknown is what drugs were never developed because of the much increased cost of the regulations.)

>What’s wrong with tax breaks? It’s like people are under the impression that the government is actually paying Amazon.

What do you think a tax break is?

>If Amazon didn’t get any tax breaks, they would have gone somewhere else.

If the cost of upgrading the city infrastructure to handle the new influx of people (and other associated costs) is higher than the income from Amazon, it's a bad deal for the city.

Also: >If Amazon didn’t get any tax breaks, they would have gone somewhere else.

No. No they wouldn't. The tax breaks are only part of the equation. If it was only about money, other locations offered more. New York is arguable one of the 3 most important cities on the planet, and pretending that multinational business scoff at it unless they get paid to bring their businesses into town is laughable.

==No. No they wouldn’t==

You don’t know this to be true, at all. If the tax breaks didn’t matter and it was always going to be NYC, Amazon likely wouldn’t have conducted the whole dog and pony show in the first place. In reality, NYC has a huge talent base which is enticing to Amazon; they also offered significant tax incentives, which is enticing to Amazon. Both can be true.

Or one can be true and not the other. I will agree that neither of us know WTF was going on in the Amazon meetings that decided where to go. I will concede that I jumped the gun in speaking in an absolute.

It's entirely possible the tax breaks or lack there of would have affected their decision, but because NYC offers things very few other cities on the planet can offer in regards to both human capital as well as other amenities it's also possible that it was a cherry on top and not the sundae itself.

A tax break is Amazon paying less, not the government paying them.

That’s a pretty big distinction, don’t you think?

> NYC is currently a boom town, and I as a NYer am disappointed that we gave them such a huge amount of tax breaks.

If they want to put their HQ somewhere that doesn't have enough schools and public transportation to support it, why shouldn't they get a tax credit for spending money to improve the local infrastructure? The reason it's needed in the first place is that the local government can't be trusted to actually allocate public resources in a fair way.

Local government can't be trusted to allocate public resources in a fair way... so we defer that to a private company? That doesn't seem too smart. Where's the guarantee (or even suggestion) that Amazon would use their tax break to improve local infrastructure?

> Local government can't be trusted to allocate public resources in a fair way... so we defer that to a private company?

Public resources in NYC are already allocated by private companies; that's a big part of why local government can't be trusted in the first place. Amazon is just saying that if they build a huge building in NYC, then they want to control public resource allocation in the area of the building in place of whatever private company would already be doing this.

> Where's the guarantee (or even suggestion) that Amazon would use their tax break to improve local infrastructure?

That's literally that the deal is, or at least a substantial portion of it:


If you can't get your own employees to your office to work then you have a big issue operating.

Yeah, and if you're anything like a Silicon Valley giant you clog up the roads with private buses to ship your employees around, community be damned.

Aren't private buses a more efficient way to move your employees rather than having them each drive their own car? If the local governments haven't done enough to solve the mass transit issue, it seems this is the best approach that a tech giant could implement.

It is, but businesses and businessmen used to be more civics minded.

Nelson Rockefeller smashed heads to rid New York of Robert Moses' strangehold and fix the subways. The Carnegies and the Vanderbilts founded universities. After the '80s we haven't really seen this kind of behavior, save Microsoft's recent tiptoe into developing affordable housing.

Google and Facebook have the weight to throw around to ask for things like the second Transbay Tube or Dumbarton Bridge rail service, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Google is building out some infrastructure around their Mountain View housing project, i.e. affordable housing available to the public, some parks, footpaths, bridges, etc, but definitely nothing like Rockefeller.

It's fairly incomprehensible to me - these companies are working with a truly staggering amount of money, do they think they've found the upper limit of "Bay Area Coolness Factor?" Imagine if they eradicated the draw of Austin or New York or Portland by pushing for such a good Caltrain system that living in Mountain View was functionally equivalent to living in San Francisco because the trains were so fast and ran all night... or even further south or east, stretching transit out to areas where one might actually be able to afford a house.

New York was never as fanatically anti-growth as the bay area is today

If theres any level of government you as a citizen have influence over its your dang local government.

If your local government is inept, organize to replace it. There is no local government in the country that serves over a couple million people. None of them are out of reach like most state and federal legislatures are from influence by an average person with passion to fix it, even if the extent of your influence is to just spread enough malcontent to foster replacement of the incumbent powers that be.

> If theres any level of government you as a citizen have influence over its your dang local government.

But Amazon isn't a local citizen. Why would their employees relocate somewhere if there aren't schools and parks for their kids, given that Amazon can't even tell them that they will get built because it's not in their control?

Whatever the downsides of this approach are, asking a corporation to invest billions of dollars moving somewhere without any guarantee from the government that there will be enough infrastructure to support their employees makes even less sense. How could you actually expect anyone to do that?

> why shouldn't they get a tax credit for spending money to improve the local infrastructure

Amazon isn't going to be building public schools, roads, or transportation. Their presence will increase demand for those things

I disagree, 25,000 employees being taxed on avg. pay of 150k/year will most certainly be "building public schools, roads, or transportation"

Those people are going to be working anyways, there is a labour shortage. NYC got played.

I also like how all opposition is attributed to “politicians,” as if the public were begging for Amazon to come to New York.

Per this poll from 2 days ago, 69% of the public approves of HQ2 coming to NY, with support across all demographic groups.

https://harrisx.com/2019/02/new-poll-shows-overwhelming-supp... ------

Other key findings from the poll include:

    85% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will create good jobs for New Yorkers and Queens residents
    77% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will improve the economy of New York City
    70% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will raise New York City property values
    68% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will help make New York City an East Coast tech hub
    58% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will raise the tax revenues New York needs for education, transportation, and other vital services
    55% of New York voters believe that its very or somewhat likely that Amazon’s HQ2 will create new opportunities for local and small businesses

>commissioned by Amazon

This is not helping your case. The point the parent poster is making is that the WaPo is funded by Amazon money. Citing another Amazon funded source doesn't add any credibility.

Sure, but HarrisX is well-known. Their full data is available there for download. I don't think it should be written off just because it was commissioned by Amazon.

Because it is, these same politicians are the ones who created the tax breaks that amazon later decided to take advantage of. These are also the same politicians that in the past year designated the same area Amazon is going to be located in as an opportunity zone.

There is a desperation from NYC urban planners for LIC to be the backbone of future growth for the city, people are only upset about this because it's tied to the big name rather than the thousands of other small actions that have been done to try and bring life to LIC.

No, I think thats the situation. NYC wised up to the fact that Amazon wants to be in NYC more than NYC needs 25,000 jobs. Sure there are benefits to having Amazon in NYC for NYC, but not if its going to be net negative fiscally on the city, and not if it means they have to sell out unions.

At the end of the day, our reps job is to negotiate on our behalf. That said, we all know the mass of resources that Amazon can throw around. It would frankly be irresponsible government to preemptively compromise, or not seek the absolute best deal for their constituents.

> I can't even try and take an article like this seriously (...) [which sounds like a threat]

You make quite serious accusations en passant without much basis, other than that you find the tone of the article to be serving as a threat.

I wouldn't say I'm very comfortable with the article, but I'd think members of the editor staff – which by design should be shielded somewhat from the influence of their owner – would have a hard time themselves to figure out which tone to cling to.

The quote you included seems very factual otherwise.

Actually, this article sounds like a negotiating ploy to extract even better terms. "Give us more discounts or we won't come!"

Bezos is totally using WaPO for his agenda!

I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole National Enquirer event that was the straw that broke the camels back. Between AOC, all of these protests and then this insane blackmail event, Amazon leadership may have achieved “Fuck NYC” levels of agitation.

If this happens (and I'm not all convinced it will, I think this is just Amazon posturing) then Cuomo, De Blasio and Amazon will have no-one but themselves to blame for it.

The secrecy around bids for HQ2 was already a joke, but the announcement for NYC even more so: De Blasio and Cuomo basically just announced that it was happening whether people liked it or not. Then said they were going to do an end-run around the NYC city council to ensure it does. Some of the objections to Amazon moving to Queens are legitimate and some are not, but you can't blame residents for freaking out when a huge, huge change like this is just dumped on their neighborhoods with zero consultation or warning.

(It should also be noted that the timing of this is probably not coincidental. An outspoken critic of the Amazon deal has been nominated to the state's Public Authorities Control Board, which has to approve of the deal. But he hasn't been confirmed yet, so I suspect this is an attempt on Amazon's part to stop that approval:


It’s worth noting that government placement of massive economic projects over the desires or even well-being of local people is a feature of Soviet and modern day Chinese economic systems.

And so it seems, American capitalism as well.

I will say that I think there is a balance. NIMBYs hold back large-scale development in a lot of area where it would be very sensible (high density housing in SF, for example). But at the same time, the community ought to have a say in a giant change like Amazon coming to town.

Who is "the community"?

On all sides of Amazon's planned NYCHQ are a million+ people living in neighborhoods that are predominantly working and lower middle class and that skew towards renters over buyers. Them.

Politicians carving out special considerations for the powerful and other people who lobby extra well is not "capitalism".

It has way more in common with government sanctioned megacorps like the British East India Trading Company than laissez faire and the invisible hand.

Capitalists don't actually want competition, or the invisible hand turning against them. Just read Peter Thiel's essays on how great monopolies are, if you have any doubts about that. [1] [2]

When you've put in millions of dollars into a business, or are receiving millions of dollars from one's operation, the last thing you want is the invisible hand taking it away from you.

If the cheapest[3] way to protect your investment is innovation, capitalists will pursue it. If corruption and cronyism are cheaper, then capitalists will pursue that, instead. Capitalism, as an ideology, does not have any checks and balances on the morality of its participants, or about preserving a free and fair market. In fact, it very explicitly opposes any such checks, or balances.

Communists would say that 'the Capitalists will sell us the rope we will hang them with'. That didn't turn out to be the case, but it wasn't due to a lack of willingness on the ropemaker's end. We've got to grow rope sales 20% YoY, to justify our valuation, after all.

[1] http://www.csun.edu/~vcact00f/497CapStone/Peter%20Thiel_%20C...

[2] I suppose one could argue that PT is no true capitalist.

[3] Cheapest, risk-adjusted.

If you pursue corruption, you are corrupt. If you pursue cronyism, you are a crony.

Capitalism is an economic system where voluntary transactions and commonly accessible markets are essential. Let's not muddle terminology to get in political digs.

You seem to be complaining most about when capitalism ends or fails, not capitalism itself.

Capitalism is an economic system where the means of production, and the profits that derive from them, are controlled by private owners (capitalists).

That's it. Accessible markets and voluntary transactions, and all that other stuff is window dressing. If they actually were sufficient for capitalism, then an economic system where the profits of all enterprise were state-owned, but all transactions were voluntary would also be capitalism (Despite the noteworthy absence of... capitalists.)

If markets are inaccessible, transactions involuntary, and markets rigged, production isn't controlled by private actors, at least not completely. At best you'd be talking about a partially capitalist system with another major element involved.

> Politicians carving out special considerations for the powerful and other people who lobby extra well is not "capitalism".

The mercantile class gaining the power previously held by the feudal aristocracy, including that of directing government, is exactly capitalism.

It's not the fiction invented by defenders of capitalism in response to socialist critiques of real-world capitalism, but that fiction isn't what the term “capitalism” was coined to refer to, nor is it something ever demonstrated to be practical anywhere.

I find your definition of capitalism not meaningfully distinct from already coined terms like aristocracy, oligarchy, and plutocracy. One could argue that capitalism always leads to those, but it's unclear and therefore unhelpful to conflate all of the above.

Distinction and nuance let us have more interesting conversations than the yelling matches on cable news channels.

> I find your definition of capitalism

I didn't provide a definition, I just pointed to a factor which is intrinsic too (and the fundamental motivation for) capitalism.

> not meaningfully distinct from already coined terms like aristocracy, oligarchy, and plutocracy.

The described factor is more specific than those because of the identification of which specific class is privileged. It is, however, an instance of all three of those things.

Except the word for that is already plutarchy.

If HQ2 falls through, the history will remember the politicians who were opposed to this as it remembers the board of Yahoo after it rejected the $50BN offer from Microsoft: yes, high five all around right after you kill the deal, but then you are the loser of the century.

25000 jobs at an average of $150k/year. State income tax is 8.8%, city income tax 3.8%, state sales tax 4%, city sales tax 4%, property taxes, etc. You easily take back in taxes 30k/year from each employee. That's 3/4 billion per year. But then wage inflation in the whole tech sector, let's say 3% per year for a few years, for 100k employees, that's about $100MM/year. Then the real estate appreciation. We are talking millions of condos/coops going up in value. Not a lot, but a little bit everywhere adds up. In NYC every apartment sale over $1MM is subject to a 1% "mansion tax". You would see tens of thousands of apartments changing hands. That's hundreds of millions of additional tax revenue right there.

Well, I guess Boston is a nice city too...

Nobody informed is opposed to it because of the finances. People just don't understand why we would want so many more people when gentrification and overcrowding are already making life harder for everyone in the city. If 25000 people with jobs at over 150k a year decided to leave and go to Boston, personally I would be excited.

A few things taxes can't seem to buy are lower rents and a public transportation system that isn't completely overcrowded.

As a Bostonian, I don't think our housing or transit can take it. I'll happily defer.

New York will be just fine without these jobs. 25K additional jobs in New York is like a bee's fart.

It would be much better for the headquarters to be located in region where 25K additional jobs wouldn't be a bee's fart. In a region like that Amazon could actually make a difference to the economic growth of the area.

I think the objection comes from perspective, more than anything:

What sounds like a Day 1 company?

- Build a second HQ where there can actually be meaningful development, like Raleigh.

- Build two satellite offices in the most cozy-up-to-establishment choices possible, NYC and DC.

Couple in the questionable deal making around choosing NYC, and it’s clear where the frustration comes from: we want to see the same strength of character leading Amazon as standing up to AMI.

The Day 2 satellites aren’t that, for a number of reasons.

This is a pretty solid capture of my feelings about this. It is downright weird to swing from "Amazon chose this place for money" to "Amazon's CEO is standing up to (possibly) international cyberbullies" in the space of spending like 20 minutes on HN. It's the disparate decision making processes that are throwing me for a whirl more than anything.

Sounds like this HQ2 thing is becoming a complexifier for Bezos


It makes you wonder -- had they not staged this whole HQ2 fiasco and just chose a city and moved there (you know, like companies normally do...) -- would the move to NYC be more widely accepted?


Google plans on adding more people to NYC than Amazon does.

They just didn't make a huge hue and cry about it, and have faced almost no opposition.

It's not more people (6-8k I believe) but your point stands

Personally, I would like to work at this new "HQ2" but the political rhetoric is pretty interesting to follow. Giving so much tax credit and incentive doesn't really make sense to me (and not just this deal to Amazon, the deal to Foxconn is even more baffling). $2.2 Billion for 25000 jobs is about $88000/job. That is a lot of tax money we're using up. On top of this, Long Island is a pretty occupationally diverse area to begin with. 25000 is a lot of jobs, but not make or break amount for Long Island that everyone is making it seem to be.

Worth noting for people unfamiliar: Long Island City is a neighborhood in Queens, a borough of NYC. While both Brooklyn and Queens are both technically on the physical island of Long Island, "Long Island" generally refers to Nassau County and the areas to the east.

Amazon is just whining because NYC won't cut them a sweetheart deal. There's nothing stopping them from just buying or renting office space like everybody else.

> “The Amazon transaction was probably the greatest economic transaction in 50 years in this state,” Cuomo said in a recent radio interview. “We don’t get a business to come with 25,000 jobs anymore. I spend hours and days trying to get 100 jobs, 200 jobs.”

This sounds like a severe waste of his time.

Well he is referring mostly to moving companies to the upstate region which actually really needs it. But I guarantee it is not convincing a company to bring 100 jobs to NYC. If Amazon wanted to build HQ2 in Utica NY or Buffalo I'd say give them all the breaks they want. But they were always going to move to a NY, Boston or DC for the talent and the contest was a sham.

>I'd say give them all the breaks they want...

Just some friendly advice from a Wisconsinite, you might want to walk that statement back a bit. Because that kind of attitude is how we ended up on the hook for $4 to $5 billion for Foxconn. (And that's for not even HALF the jobs that Amazon is talking about. All of them paying less than the Amazon jobs too.)

People have to start getting rational, and giving out benefits packages that actually make sense. "Give them all the breaks they want!!!", can lead to some really dark places.

On the other hand, misery loves company, so, yeah, I suppose if New Yorkers are that anxious, there's plenty of room down here to join us as the nation's corporate welfare laughing stock.

I feel like this argument is leaning too hard on a single example of a poorly-structured subsidy program. I don't think we should demonize all such efforts based on the Foxconn example. The Amazon HQ2 subsidies in NY are mostly from existing programs that have been operated for a long time, and those programs are structured so that the subsidy is available only when some requirement is already met (like a new job).

For example, most of the NY state subsidy is from the Excelsior program, which is issued in the from of a tax credit for jobs that were created (in the past) and other types of investment. See https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/Excelsior-Regs-2818.p... (PDF) for the details of the program:

> "Net new jobs" means jobs created in this state that: ([1]i) are new to the state,(ii) have not been transferred from employment with another business located in this state including from a related person in this state or through an acquisition, merger, consolidation, or other reorganization of businesses or the acquisition of assets of another business,(iii) are either full-time wage-paying jobs or equivalent to a full-time wage-paying job requiring at least thirty-five hours per week,and (iv) are filled for more than six months.[and in excess of both the applicant’s employment as of the date the applicant is admitted into the Excelsior Jobs Program and the applicant’s employment base calculated as the average of the applicant’s employment in New York State for each of the four quarters immediately prior to the date it was issued a certificate of eligibility, or, if the applicant was not in business in New York State during all four quarters, the employment base shall be calculated as the average of the applicant’s employment in New York State for each of those quarters immediately prior to the date it was issued a certificate of eligibility in which the applicant was in business in New York State;]

Isn't that money only to be paid out if Foxconn actually hires all the people they said they would? Last I heard, Foxconn wasn't even sure that they were going to hire as many people as they originally thought they would.

That's the bad news, only about 4 of it is contingent. The rest we've already started gleefully spending. And it's on stuff we won't need if there is no 15000 worker plant there. I don't even want to get into the fact that we gave Foxconn real estate assets at wayyy below market value. Which assets were essentially confiscated from families that had been on that land for generations. (And to top all that off, the losses we took on those real estate deals are actually not counted in the 4 to 5 billion!)

And then there's the "nice to haves". Believe it or not there is a trolley car they're building in Milwaukee connected to all this. Those are the kinds of projects we should be waiting on until this whole thing is finished, and we're starting to collect on all that new tax revenue (profit) that everyone says we're gonna get. Then we should do that trolley car and all the other "nice to haves". Actually, we probably still shouldn't because we're not likely to be making much money on this deal at all, but if it's something people are just going to insist on then do it AFTER the money starts coming in.

I shouldn't complain, I suppose it's not like Wisconsinites are the only people out there who gleefully spend money before they get it. Worse, before they get it from someone who is CLEARLY doing this deal under duress. They don't even want to do the deal.

Arrgh. It's just the spending combined with the high likelihood that we're gonna be on the losing end of this deal just gets to you sometimes.

It's like Wisconsinites never heard of "risk mitigation"????

Anyway, I'll stop my rant.

Yes, that's correct. No tax break is structured as a check that just shows up. They're usually contingent on meeting hiring thresholds or tenure. Amazon's tax breaks were going to be by head over several years.

Significant parts of the Wisconsin Foxconn deal were structured that way (such as development of infrastructure, etc).

The Amazon deal only benefits Amazon if they put money in, AFAICT. The government isnt on the hook to build anything for them. They get tax breaks on property and income taxes.

How is Wisconsin on the hook for billions of dollars if all they did was _not_ collect taxes? They shouldn't be able to be on the hook for anything if that's all they did. You sure they didn't get some kind of kickbacks as well?

I think you may be misapprehending our situation.

We don't really have corporate taxes in Wisconsin per sé.

So this deal is structured as a series of payments to Foxconn of cold hard cash. In cartoonishly simplified terms - I pay my state taxes, and the state puts it in boxes of cash, and gives it to Foxconn at the rate of roughly $200,000 to $300,000 per job they create.

Good news is the factory isn't open, so payments haven't started. So, if we can get a little lucky, the whole thing will fall through and we can just eat the losses we've taken to date instead of staying at the table and putting the really big money into the pot.

Yeah the proper way to get ahead is to make the city desirable as a location not to bribe with sweetheart deals. One gets diminished returns and only incentivizes one party. The other incentivizes everyone in the market and gets full returns.

And the city is already desirable. Google and Apple are building huge campuses in New York in the Upper West Side and Hudson Yards respectively, and they aren't getting paid two billion taxpayer dollars to do it.

Of the potential ~$3B NY subsidies (this is what it is projected Amazon can claim, not what is promised), I believe only $505M is specific to Amazon (capital grant from state). The rest is from pre-existing programs including Excelsior, ICAP, and REAP. Chances are, Google, Apple, and the rest are all going to be taking advantage of these programs.


> To bring this transformational, multibillion-dollar project to New York, the State offered a package of performance-based incentives totaling $1.705 billion. The package includes a $1.2 billion in tax credits through the Excelsior Jobs Program, which is directly tied to Amazon's commitment to create 25,000 new jobs and no less than $2.3 billion investment over ten years as well as a $505 million capital grant that is directly tied to Amazon's commitment to invest $3.6 billion and create up to 40,000 new jobs over 15 years.

> Under pre-existing as-of-right programs authorized by law, Amazon is eligible for a partial property tax abatement through ICAP and an annual credit of $3,000 for twelve years per eligible employee under REAP, a program available to all companies to encourage job growth outside of Manhattan. REAP benefits for Amazon's 10-year expansion are projected at $897 million through 2038, and ICAP will abate approximately $386 million.

If i understand correctly, almost half of that sum is from pre-existing tax incentives.

Google's currently in Chelsea and is expanding in Hudson Square, not the Upper West Side.

Google has taken over some space (unclear how much) in Starret-Lehigh and Alphabet/Sidewalk have space in Hudson Yards. The new offices down by Houston are years away.

Are you sure?

Deals seem pretty common

I wonder what he could actually mean by this quote, unless it's an outright fabrication.

NY, home of NYC, struggles to attract 100 person businesses? How am I supposed to interpret that claim?

I wouldn't be surprised if it's true for parts of New York other than NYC. New York is a very high-tax and regulation-heavy state. NYC is a big enough draw to overcome that, but I don't think Buffalo is similarly attractive just because NYC is in the same state.

The way the sham works is to give the companies tax breaks and regulatory easements and then to shunt the costs onto the employees. The employees bear the NYS taxes and the companies connected enough to get exceptions reap the competitive benefits.


I imagine it's hard to get a 100 person business to move to Syracuse or Rochester nowadays.

Fat chance of happening, but it would be interesting to see a 2020 candidate run on the promise of convincing Amazon to put HQ 2 1/2 in a swing state.

Put it in a district just outside of Pittsburgh with cheap housing, and there goes PA.

One part I don't see people is explaining: are the NYC tax breaks amazon is getting out of line for the revenue they're bringing in? Cuomo is touting a 9-to-1 and that seems like a pretty sweet deal even if they're somewhat fudging the numbers.

Echo your question. I would note that it seems that the tax breaks weren't negotiated as some special package for Amazon specifically -- actually, most of the incentives (or about $1.5B) are coming from existing programs run by NY state and NYC that reward companies based on square footage of office space created and number of jobs created. So, arguably, Amazon would have gotten those incentives anyway even if they had moved to NYC without all the fanfare of the HQ2 process.


Out of line with previous deals. Look at what wasn't offered to Google when they bought/built their office

Google is one data point, I'm asking what the average/distribution is. Do banks get more? I can find some examples that point to this being normal: https://subsidytracker.goodjobsfirst.org/subsidy-tracker/ny-...

That's a great source, and directly counters the "nobody else got subsidies" argument:

Subsidies for NYS:

Subsidy Total: $34,026,482,575

Number of Awards: 127,154

Earliest year of data: 1980

This is an unfair comparison, Amazon would've put HQ2 in Manhattan if they didn't get the tax deal. The tax break is specifically for bringing jobs to long island city.

> the world’s most valuable company, led by its richest man

AAPL ($801B) reclaimed this mantle recently; AMZN ($775B) is back to #2.

EDIT: why the downvotes? I'm not saying the sentiment is wrong, but it doesn't look good for a news organization to get something like this wrong, especially when they are owned by the CEO of the company that they are misreporting on. It also tends to corroborate the pro-Amazon reporting bias that others have expressed here.

MSFT at $805B ;-) (disclosure, my employer, etc)

Touché. So Amazon is 3rd, unless someone else wants to jump in.

And after the divorce, Bezos won't be the world's richest man anymore. I wonder if Bill just so happened to leak some compromising info to regain the title!

Amazon is essentially Walmart for people who can use the internet. I'd bet harder on them long term (though Apple isn't going anywhere).

I'm amazed it took three WaPo journalists and this still comes off as a biased screed that could have come from the mouth of Bezos himself.

I mean, casually referencing Bezos as "the worlds richest man" instead of calling him by name or title? Come on.

Can amazon reconsider the Crystal City site too?

"We want jobs"

"But we don't want clean, high paying high-tech information worker jobs!"

Nobody is suggesting the HQ2 NYC move it out of the goodness of anyone's heart, and massive tax incentives are probably questionable.

But 'jobs' are the ultimate path to some kind of opportunity for people, and the best tool against 'inequality' because it enables a much more fair distribution of surpluses than arbitrary distribution.

This 'anti Amazon NYC' thing is making the classical socialist look really, really bad.

If there are thoughtful changes to the program, great.

But otherwise, this is effectively as good as it is going to get.

Ironically, the low-income community opposes high paying jobs coming to the neighborhood.

Sorry if I missed your point, but I fail to understand the irony here. As far as I can tell, their concern is reasonable if you take in account that a new influx o high paid employees might drive real state prices up (which in fact could benefit some people) making rents skyrocket.

First off, some of those jobs will be available to them. Secondly, having high paid people around patronizing the other businesses in the area will help them and their employees and families.

All you need to do is look at communities across America where the big good-paying employer folded up and left town. It's a disaster for those communities, not a boon.

As someone who lives in Long Island City, the opposition to HQ2 seems mostly coming from a vocal minority. Sure, most people are not in favor of the tax breaks, but they're also primarily in favor of Amazon coming in general[0]. There is so much misinformation about these tax breaks...so many people are saying, "We're spending $3 billion! This is unconscionable!" without understanding that NYC isn't actually going to be cutting a check to Amazon and tax revenues will almost certainly be net positive as a result.

Really, the political posturing about this is bonkers. The local council member, Jimmy Van Bramer, now says he is allegedly against this deal[1]. Here's his signature on a letter in favor of the deal just about a year prior[2].

In my mind, the biggest problem is where we're going to put all these people. I really hope (but am not holding my breath) that our local pols have the courage to vote in favor of upzoning large swaths of the area to provide enough housing for everyone. Otherwise the most vulnerable among us will just get pushed further to the fringes.

I'm against tax breaks for special interests, as I think it is a prime example of crony capitalism. I'm disappointed that Cuomo and DeBlasio offered any argument besides "NYC is a dynamic city with a great talent pool and halfway decent infrastructure for US cities." But the amount of fear-mongering, inconsistencies, and falsehoods swirling around HQ2 really irritate me.

[0] https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2...

[1] https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/109317279168637747...

[2] https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://big.asse...

Yes it probably will end up net benefit for NYC but in any deal you have to ask did we overpay? Google bought 111 8th avenue, one of the biggest buildings in area in NYC, and also the premier datacenter location for 1.8 billion and added a lot of employees. Tax break: 0. Facebook and other large tech companies have also been expanding their staff in NYC for no tax break. NIMBYs aside in the local area I am for Amazon coming to NYC along with any other company. NYC is in effect cutting a check to them because now they are losing revenue, and starting a precedent that was previously not needed to get big companies here. The market conditions of NYC have attracted business just fine.

I agree, the precedent being set is the worst part of this. And I do think that we "overpaid," in the sense that this erodes any sense of trust and fairness in NYC/NYS government (which I think is critical to a smoothly running society). These tax breaks bolster the idea that political means are a viable route towards a business advantage.

I was just expressing my frustration that the situation is being misrepresented by many parties.

> Otherwise the most vulnerable among us will just get pushed further to the fringes.

The most vulnerable among us? Like the homeless?

Amazon suspended part of its expansion plans in Seattle pending the outcome of a City Council vote on a new tax on large employers that would have funded programs aimed at providing affordable housing and helping the homeless[1].

Under pressure from Amazon, the city repealed the tax[2].

[1]http://fortune.com/2018/05/03/amazon-seattle-building-homele... [2]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/12/seatt...

Yes, like the homeless.

I'm not exactly sure if you're trying to refute a point I made...In my experience the greatest impediment to helping the homeless or rent-burdened comes from NIMBYs and excessive local control. 100% affordable projects regularly face vicious opposition from local members of the community[0]. I was at one of the community board meetings for the linked project and the mental contortions people go through to justify not building housing are really amazing.

EDIT: Another tidbit, just something I find interesting. The linked Curbed article shows my viewpoint, and what I believe to be an accurate reflection of reality. But articles regularly come out that try and spin things differently. See for example this NYMag article[1]. Pretty amazing that people could not be in support of 100% affordable housing, built by Habitat for Humanity, for homeless LBGTQ seniors. But, people find a way.

[0] https://ny.curbed.com/2019/1/23/18194444/nolita-new-york-aff...

[1] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/when-a-developer-com...

That's the fault of the developer not being clear about what was going to happen to the Elizabeth Street Garden. Not to mention the screeching YIMBY side of the equation pretending that opposition to the project was just because a bunch of rich people were throwing a shitfit and somehow hated LGBT retirees.

The ESG is a really unique area in a part of downtown that doesn't have a ton of greenspace. The nearest parks are Washington Square, Tompkins, and Sarah Roosevelt, all across neighborhood boundaries from Nolita. ESG is pretty unique, a green space full of collected sculptures—not easy to replicate.

The proposed solution does preserve some of the space and will keep the area open to the public which is what tipped me in the direction of supporting the development but I do hope they buy some of the existing sculptures to put on the public green area instead of turning it into a shitty lawn.

I understand the YIMBY side, I am mostly all in on YIMBY-ism, but the rhetoric on this is bonkers. It also conveniently ignores that there is already a large public housing development right next to ESG.

1. Characterizing support for the affordable housing project as "screeching YIMBYs" is incredibly unfair. Much of the advocacy for this project is coming from local support organizations for seniors and the homeless, such as the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, or LiveOn NY. Not to mention the heart-wrenching individual accounts of the elderly who are currently in old affordable housing units that are not accessible (think five floor walkup), thus trapping these people in their homes.

2. The ESG property is not some decades old staple of the neighborhood. It actually ALREADY WAS earmarked to be built as affordable housing in 1983. In 1991 the city decided to lease it out to Allan Reiver for his art gallery on a month to month basis while awaiting development. At this point it was not open to the public. It became semi-sort of public in 2005, but you still had to go through the private gallery. Only in 2013(!!!) did the site become completely open. And even now, the hours are extremely limited so most people can't take advantage of it (to be fair, this is something Friends of ESG are trying to change). So I just want to point out that the site is finally being used for it's intended purpose, and it hasn't really been open to the public for very long anyway.

3. Sarah Roosevelt, a much larger park, is LITERALLY two blocks away. http://imgur.com/gallery/CbYszsu

4. As you noted, some green space will remain, and will be ACTUALLY open to the public this time (it will be enshrined into law as part of a land disposition agreement). Residents of the area should feel free to adorn the area with statues as they see fit.

Is anything I've said rhetoric?? I don't think so, of course I'm biased. To me, this is rhetoric: "Elizabeth Street Garden is unique in the continent, and is irreplaceable." That is an exact quote I heard at one of the CB2 hearings on ESG.

In any case, CM Chin is probably going to support the project, so unless the rest of the city council votes against her all this hubub doesn't really matter. But I just think it's not accurate to say that the rhetoric is anywhere close to being equal on both sides of this issue. One side of the argument has considerably more support than the other.

EDIT: I forgot to address your point about another affordable housing development nearby. ESG is located in an extremely desirable, high opportunity economic area. The fact of the matter is, the city just doesn't have that much land left to dedicate to affordable housing. And most of what it does have is out in the sticks of NYC. A site like this is a great chance to significantly improve the lives of people who really need it. There's a wait list of 200,000 for affordable housing, and that's just seniors. This is a relatively small four story building that is contextual with the neighborhood. Given all that background, the limited resources, etc, I don't think there's anything wrong with having two affordable housing projects within relatively close proximity.

1. There were plenty of screeching YIMBYs, particularly the ones who showed up at community board meetings.

2. The 1990s were literally decades ago

3. Sarah Roosevelt is across the Bowery + a block.

4. I sure hope they do a decent job on the green space that's left, it's the only reason I support the project

Also, this is 100 units. Again, I'm on-balance for the project but it's not really that impactful and it alters the neighborhood significantly.

My big gripe is the just that you can be YIMBY _and_ give a shit about neighborhood character. Pretending that ESG isn't a unique feature of the neighborhood is ridiculous. Nobody walks by that for the first time without going "wow, that's pretty neat." It's a bummer that we'll lose another piece of the city, even if it is, on balance, worth it.

1. If you think the people advocating for this project are screeching, I can't even imagine how you'd describe the people who are against it.

2. 2013 is not decades ago.

3. Still, two blocks/a five minute walk.

I don't think that NOTHING will be lost, and I have literally never heard anyone advocating for this project say that, and definitely not from any official organization that represents a group of people. Contrast that to the Twitter account of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, which regularly peddles in misleading information and rhetoric.

It's 123 units, not 100. And it's only that small because the city anticipated huge pushback from the community if it were any larger, based on decades of experience with similar projects. I can almost guarantee that if they tried to make it any bigger they'd be fielding accusations of it being "out of context" with the neighborhood.

I don't disagree that you can be a YIMBY and care about neighborhood character. Nobody is saying it's not a unique site. But given the context, given the site's history, and given what's being gained, I find it frustrating that people are "both-sides"-ing this when the evidence weighs far more heavily in favor of one side than the other.

As someone who also lives in Long Island City, my opposition comes mostly from the fact that other companies like Google were able to bring similar types and amounts of jobs without the media circus or significant tax breaks. I fear that articles like this make it seem like Amazon is doing some great service to us by being here when they clearly have plenty of business motivation to be here as well. It's not exactly a secret that companies are having difficulty hiring experienced engineers, and the NYC metro has one of the largest talent pools. But what is Amazon bringing that those other tech companies aren't?

I'm also concerned about lack of housing stock and potential displacement of people in relatively affordable neighborhoods like Astoria and Sunnyside. Plus, even with the addition of CBTC The 7 train seems ill equipped to handle its current daily ridership of 800k+.

To me it seems unfair to simply brush aside legitimate criticisms of a deal as lack of understanding or political posturing.

Hey Fellow LIC resident!

I largely support the deal because, as far as I can tell, only $500m is actually specific to amazon, the rest of the tax credits come from existing programs that apply to all businesses. I would prioritize revoking preferential treatment to banks and luxury developers before trying to improve this particular deal.

That being said, I think Amazon should be pressured to make additional concessions relating to public transit, specifically because that's the greatest factor in their ability to hire. I actually think CBTC did wonders for the 7, it's now more reliably and regular than any other line I've ever lived on (A/C/E, B/D/F/M, 4/5/6, and the unspeakably awful G)

Unfortunately a good number of people in that vocal minority are in the media.

I see comments bringing up comparisons between Amazon and other NYC employers who are not asking for- or getting a tax break. But I think that comparison doesn't mean much on its own...

The deal with Amazon is independent of what decisions other companies make. Other companies may have different circumstances - with respect to financials (e.g. profit margins), growth prospects, etc. Or maybe they are just bad at negotiating. But either way, all the government has to do is evaluate the incremental tradeoffs associated with making _this_ deal - is it a net benefit or not? And both parties (NY or Amazon) can make their evaluations and accept or decline accordingly.

Most negotiations take place with imperfect information and involve complex assessments of the risks and tradeoffs of accepting/declining any deal. In this case, the projected 9:1 ROI on the subsidies was too good to pass up and public leaders made a decision that is probably correct.

I think the general public understanding of these subsidies is also very limited, and the vocal minorities that have ruled the airwaves on this issue have painted a false picture of how the subsidies are structured.


First, note that $1.2B of the $1.7B of state benefits in this deal are from the _existing_ Excelsior program. Numerous other employers are eligible to apply. See details of program at https://esd.ny.gov/excelsior-jobs-program

Many other companies have utilized this program. Take a look at this subsidy tracker: https://projects.propublica.org/subsidies/programs/excelsior...

Note that other parts of the Amazon HQ2 deal in NY are also pre-existing:

> Under pre-existing as-of-right programs authorized by law, Amazon is eligible for a partial property tax abatement through ICAP and an annual credit of $3,000 for twelve years per eligible employee under REAP, a program available to all companies to encourage job growth outside of Manhattan. REAP benefits for Amazon's 10-year expansion are projected at $897 million through 2038, and ICAP will abate approximately $386 million.

Chances are, Google and Facebook and others are also going to take advantage of all these generally-available programs. As far as I can tell, the $505M capital grant from the state is the only Amazon-specific part of the deal.


How exactly is Amazon's second HQ going to give the general populace of New York (wait, sorry, only those "work for a living") the opportunity of a lifetime?

Anyone hawking wares and/or services in the vicinity of that place will prosper.

Amazon should build their head quarters in Bangalore. Plenty of tech talent, very low cost of living compared to USA, and no shitty visa policies. Not to mention the 1.3 billion population of India which will soon sky rocket to 1.5 billion making it one of the biggest economies in the world. I guess even Canada would be a better option because of their good immigration policies.

1- This is boldly assuming they're trying to bring in immigrants. They likely will, but they're also not nearly as concerned about getting those people visas because if you can't get a visa, they can just select from other elite candidates who can. 2- There's also plenty of bad things about Bangalore, like the fact that the infrastructure isn't nearly as established as NYC. 3- NYC offers immediate proximity to one of the nerve centers of global commerce. There are hundreds of major multinationals based there, and that proximity is valuable. 4- The US has the 3rd largest population behind China/India, so it's not like they're lacking in bodies to fill roles. The size of the population and the size of the economy aren't the same thing (India's GDP is currently 1/10th of the US's, despite having more humans living there).

1 - My idea of a starting headquarters in a country which dont have much VISA issues was to help hire more diverse pool of candidates which is not limited to the US citizens/people studied in USA.They can also do internal company transfers but these things are mostly for people who are really good at politics or that is what I heard.

2 - Yup. But people from India and Indian subcontinent are used to these things.

3 - I mean Amazon already have a US headquarters.

4 - Yup. Indian economy is currently lagging behind USA. But its still a huge economy. Maybe Amazons 2nd biggest userbase after USA and its heavily growing.

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