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Amazon Pulls Out of Planned New York City Campus (nytimes.com)
1066 points by uptown on Feb 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 964 comments

If Amazon had just quietly announced plans to expand to LIC without the "HQ2 Search" dog and pony show they almost certainly would still be here.

Google buys entire city blocks and nobody bats an eye. Turns out that publicly shaking down cities across the US tends to draw out the opposition.

More publicity = more scrutiny = more angry opponents of your business decision

Amazon's spectacle reminds me of Lebron's "The Decision". It's one thing to work out the details and make an announcement, but to purposefully turn it into a show about "What can you do for me?" instead of "Here's what I can do for you" made it not sit well with people.

Also, the pull-out letter also basically dumps the blame on state/local officials for not wanting Amazon, despite not all stakeholders being present at the table when discussions started.

I am announcing an exploratory committee on whether or not I may or may not Apply for YCS19 - I wont tell you if I will apply or not - or how much money my [stealth] startup-unicorn will attempt to raise for an innovative and world-changing product we have yet to decide on seeking a co-founder for. But I am telling you now that I am planning on letting you know, at the end of this quarter - or maybe next month or who knows when, that I am looking into a potential announcement about this announcement where I tell you if I will make a further announcement about my announcements.


I think what's notable is that they can do that and people care - Lebron and Amazon are both desirable enough that people cared. You (and I) are not desirable enough that people care.

> #YCFundMeToo

YC Fund "Me Too" -- I think you might want to let PR and HR take a look at this before you move forward with this name.


I don't see it as a "what can you do for me". A lot of Amazon's interest were aligned with that of many New Yorkers. Both Amazon and most New Yorkers want to have a strong transportation system and a diverse economy that doesn't just rely on taxing bloated financial bonuses to pay for services. They also want New York to be an in-demand tech hub with a deep labor pool and be a place where people actually want to live. Cities should strive to be places where employers want to invest. We aren't talking about handing over duffle bags of money to Bezos. They agreed to offset some of NYC's exorbitant taxes and regulations that make this city hostile to many businesses. And supposedly the incentives were available to any employer of that size. The fact is that having a large Amazon hub in NYC would greatly benefit the city and its denizens

If skyscraper-studded Manhattan is hostile to businesses, I am really curious what a city friendly to businesses looks like....

It's possible the studding of skyscrapers occurred before the hostility, right?

Sure, but Manhattan is not a ghost town either. The usual crop of employers is present, there's certainly no surfeit of supply on the commercial real estate market, etc. There are cities with mostly-empty skyscrapers and overly ambitious commercial centers. NYC isn't one of them.

For the past 24 hours I've been a bit befuddled, like "Amazon would have brought sorely-needed employment to [checks notes] New York City."



If Amazon wanted a strong transportation system they could have demanded some of their tax break went towards that. They did not.

NYC is already the second largest tech hub in the nation, as well as a global leader in a wide variety of industries.

If anything, Amazon moving in, and this I doubt, would have made it less affordable than it already was to live here.

Given the broken nature of the subway in NYC that money would have gone to the state government and been spent on god only knows what boodongles and not on imporving transport in NYC

Even now the upside people are apparently angry at Albany for being too focused on the city. It makes no sense to me. This is clearly not true and yet everyone panders to those people.

NYC population is 08.6M

NYS population is 19.85M

Just the city is forty percent of the population. If you add the surrounding areas, you'll be a majority (I think they'd want things done in the city). How does the city not have better representation in the state assembly? How does upstate keep getting away with swindling the city?

Would it? Silicon Valley used to be a great place to live for normal people. Now it's hell for anybody who isn't rich.

As James Damore recently tweeted: "Amazon abuses its near-monopoly to bankrupt its competitors by selling at a loss, threaten brands with counterfeits until they sell on Amazon, and use third-party merchants’ data to undercut them. All while being subsidized billions by the government." https://twitter.com/JamesADamore/status/1094985319575969792

I'm of two minds on this issue, but: how can the city have good mass transit if there are no tax dollars to pay for it?

One factor is that NY pays 5-10 times more than comparable cities to build its mass transit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

All the same, having Amazon come in with a $3B break doesn't do much to move the ball forward.

and in return for all that money, they receive the sewage waterfall: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/05/penn-stations-latest-...

Honestly, why is this so hard when so much of the rest of the developed world manages to do it so well?

The fact that NYC's transit runs 24/7 makes things really hard to fix, upgrade, change, etc.

Yeah, I heard raw sewage flows through Penn Station so often that people aren't even surprised anymore. Not rare at all.

New York, the wealthiest, biggest city in the country can have good mass transit by properly spending the money it already collects.

New Yorkers already pay tremendous tax dollars yet we have the mass transit that we do. The idea that there are no tax dollars is a myth. The funds are simply siphoned off to some other who-knows-what, and the remaining is poorly spent. The purported Amazon tax base would have likely been spent the same.

I'm under the impression that Amazon has never been a big taxpayer.

Their employees still pay tax though. With tech wages as high as they are it is probably non-trivial amounts.

I am not advocating for big businesses evading tax mind you. Just suggesting it would probably still be a boon for the state tax income if a bunch of tech wages migrated to the NY tax base.

And also make less demands on the social services

NY has city income tax too ranging from 2.907% to 3.876%

The average salary was to be 150K, which I feel is likely to be well within the margin of a desire for minimization.

0 federal income tax for 2018.

They don't make that much money. their profit margins suck.

10.07 B net income in 2018 [1] is not my idea of "[not] mak[ing] that much money"

[1]: https://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/amzn/financials

Which is precisely why I included the word "margin"

LeBron's show raised like $6 million for various charities, so that's commendable.

I am of the opinion that any and all "Foundations" should be required to put their financials into a common splunk log repo with NLP search tools made available to anyone.

Meaning donations, who gave them, etc?

I'm a nonprofit fundraising professional, and I could probably talk about all the reasons why that is a horrible idea for 2-3 hours straight without repeating myself. I mean, at the very least, it's a bad idea for the same reason that exposing all the financials of every individual, or all other organizations, with the added benefit that you'd be opening people up to harassment for supporting certain social causes or belonging to certain religious groups. You might as well start a government mailing list called "hate crime targets."

If you think there are a lot of non-charitable transactions occurring using charities as a front, it would be a way better idea to just have the IRS audit more 501c3 orgs.

If you are trying to decrease fraud, it would almost certainly make more sense to audit wealthy individuals and for-profit corporations far more often.

While I agree with most of what you wrote, there are already countries where all individuals' tax returns are public https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/artic...

Publishing total income is way different than publishing all your financial information.

There is information in people's finances that should be 100% private. What if an employer looks at the financials of someone applying for a job and sees they claimed $100k in medical expenses last year because they had cancer? Companies will do that if they have the ability, and people will lose jobs because of it.

It doesn't matter if you make it illegal. I worked a recruiting agency for a while, and illegal hiring practices are incredibly common.

Not just "What can you do for me", but "We'd never consider you for a HQ in a million years, but by all means give us a bunch of business intelligence gathered on your own dime we can use to site fulfillment warehouses..."

Curious, what kind of data would these public entities have that Amazon wouldn't already ?

Look at page 7 of the RFP: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/Anything...

A good portion of all of that is stuff Amazon could compile, but they got cities across the country to donate probably tens of thousands of hours of taxpayer salaries to do it instead.

The nature of special incentives each proposal offered - custom ones for Amazon-only, or unusual ones - will also have told them which cities they've got extra leverage over if they come offering a smaller project like a distribution center.


> The most jarring incentive reportedly comes out of Chicago, which, under state law, could redirect between 50 and 100 percent of the income taxes incurred by Amazon employees right back to Amazon.

That article misrepresents what the Illinois tax credit is. It only applies to the portion of the income tax that the employer pays.

Basically the state law allows employers who create new jobs to not have to pay their portion of the employment tax for a few years, and that tax credit applies to every company.

I'm pretty happy with the way Illinois and Chicago played their cards with Amazon, we were basically like "We've got a lot of great shit, and if you come here you can take advantage of this tax credit." We didn't offer Amazon any special treatment.

Non-standardized data from hundreds of different cities is probably more trouble than it's worth in aggregate.

It's probably quite a bit easier for Amazon to standardize in this form than having to do the initial legwork themselves.

> > The most jarring incentive reportedly comes out of Chicago, which, under state law, could redirect between 50 and 100 percent of the income taxes incurred by Amazon employees right back to Amazon

Stealing the worker's surplus labor value isn't enough?

but to purposefully turn it into a show

A big difference is that contrived drama is at the very core of the entertainment business of professional sports. It makes for much of the entertainment! It's less helpful in the more mundane enterprise of 'building a bunch of offices and warehouses'.

Cough Trump Cough. It does look like Amazon tried to stir the same soup as Trump, and it doesn’t work (Note that I won’t defend that it worked for Trump, it’s just that it may have made it seem ok to pull money from cities using newspapers, because of that precedent).

I don't really see any connection. My point is that for the business LeBron James and the NBA are in, spectacle is part of the product and people burning LeBron jerseys in Akron is business well done.

People in Long Island City calling their political representatives and yelling at them about how they don't want your offices and warehouses is not business well done if you have 'building warehouses and offices' as a goal.

Antoine Griezmann did the same thing last year, finally staying at Atletico de Madrid with a huge new contract

On top of that he is a big NBA fan so that he might have “stolen” the idea from LeBron. Also, he kind of was mocked for the whole thing, he’s no Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo so the majority of football fans wasn’t that interested in his future club (even though he still is a pretty good player nonetheless).

LeBron's Decision 1 was a lot of money for him. He had the talent to back that up.

And the company that owns vast swaths of cloud computing space doesn't have talent to back it up? Amazon is way more dominant than LeBron in their respective businesses.

I don’t know about having more talent, but amazon definitely has more ego...At least LeBron didn’t demand special tax deals and non-public data from cities to bring his talents.

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

First, state income tax is exactly that, income tax imposed by the state, and governed by the state. There may be local jurisdictions that impose additional income tax but any savings there would be trivial.

While sports are important to the local economy, my understanding is that they are relatively minor at the state level.

Second, LeBron (and other athletes) earn playing income in every jurisdiction they play in, not based solely on the jurisdiction that the team is based in.

This means they are responsible for filing taxes in each of these jurisdiction.

In addition to playing income, they make money through endorsements and other investments. These are considered income in whatever state they claim is their residence.

It's in a players interest to establish a residence in an area with favorable tax laws.

Cities may try to woo elite players to join them, but tax savings isn't very compelling.

>Second, LeBron (and other athletes) earn playing income in every jurisdiction they play in, not based solely on the jurisdiction that the team is based in. This means they are responsible for filing taxes in each of these jurisdiction.

That’s pretty funny how well settled that area of Law is, and yet again Amazon thinks it’s pretty special in that regard also...historically they haven’t paid those taxes either (state or local) and there was just a Supreme Court case confirming that in fact amazon isn’t special and that all this time they themselves should have been paying taxes where they had been selling/shipping goods.

Merchants don't pay sales taxes, they collect them on behalf of the taxing entity. The tax is owed by the consumer to the entity regardless of whether the merchant collects it or not. Amazon was trying to give itself an advantage over physical retailers, but thus had nothing to do with Amazon trying to get out of taxes.

>Merchants don't pay sales taxes

That’s cute, but not the way the Law works generally. Maybe you can point to a single state where the law is different, until then I’ll just say the general rule is if the merchant makes of $x they are required by law to collect sales tax. Where or not the merchant does, they will be liable to the state for payment of the same, not the individual consumers.

If the law worked the way you represent why would any merchant collect and pay sales tax to the states?

Which is a total gangster move by the states. Force merchants to do the dirty work.

LeBron (and other athletes) earn playing income in every jurisdiction they play in, not based solely on the jurisdiction that the team is based in. ... This means they are responsible for filing taxes in each of these jurisdiction.

Do you have a citation for this? I'm skeptical. I live and work in Texas. When I travel to my company's office in NJ, effectively earning income for a week in that state, I don't pay NJ income tax on that income.

Unfortunately I am not an accountant and cannot give you tax advise, however, NJ has a non-resident income tax form, which you may be required to file: https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/taxtables.shtml

Edit to add: According to my interpretation of this: https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pdf/current/1040nr...

Assuming your income is over $20,000, you ARE required to file a NJ state tax return.

Also, note that even if you don't file a tax return, doesn't mean you are exempted from doing so.

Example, as a citizen of Texas, you are also required to pay use tax on any items aquired out of state/country and used in the state. My assumption is that you don't also pay that either, even thought you are legally required to do so. It turns out that use Tax is particularly difficult to audit and collect for, especially without a mandatory return like state income tax.

I had a paid remote internship for about 6 months for a Texas company while I lived in Missouri. I had to file a Texas state income tax form, or at least my reading of the law indicated that I had to, and Texas gladly took the money.

From where did you get a form that doesn't exist? Texas has no income tax.

Perhaps the Texas company sent him the form for MO, as they DO have state-income tax.

Agreed. I see no exemption there for “I was just attending a conference and just stayed in a hotel for a few days.” Much less spending weeks at a remote company location or job site.

I also am not a tax lawyer. However, at least the NY non-resident form specifies that the tax is only owed on NY sources. Probably, when you are on a work trip, the "source" of your income is still the office you work at in your home state. Also worth noting that if you're only there for a week, you'd have to make a great deal of money annually before you got above the standard deduction cutoff for that state.

Apparently you technically should, but you aren't expected to because it would be impractical.


If you’re doing client work there — and you may not be! —- you’re responsible for the portion of the income earned in that state (you have “nexus,” in the parlance — I’m less sure about merely having presence in a state even if the work isn’t generating company income, but in some cases I think that’s treated as nexus as well). In those cases, your company should send you state W-2s for your income; most decent consulting firms offer tax prep services if you end up working in a lot of state and international jurisdictions with tax consequences.

> ... but any savings there would be trivial

Uh, state income taxes can approach 10%. This is not “trivial”.


You misread my comment.

The original proposal was that star athletes attempt to negotiate tax incentives with cities, in the same vein Amazon did with NYC (and many other large corporations do).

City income taxes add a trivial percent to the total income tax rate when compared to the state income tax level. Thus, if you got incentives from a city, they would amount to trivial amount of savings.

Athletes would need to negotiate at the state level in order to have a material effect on their taxes.

I hope that clarifies my point.

I imagine Athletes pay accountants who are well versed in how to fill out those forms, and, at least in the NFL's case, a lot of players compensation may be in bonuses, and not necessarily game-day checks (which would be subject to local jurisdictional income laws).

Ironically, wasn't that one of the reasons people speculated during that process as to why he chose Miami, no income tax? Its obviously not some sweetheart deal but he could have formed a super team in any city that was willing to pay a few super max-ish contracts.

> At least LeBron didn’t demand special tax deals and non-public data from cities to bring his talents.

As is common with other, bigger ego, basketball players

OMG don't give basketball players this idea. Cities would totally write tax exemptions into law to land LeBron!

Haha, this is brilliant. Exempt NBA Star X from all state income tax if they play for the team - that seems completely believable.

Obviously NBA rules relate to tampering would come into play, but it would be a compelling story for the 24 hour sports new cycle.

I've read about athletes at least considering the income tax of a state in their decision, but I'm not sure it's ever been a deciding factor.

Tampering? Not if the law was written to say anyone making over 25 million playing professional basketball.

Getting reelected will be an issue.

No, Lebron just demands the coach be fired, management take on horrible contracts for Lebron's buddies, and all organizational decisions be run by him. Truly, Lebron's lack of ego is staggering.

yep, yep, yep. precisely.

This is a poor analogy for multiple reasons:

1. Basketball is entertainment, and 'The Decision' was the result of years of speculation by the fans and the media. Furthermore you see similar spectacles for such things as National Signing Day, where top recruits hold press conferences to announce what college they are attending.

2. There is animosity and jealousy towards 'entitled millionaire athletes' that was made worse with players being able to control their own destiny instead of suffering under terrible management. "If they get to choose where to work and do so with their friends, why can't I" yells Joe Six-Pack.

3. The super team. Somehow NBA fans forgot or were ignorant of how absolutely stacked championship teams had been throughout history, featuring multiple hall of fame players and coaches. Elements of #2 play into this as well where it is management, not players, that should build championship teams.

4. A player like LBJ is far, far more likely to deliver (which he did with multiple championships) in the NBA than a company like Amazon is to deliver a value worth the taxpayer dollars they absorb.

It's a fine analogy used in the way they used it. Drawing attention to yourself for a decision you know is going to be controversial only makes it more controversial and draws out even louder criticism.

Most new Yorkers supported the project even when told about the subsidies. It's a vocal minority that sank the project


It is always vocal minoirities who do things, even with very popular topics.

Animal cruelty? There is only a vocal minority who takes a public stance, despite this beeing a very clear cut issue in terms of public opinion. Migration is the other way round: most people don't give a fuck, but have a loud vocal base that will even hurt themselves to make a point and you will be heard.

Animal cruelty isn't a great analogy.

It's not a vocal minority, it's a vocal subset of the majority.

A vocal minority is when the opponents of a popular viewpoint are louder than its proponents.

Always relevant:

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...

Previous discussion on HN [0].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16454645

anti-nimby housing activism is a better analogy. The case against more housing construction is very weak at a objective and public policy level, but the only opposition is arguably a minority of people because selling it to the public is difficult. Urban charter schools are another one.

I see the same thing with the Amazon HQ. It's easy for Amazon to spin it in a positive PR direction by talking about jobs and increased revenue, but the policy case for giving in to Amazon's demand is actually weak.


Animal cruelty is a great analogy because the people who oppose it, which are the minority, are more vocal than those who are proponents of it, which make up the majority.

Do you really think only a minority oppose animal cruelty? How many people are proponents of animal cruelty? Neither of us have data to back it up but if you polled people I think the majority would be against animal cruelty, they just wouldn't spend their time opposing it, that's the difference.

Majority of people (me included) continue to buy meat and other animal products, thus promoting animal cruelty.

I do too, but animal cruelty still bothers me and I try to buy products where I believe that the cruelty has been minimized. Animal cruelty is a spectrum and a lot of people care where on the spectrum they lie.

Except when it's the animals that have been killed for their food, then suddenly the conditions those animals are in are not concerning enough to take action. At the moment it's the minority taking any sort of effective change. Boycotts are too much effort for people these days.

Who are proponents of animal cruelty besides dog/cock fighting fans/operators? I doubt that these groups form a majority.

If they know how most food animals are treated, which seems likely, then most people who eat meat are OK with severe, sometimes grotesque cruelty. It goes beyond opinion: they put their money down for it.

People make compromises with their social circumstances.

They're not "ok" with the level of cruelty but in a pervasive environment of limited culinary and social choices, they're okay with living with that knowledge.

Personally, I think you get further raising better people than trying to impose a moral standard in a population that (for the most part) eats diets that hamper cognition and volition ala high sugar and ultra processed crap. Intermittent fasting and a decent diet would do much more for the quality of moral calculation of people than telling them that their entire culture is morally bad. Because we're humans who utilize different strata of values, not mere moral robots.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, the moralists and priesthoods of the world devalue the very small things which give arise to moral judgment: Diet, climate, and habit.

from merriam Webster online [0]

> Definition of proponent: one who argues in favor of something

Even if people are enabling something doesn't mean that they are proponents. Let's stop with the newspeak and use the correct words for things please.

[0] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proponent

Knowing how many food animals are treated and having the option to choose differently are two different things.

Not everyone has the money to choose differently.

At times there is no choice. This is especially true if you are a 15 year old. At 15, you basically eat what your parents eat. You can't generally afford food. You can't always just get a job if your parents won't provide education and/or if your school decides your grades aren't up to working. Oh, and you can't work all that often due to child labor laws.

At times, the actual choice is a bad one. Take eggs, for example. When I have the choice, I choose eggs from hens with larger cages. I realize these are hardly large, but they are better than the alternative. I've only lived one place that I could buy eggs directly from the source (during summer time) - but I'm literally an ocean plus some away from that now.

People honestly need a little bit of animal proteins lest they must take supplements. (Truth: I take vitamin D, as I can't make enough at my northerly location). I'm also mostly vegetarian. I eat fish once a week and I eat eggs and cheese.

I can only speak from my personal experience from living in Perú and the US. So I'd say that the majority of Peruvians and Americans support animal cruelty with the decisions that they make every week at the grocery store.

Being a financial supporter does not make one a proponent. There is nobody out there that I know of (maybe lobbyists) who actively argue that there should be more animal cruelty.

"Vocal" is maybe not the most accurate word for this. The reason why things don't happen despite polls showing majority support for them happening (or vice versa), is because the polls don't show how much people care one way or the other. People who care more will also do more - being vocal is one of the things, but another one is e.g. fundraising for campaigns and voting in primaries.

An unrelated example: polls show large supermajorities in favor of many gun control proposals (universal background checks poll at ~90%, for example). But most people who say that they want it, don't consider the opposite stance on that a deal-breaker for their vote - there are many other issues that are more important to them. On the other hand, the 10% that is opposed, is very firmly opposed, and that issue is close to the top for many of them, to the point of single issue voting. And when those people all turn up in the Republican primaries and vote as a bloc, those votes are enough to prevent candidates that displease that crowd from even getting to the general. And so you have all those party line votes, with every single Republican voting against, even though the majority of their constituents - and even the majority of their supporters - would prefer them to vote differently.

Or see Taleb's thoughts on Minority Rule: https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...

What's the debate about animal cruelty?

Most people are quite happy to keeping buying cheap factory-farmed meat and dairy, despite vague awareness of the generally horrific conditions of the animals (and humans) producing it.

It is rarely labeled that way so the history of the animal doesn't come into play when purchasing.

When people think animal cruelity they think beating your family dog vs the state of factory farming or organic farming.

To continue this thread I suppose...

I've been thinking a lot about trying to purchase pasture raised and sustainable meat products lately and part of that has been buying pasture raised eggs.

My last incredibly priced carton actually included a little slip inside with pictures of the hens in their pasture, and I believe even an offer to visit their farm.

Was really nice to go the other way. Instead of thinking about or ignoring the cruelty, to think about these happy hens.

But damn is it expensive!

Oh, so “animal cruelty” is Newspeak for not being vegan.

As someone who grew up on a farm: there are entirely reasonable ways to define standards of livestock welfare that don't require veganism.

This is true, but the bulk of this hyperbolic criticism comes from vegans, and they're going to use terms like "animal cruelty" no matter what livestock welfare standards you set.

Do you dispute that current lifestock welfare standards in the meat/dairy/egg/etc. industries permit what most would agree is animal cruelty if the same things were done to, say, the family dog?

Yes, I dispute that, if we are talking about Australia. As a farmer (both meat and crop), the better you look after your stock, the more you make from them. There is no incentive for cruelty and it will cost you money. Admittedly, we don't have feedlots on the same scale as the US and the majority of beasts go pasture to plate fairly quickly.

Not all farm animals in Australia are free range cows. For example, cage eggs and sow stalls are still legal.

My point is, it would have been clearer and more honest to use the term “factory farming” if you’re talking about factory farming. I don’t know or care much about factory farming itself.

That's a bit disingenuous, isn't it? This particular thread of comments started when you reacted to criticism of "cheap factory-farmed meat".

Because that's when it became clear that's what was meant by "animal cruelty" in the first place, at least by the person I was responding to.

I'm pretty unconvinced. I don't see any reason to believe your line of reasoning; that the original poster is a hyperbolic vegan. Do you have anything beyond your assertion?

Who else would derail comments on an article about Amazon cancelling their NYC expansion with tangential and disingenuous discussions about factory farms?

Also, the way different accounts seem to seamlessly continue a deep and tangential discussion thread is also kind of suspicious. Almost like it’s one person who keeps switching alt accounts.

This off-topic debate started because of the assertion that it's the vocal minority that have rejected Amazon. The discussion on industrial animal cruelty for cheap produce is an example of how the wants of the majority doesn't always produce the best outcome for the well-being of other people, creatures, and the environment.

Regardless of peoples eating lifestyles it's undeniable that factory farms which produce most of the economically accessible meat are little concerned about animal welfare or the environment. The public on this matter also are least concerned about these matters related to the meat they buy off supermarket shelves, only when it's a video of a 'cute' animal being abused. It is only the minority of people in this instance that take a principled stance, if the silent majority did care we wouldn't be producing so much factory farmed meat after years of publicizing the abuse in the media.

I'm not a vegan but the way you characterize anyone who has a 'minority view' as some radical that only wants to cause problems is the attitude that allows corporations to operate it's abuse of worker standards and public funding to no one else's gain but themselves.

> The discussion on industrial animal cruelty for cheap produce is an example of how the wants of the majority doesn't always produce the best outcome for the well-being of other people, creatures, and the environment.

The discussion would have been clearer if the unambiguous term "factory farming" was used instead. The use of these ambiguous and disingenuous tactics of argumentation is reminiscent of PETA in particular. If you don't want to be characterized as a nutjob, don't act like one. That's my point.

Quote the original poster: "Most people are quite happy to keeping buying cheap factory-farmed meat and dairy" (emphasis added by me).

That was two levels downthread of the otherwise disingenuous and unexplained use of the term “animal cruelty” here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19165463

Either someone shared with you an out-of-context link to this subthread for brigading purposes or you’re being totally disingenuous right now.

This is the second time you've claimed that this thread is some sort of conspiracy.

For myself (and maybe the others), your responses jumped one step beyond reasonable. Because someone used animal cruelty to describe factory farming, that poster is a hyperbolic vegan? I think the fact that you were being hyperbolic incited a few extra replies due to the... irony?

Well, either it's a sockpuppet conspiracy (go ahead, check out my post history), or multiple people agree that your hyperbolic snark was not constructive. I'll freely admit we've come a pretty long from Amazon's HQ though!

I like how using the term “animal cruelty” isn’t hyperbolic, but using the term “vegan” is.

I mean, Veganism is the easiest way of avoiding animal cruelty.

Unless you have a cat and refuse to feed it meat. That’s cruel to the cat, in my opinion.

Edit: Cats are obligate carnivores and can't physically remain healthy without eating meat.

Then there's the flip side with creeps like me. I'm a plant sadist who feeds tofu to my Venus flytrap.

Loud minority of Vegans vs everyone else.

> Migration is the other way round

Migration meaning what? Immigration within the US? That's been a hot button topic since the first Bush nationally, and has been the source of propositions in California since the my first memories of the early 80s. Interestingly, the more the internet was adopted, the more high profile the immigration debate became, nationally. Clinton talked quite a bit (even after his presidency), Bush Jr ignored it, and so on.

Almost everything in your comment is factually wrong.

Reagan passed landmark immigration liberalization in 1986.

Clinton was an immigration hawk.


GWB fought hard against his own party for immigration reform and liberalization.


> Almost everything in your comment is factually wrong

That is, in itself, incorrect.

> Reagan passed landmark immigration liberalization in 1986

Yes, bringing it to the forefront, but without a way to communicate effectively, the party in power passed landmark legislation without a national consensus. Most people were unaware, until it passed and had no recourse after.

> Clinton was an immigration hawk.

I'm not sure what you believe, but that's incorrect, imo. He gave strong lip service in "securing borders" but was instrumental in toothless legislation that paved the way for the current passive acceptance alongside the tripling (ish) of the illegal immigration. The insistence that legal immigration continued to outpace illegal immigration year-over-year before and after his presidency is classic Clinton doublespeak meant to push an agenda by interpretation, which he maintained after his presidency. See his last John Stewart Daily Show appearance. Winners write the stories, so this will likely just be forgotten by the future.

> Migration is the other way round: most people don't give a fuck, but have a loud vocal base that will even hurt themselves to make a point and you will be heard.

GWB's reforms were not well supported, so the initial point I made stands, regardless of what was reported. The idea that GWB was doing anything but appealing to a wider base. What he did, was speed up deportations (ending catch and release) and stopped talking about it after his election. So you can interpret that how you will, but it certainly wasn't "fighting hard".

Most New Yorkers don't live in LIC and won't be directly impacted. If you asked me about a proposal in a borough I never go to I'd probably say "yeah sure no problem"!

That's silly. Most of the people working there weren't going to live in LIC. It's not like that was going to be a requirement to work at the Amazon campus.

Besides this sniffs of the "yea build shelters everywhere but my block" attitude.

There are a vanishingly small number of long time LIC residents. Up until ten years ago it was mostly industrial, one commercial tower, and a smattering of low rise residential.

So who makes up this supposed groundswell of local opposition? People that moved in to one of those shiny new towers last week and are already looking to slam the door behind themselves?

56% is not a resounding endorsement, though, especially for such a big-ticket giveaway that the city absolutely does not need.

Big ticket? Of the abatements, only $500M (the portion related to construction) wasn't available to any business that met the state's requirements. Giveaway? These are tax incentives that are part of the state's tax code -- taking less in taxes to incentivize a particular action is not the same as giving away money that could be spent elsewhere (to illustrate why it isn't the same, that money is not currently available to be spent elsewhere). NYC won HQ2 originally in spite of not giving nearly as much as other jurisdictions were willing to. The polling is much higher than 56% when the question is asked generally, and the polling is highest in Queens which stood to gain the most. The city may or may not "need" 25,000 new jobs but LIC certainly "wanted" those jobs. The proposal was most popular among Black and Hispanic Queens residents and least popular among White Manhattan residents -- suggesting that those who stood to benefit from local economic activity were most excited.

Of all the crummy talking points defending Amazon in this situation, the most odious is the idea that regular working New Yorkers lost an opportunity to get good jobs and upgrade their livelihoods. Amazon has an established record of being terrible to its workforce, and any fool knows that the workers in Amazon HQ2 aren’t going to be regular joes in Queens. At best, ordinary New Yorkers had a shot at serving HQ2 executives their coffee or delivering their food. Even then, their rents would be spiking due to gentrification and their businesses would be threatened by Amazon’s unique flair for vertical integration. And don’t even start with the tax-positive arguments. Amazon doesn’t pay taxes. Have a look at their federal returns.

LIC and the rest of the broader NYC region has been undergoing gentrification for many years now, and Amazon probably would not have had much impact on that. Amazon's vertical integration will impact local businesses regardless of where they place their offices. The reason New Yorkers are not going to suffer is that there are tons of jobs in NYC and numerous big corporate offices. This is probably one of the most overblown issues in NYC politics that I can remember.

True about LIC already undergoing gentrification. But it’s still kind of affordable, at least to young white collar workers who are priced out of Manhattan or the expensive parts of Brooklyn. Amazon execs are paid big bucks. My friends who work there left behind multi-million dollar salaries without missing a beat. Having that kind of money fall into a developing area would ensure that even the baby bankers and lawyers were sent packing to the Bronx or Newark or wherever.

I’d be pretty surprised if a large percentage of those 25,000 jobs were going to have million dollar salaries. And who is to say that the handful that might have income that high would live in LIC, as opposed to a neighboring area.

The "regular joe in Queens" may not get the SWE job in Amazon, but they most certainly can understand that with 25,000 well paid workers comes lots of other economic activity. Do you think that retail owners, restaurant owners, construction workers, etc. etc. etc. are too stupid to understand that they're not going to get hired as a UX designer? Maybe the people who run coffee and catering businesses would LOVE to serve execs their food, because they like new customers? I also find it remarkeble that your argument seems to be: "amazon treats their workers poorly, but also they're too well paid and they'll gentrify the place, but also regular Queens residents won't get the jobs anyway" -- so they're going to gentrify the area with their terrible jobs? Why would the Queens workers want to work there if it's so terrible?

Amazon treats even highly-paid workers poorly. It’s a grinder from the warehouse to the boardroom. As for local businesses, do you think Amazon will hire some local catering company? They own Whole Foods. Go visit the campus in Seattle. Amazon has its own bars, restaurants, stores, etc. Their entire business model is undercutting and assimilating small business owners on terms that only get worse.

Those 25000 workers would have paid income taxes and property taxes.

And they still will, with different employers that hopefully have a better reputation for the treatment of their employees (and hopefully pay a fair tax contribution).

> NYC won HQ2 originally in spite of not giving nearly as much as other jurisdictions were willing to.

Because the entire "competition" was a sham. Amazon was never going to park the future of the company into a place lacking talent.

> The proposal was most popular among Black and Hispanic Queens residents and least popular among White Manhattan residents

That's a good point, but the counter is that the Black and Hispanic residents are the ones who would end up pushed out by Amazon's white and asian workers.

So it's false consciousness, then? You know what's best for them?

NYC is very political.

Surprised AMZN had such a thin skin.

And after all this, they are going to move into vacant office buildings in DC near the airport, and in Nashville.

It's not a thin skin so much as it is submitting on an ongoing narrative. They probably hoped they could do this and end up with the tax breaks, the NYC offices they want, more favorable conditions, and the public would laud them for it.

Instead they got a pretty massive backlash that adds more fuel to the already burning story about Amazon's mistreatment of workers, Amazon's 0% tax rate, Amazon lobbying defeating taxes in Seattle, etc... They have a PR problem already. They are bringing a whole lot of negative attention to themselves. They will have it worse in the future when they try to do the same sort of thing in Washington state.

They folded because staying in wasn't worth it.

For some reason, it doesnt surprise me that Amazon is not very committed to hiring the kind of people that want to live in New York. While they're probably not enjoying their PR, I can't believe this is their biggest lost.

"The kind of people that want to live in New York" includes Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon employees (Amazon has about 5000 employees in NYC already). There is also the financial sector with all those quants and risk managers and whatnot. I am pretty sure Amazon wants to hire people like that but convincing them to move to Nashville won't be easy.

I can't find any numbers, but for comparison, do you know how many Walmart employees live in New York?

Technically, several hundred. I say "technically" because they actually work for wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Interesting choice for comparison given that Walmart is banned from NYC limits.

How about New Yorkers who lived in Queens?

I live in LIC and I've not met anyone who supported it, especially the $3BN of incentives.

No wonder Gianaris, who represents our district in the NY Senate, was such a strong opponent.

Majority of the incentives are from Amazon’s taxes. 27B in economic activity for 3B in tax breaks for just 10 years is wayyy better than almost every other corporate deal. Better than Tesla for sure. That 3B will no longer be generated. You want a net 24B or a net 0B? New Yorkers chose 0

It's New York City, we don't need to give the largest company in the world a huge discount to do business here. It's not like the economic development of NYC is dependent on Amazon. It's a central hub to so many industries because of its infrastructure, talent, connection to capital markets etc, not because of handing out discounts.

> we don't need to give the largest company in the world a huge discount to do business here

Looks like you do, because now we have - no discount, no business.

> It's not like the economic development of NYC is dependent on Amazon

Of course, losing several billions of added value and 25K jobs won't kill the economy of the size of New York. Just as shooting oneself in the foot won't kill most healthy people. But keep at it, and sooner or later there would be a surprising development that the health is not what it once was...

Amazon is already in New York and their own statement today says they will continue expanding those teams despite not moving forward with HQ2. No discount, still business. "There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams."

> No discount, still business

Not the business that was conditional on the discount.

NYC generates about 10% of US GDP, already houses Amazon, Google, and every other global player. We have our fingers in everything already. We don’t need to play this kind of needy urban development three-card monty nonsense to continue kicking ass economically all day and night long.

Again, shooting oneself in the foot by losing 25K jobs won't kill New York. It just would make it a little poorer than it otherwise could be (some people a real lot poorer - talk to some RE developers that bought properly expecting Amazon to move in nearby...) New York doesn't need HQ2, it doesn't need any one particular development at all. But if it starts approaching all of them with this attitude, it gradually will start losing them, one by one, becoming poorer and poorer as they go. Would it kill it? Probably not, Detroit still exists. Is it a smart way to conduct affairs? I guess that's for New Yorkers to decide, if they think losing 25K jobs and billions in future tax income worth sticking it to Bezos - well, they can rejoice.

Amazon’s loss is another company’s gain. There will be more deals and more jobs, you’re acting like this is a recoverable loss when this is not a loss at all but an opportunity for someone else to fill the void, without drastic tax breaks.

New York City wasn't going to give Amazon a special discount. The company qualified for existing incentive programs that are already available to everyone: the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, and the Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program.



It doesn't make a lot of sense for a city to offer incentive programs and then complain when companies attempt to use them. The city should make up its political mind about what incentive programs are available, and who qualifies for them, as part of the decision about whether to offer such programs. Programs should then be implemented neutrally, in a way that does not play favorites or pick winners and losers. Many other companies have benefited from these programs - the entire point of these programs is to achieve some kind of policy objective by being used.

The uproar in this case seems more like political brinkmanship, not any kind of sound economic policy designed to benefit the constituents of the city. These incentive programs were presumably passed in the first place to benefit constituents - that's why they're there, to attract additional investment to areas of the city that otherwise would not receive it. ("The Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP) provides a refundable business tax credit for commercial and industrial businesses relocating to designated areas of New York City and making capital improvements to their space")

If people in NYC think that these incentive programs are a bad idea, harmful, inappropriate, or whatever else, then they should direct their anger at their political representatives, and cancel those incentive programs - not direct anger at the companies who take up the offer that the city put forward.

Other businesses can move into those spaces and will end up paying more in taxes. Property values will go up slower. Having one company move in sounds great but diversity might be a better longterm strategy.

> Other businesses can move into those spaces and will end up paying more in taxes

The first is likely, the second is very unlikely. For the simple reason that Amazon would not plan such project in a market that is so hot that is able to generate tax income at the same rate as concentrated investment project of the Amazon HQ size. Surely, it won't turn into a barren wasteland, but I would not expect it to produce more in tax revenue than big development like Amazon HQ would.

Time will tell.

Except it isn’t 0. It’s far from 0! LIC’s growth is really impressive without Amazon.

The waterfront is slowly getting nicer, but as soon as you go even a few blocks inwards it's still sketchy and/or industrial. An anchor like Amazon HQ would have had a ripple effect of improving the whole area (like maybe we could finally get a decent grocery store? It's cheaper to take the train into Manhattan and go to Whole Foods than visiting the local LIC Food Cellar and Key Food markets!), especially the more eastern neighborhoods within walking distance, which really aren't seeing much of any development today.

I guess the huge Citigroup office does not count? Also when last I looked a bunch of high rises were going up near Sunnyside Yard which is pretty far from the waterfront.

When I was 16 LIC was a pretty sketchy place, but as of a few years ago when I lived there it was completely different. There is still some light industry related to food trucks and taxi cabs, but you have to walk pretty far to get to anything more significant. The only sketchy area I can think of is the Queensbridge projects but that is north of the 59th st. bridge and pretty far from the rest of the neighborhood.

I know the Key Foods you are talking about - I used to live nearby it roughly 10 years ago. I can’t believe that it’s still really the only choice. Something is holding back LIC’s development to where it doesn’t seem to be keeping pace with surrounding areas. I think amazon could have been a big boon to getting things like a Whole Foods or other, better grocery stores into the area.

But that economic activity will go _somewhere_, and allowing businesses to pressure them into tax breaks is collectively gutting the ability of many city governments to function.

Those city govts can choose 0 in new business or new business with jobs and income taxes and property value increases.

A business choosing a location is a business transaction, as is city taxation choices. Both can freely choose how to woo the other.

NYC chose to lose possible decades of high paying jobs over their unwillingness to deal.

NYC is not exactly desperate. NYC is the anchor of an enormous economy that houses dozens upon dozens of large corporate offices and a vast number of jobs at all pay levels. NYC can afford to not deal with a corporation that is known for its poor working conditions and that did not even conduct its search in good faith.

Other cities are not so fortunate, but Amazon has no interest in truly desperate cities (or even cities that are not so desperate but could use the boost, like Newark and Baltimore).

NYC as a whole not being desperate still makes throwing billions in income for residents, not all of whom make as much as Amazon would bring, a dumb move.

Amazon’s role is not charity. It is to be as productive as possible. NYC does have the role in being a good steward of resources for its citizens. It threw out a lot of money and job for them due to a vocal minority.

I'll choose that 0 over giving away 3 billion every day. I don't care how you try to justify this sort of corruption.

There was no "giving away" anything. There was "not taxing Amazon as harshly as others". It's like I tell you "I want to rent space on your frontyard for my sign" and you say "ok, $100 per day would do nicely" and I say "I need it for the whole month and $3K it too much, maybe $1.5K would do it?" and you say "I am not giving you away fifteen hundred bucks!". Then I say "OK, was nice talking to you" and you got $0 now instead of $1.5K you could have. But you're somehow happy you didn't "give away $1.5K", which you never had.

Perhaps consider having even a mild understanding of how tax incentives work before spouting nonsense righteous indignation?

Perhaps consider that not everyone who disagrees with you is an ignorant fool.

You can “disagree” all day long, but the fact remains your comment demonstrated a clear misunderstanding of how tax incentives work.

It’s always the intolerant minority that controls the action. The majority thatbisnok either way will not be heard, because they are ok either way.

I think the numbers in these pools are moderate enough to cast doubt on your claim. Would need to know about methodology, who paid for the survey, etc.

Even after reading this, I think the claim “most New Yorkers supported the project” is extremely dubious.

They sank it?

Amazon could have easily ignored them for all eternity if they wanted. A vocal minority can't influence a random housing development, you think they had any say over Amazon? That's a STRETCH

The politician that grants approval to the developments was just selected. He is the most anti Amazon person, he grants approval or not with a small committee. He refused to even meet with Amazon executives. 3 times they asked for an audience, he rejected all 3 and chose to grandstand. He built a name for himself, saw him on the news this morning and he looked like a complete fool.

The opposition is not because some high tech firm, whether it is Google or Amazon, is expanding in NYC.

The opposition is because of the Massive tax breaks and other $$$ giveaways New York was going to hand over to Amazon. I don't recall Google extorting NYC for $$$ before they decided to expand....

A "tax break" is just a reduction in taxes that otherwise wouldn't be paid at all. It still means a profit for the city.

It's not like NYC is paying Amazon to come to NYC. NYC would still make huge tax revenues from additional sales, real estate, income taxes, and corporate taxes.

Now they're turning that all away. It's such an irrational decision that if I were Amazon, it would raise a big red flag for me as well.

No need to open in a community that doesn't want your money.

This is incorrect:

"that otherwise wouldn't be paid at all"

The opposite is true, 100% of those taxes will be paid by some other business. Maybe you could make your argument about the New York City of the 1970s, but you sure as heck can not make that argument about the New York City of 2019. New York City is not starving for investment, rather, its biggest challenge nowadays is managing its fast growth. Other businesses will move into those buildings, and hire those workers, and they will pay normal taxes, which is a lot more than what Amazon offered.

How long would it be before other businesses would fully occupy the particular block of Long Island City Amazon was prepared to invest in?

And would the employees of these businesses earn on average equal to or greater than the average NYC Amazon employee?

These aren't rhetorical questions, and I don't know enough about Long Island City to have a confident guess at the answers but when evaluating whether Amazon HQ is economically a net positive, these are important to know.

That block was previously occupied and was cleared out for HQ2, so...almost immediately?

It's like Amazon will occupy and populate all of the buildings from day 1. They will also eventually hire people or transfer people over, I remember reading that they plan to bring 25,000 jobs over the next 3 years.

This was the proposed location of the Long Island City campus along Vernon Boulevard bordered by 44th Road, 46th Avenue and East River: https://goo.gl/maps/6G43qfpqLws . Whether provided by Amazon or otherwise, tech employees would at least ostensibly be a net positive in terms of tax revenue.

> And would the employees of these businesses earn on average equal to or greater than the average NYC Amazon employee?

Does it matter? If they earn enough to live and spend locally then isn't that good enough?

Some Amazon employee giving a developer an extra 1000 bucks a month for a luxury apartment and getting their food delivered instead of going to the store isn't exactly an amazing economic benefit.

Are you sure? 25,000 employees * 12 months * 1000 = 300 million in economic activity.

Obviously not all 25000 employees would get an extra 1k, but the point being...these things can scale significantly when you're talking about Amazon. It's not a trivial thing for SMBs to fill the void that Amazon is leaving.

If that’s the case, why would the NY politicians put that money on the table? They did so voluntarily.

The obvious answer is what is commonly called the inertia of dead ideas. Leaders grow up in one era but take power in the next era and they often bring along with them ideas that are 20 years out of date. Military historians joke “generals are always ready to fight the last war” and political leaders make mistakes of the same category. Offering billions in tax breaks to lure businesses is the kind of thing New York might have sensibly done in the 1980s when they were desperate to replace the loss of the textile industry. Such a strategy makes no sense in 2019, when an abundance of investment has clearly replaced the lost industries.

Because it made them look like they were doing their jobs by making a big, important deal? These are politicians we're talking about

For the same reason that politicians support objectively terrible deals for sports stadiums: their incentives are misaligned. They get all of the positive press when the deal is signed and someone else will have to deal with the long term fallout.

Corruption and wanting to meet a billionaire? Same reason politicians build stadiums for sports teams.

You're getting downvoted, but I don't think it's an unreasonable theory. Cuomo might run for President at some point; having Bezos happy and throwing a million or two into a PAC wouldn't be a downside for him.

Because they were bad politicians?

> The opposite is true, 100% of those taxes will be paid by some other business.

Can you explain this some more? Are you suggesting that governments establish a target figure and adjust that year's tax policy to make sure it's met?

The existence of budget deficits suggests otherwise.

> Can you explain this some more? Are you suggesting that governments establish a target figure and adjust that year's tax policy to make sure it's met?

They are just suggesting that the site that Amazon would have occupied will be rented by some other business. Probably, that business will not have gotten all the tax-breaks that Amazon did. Therefore, the tax collected by NYC on that space will be larger with Amazon gone.

The alternate businesses may not provide the same density of profit as Amazon, so their total tax outlay might be much lower over time. (One must factor in the other taxes paid by the Amazon employees as well.)

Also, pretty crappy to get downvoted for an honest question.

I suspect you were downvoted for the line "The existence of budget deficits suggests otherwise."

how many thousands of businesses will have to move there to make up for the taxable revenue that an amazon HQ would register?

Probably zero; NYC is very good about generating its own businesses from the population. It's a big city with a pile of opportunity.

This is absurd. Some other businesses might marginally offset the losses, but only marginally.

That being said, businesses, like people, should have equal protection under the law. I amazon gets a sweetheart deal, every other business should too.

No, they won't. Any other business will get similar tax breaks to Amazon (excluding the $505MM special construction deal) relative to the size if the operations they want to put there.

So why did NYC bother to compete for HQ2?

Amazon being there would mean growth; whether it's greater growth than local businesses is hard to say.

But mostly, it's obvious growth that looks good for politicians who can say, "look, I brought jobs!" People notice it when a high profile company arrives whereas if your local chain expands, that's not even a news story.

Much of the political aspect of economics is due to the relative visibility of various events in the media.

It's because then politicians can run on "I BROUGHT AMAZON HERE! JOBS! GREAT JOBS!".

The main driver of politics in NYC is real estate. Long Island City has already been undergoing a gentrification blitzkrieg, but adding Amazon HQ2 to the mix would yield fantastic profits to those of the rich who were in on it -- that is, those who had gotten the memo several years ago and taken up a good real estate position in the area. Plus, the irony of taking the proles' money in taxes to drive them out of their neighborhood homes and businesses must have offered an icing of sadistic pleasure to the mighty cake of profit. What I am wondering is how the deal was stopped. Usually, big real estate projects steamroll all resistance. There's money to be made! (Not by you.)

We shouldn't have. That's why I'm not bothered to see Amazon pulling out.

This is New York City. There will be other businesses—ones that don't need to be lured by special deals.

Turns out there were no special deals from NYC. All Amazon got in terms of tax rebates was standard stuff, available to anyone. It was big for Amazon because the headcount was big.


It certainly means revenue for the city but we don't know that it means profit. All of those people are going to generate trash, take the subway and consume city services. Why shouldn't Amazon pay like everyone else?

Let me explain it in terms that any New Yorker should be able to understand: If you are a New Yorker you are no doubt familiar with the concept of "one month free rent". Most buildings in NYC will give you one month free when you sign your lease. If a building doesn't give you that offer its probably not as tempting as another nearby building that does. Yet the "one month free" isn't a losing money proposition for the building because they continue to make rent money from you for a long time after the free month.

NYC was basically offering the same thing to Amazon: "hey come live in our city, we will give you a temporary tax reduction, in exchange for a TON of money over the next X years".

Overall the city wouldn't have lost money, it would have gained many billions of dollars of additional money in the future in exchange for an initial 2 billion reduction.

What New York City do you live in? I have never been offered, nor do I know anybody who's been offered a month's free rent on signing a lease. Places that do this are overcharging and driving up rents. Your comment may just be emphasizing the fact that there are multiple "New Yorks." And I suspect the New York that Amazon HQ2 would benefit would be the New York that pays too much to live in a glass tower and gets offered a month's free rent.

Not a landlord, but I imagine there are oodles of benefits to it from their perspective. If I can rent you an apartment for $4000.00 a month but tell you "$3666.67 (net rent w/ first month free)", then:

- Come next year, the default position is "you get a 10% rent hike by just paying the number on the lease."

- if you leave after a year, I've got price history at $4000 a month and can use that as an anchor for negotiations with the next tenant

There's nothing that says I have to start from fair market value and take a month off either. Say I call the apartment price 12/11ths of market value, but then advertise the net number and each month your great deal lets you pay only 11/11ths of FMV.

Bloomberg had something about this today[1] - something like 45% of leases in NYC have similar concessions.

[1]: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-14/manhattan...

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is obviously a significantly gentrified area. Not just the "glass towers" but most of the older brownstones I looked at over the past month while searching for a new place also offer one month's free rent. I can't argue with the fact that Amazon would contribute to gentrification because that is true. But I can also say that Amazon pulling out of the plans isn't going to stop gentrification.

What is the point of this comment? It combines some smug self-satisfaction about "Your New York" with your ridiculously insulated anecdata about the first month discount many apartments give.

A 5 second Google search shows hundreds of results for 1 month free rent in apartment listings.

What exactly are you contributing to the discussion?

@andosteinmetz I'll offer anecdata also as a born-and-raised New Yorker (FYI - I finally moved out because the job market did not support the living costs given personal constraints.)

NY is a shell of what it was in 2005/2006. Yes, there are more tech firms, but the 500,000 or so jobs lost after the financial collapse in 2008 have not been made up for. I welcome Amazon bringing in well-paid positions, because as a New Yorker, I'd like the city to support a middle class, not just wealthy foreigners parking money into LLCd condos staying empty.

Much of the gentrification could be due to the free money and ZIRP policy in the US -- it is cheap to borrow and thus people, especially wealthy people/corps, borrow heavily and raise prices and rents. There is little correlation between actual income and rents in NYC because of this external booster.

Wouldn't it be better if the source of rent increases in NYC be the presence of lots of well paying jobs?

@TuringNYC I agree that the role real estate investment is playing in driving rent increases is important to address - through regulation - and I’m all for bringing good jobs to the city.

However, I think we can do better than giving massive tax breaks to megacorporations with bad records on labor relations and what has seemed to be an adversarial relationship to government and public services. I have no interest in seeing a replay of what’s happened to SF in NYC.

I think it’s important for cities to stand up for the interests of all their citizens, not just software developers and product managers (etc) in negotiations with increasingly powerful tech companies.

That's a fair criticism, and I regret my tone and making the discussion personal. But as a life-long New Yorker, I do feel a personal stake in all this.

I believe OP is right that the month's free rent offered on an apartment is recouped by the landlord: in the form higher rents, which have become a real problem for many people born and raised in the city and which would likely only be exacerbated by Amazon's setting up shop here, especially under the conditions offered by the city.

Over the past 20 years New York has experienced an influx of wealth without commensurate investment in public services. The MTA is dying, urban blight is spreading and many of the new professional class moving here don't seem bothered by it.

Another piece of "anecdata": walking down Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg a few years back, I heard one wealthy newcomer say to another that she couldn't wait for the local pharmacy across the street from the new Duane Reade to close. Maybe this anecdote doesn't have the force of a "real data" but it may help some people on here understand why New Yorkers aren't thrilled by the prospect of a building a big Amazon campus and welcoming them with a handout.

https://harpers.org/archive/2018/07/the-death-of-new-york-ci... Unlike the author of this article, I'm not averse to my city changing, but I'd like to imagine something other than the change we've been seeing...

I agree with you. Just in the last five years of living in Williamsburg I've seen the neighborhood change a lot. I remember that local pharmacy you are referring to before it got turned into an Apple store, and before the Whole Foods got built on the same block.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm part of the gentrification problem over the last five years, but to be fair New York gentrified me at the same time that I helped gentrify the neighborhood. I only made about 30k a year before I moved to New York and I lived in a trailer home back then. After moving to New York I got a few different tech jobs and now I live in one of those over-priced one month free buildings.

I share my story just to say that in my perspective gentrification is a complicated system, and like you I also have a personal stake in all this. In my experience working in tech in New York has been a huge opportunity to improve my life. Amazon would have offered roughly another 25k people such an opportunity, some of them would have been newcomers, and some hopefully long term NYC residents. I can't lie, some people might not have benefited as much as others, but at least those 25k would have been able to get the same opportunity I did when I moved here.

> I can't lie, some people might not have benefited as much as others

You should also recognize that many people would be actively harmed by it, not just "not benefiting as much as others".

Whether the benefits outweigh the harm is a question I can't answer, but even if they do, it's still true that people are hurt.

None of these issues are easy or clear.

The point is pretty clear: there are people out there who don’t even know what 1-month free rent is. The contribution to the conversation is an illumination of the divide between some generalized types of people in New York. The relevance to the OP is that there may be some wildly different opinions on Amazon’s perceived actions based on which generalized type of New Yorker you are.

The part where it's mostly overpaid software devs living in a bubble.

I live in that part of Seattle. It's the same part where people want to ban all cars because they never have to go anywhere that isn't walking distance, and their dog loves walking.

We should be absolutely clear about this: you are not getting "one month free rent." The cost of that "free" month is built into the other 11 months, as well as the difficulty of getting your full deposit back.

"One month free" is one of the oldest tricks in the NY real estate book, along with "preferential" rating.

That's the narrative, but too often the promised backside never arrives.

Exactly. I'm not that old, but I've seen this dog and pony show so many times already that it's no longer surprising. The latest example being the Foxconn plant in Wisconsin. The increased tax revenue from that plant may never[1] recoup the investment Wisconsin made to bring it to the state.

[1] https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/business/technology/430953... (The estimated recoup time is 25 years, which means the plant will be obsolete before the state sees a dime of net revenue.)

The solution to that is to make the incentives performance based. And that's exactly what was proposed: if Amazon hadn't delivered the promised results the tax breaks wouldn't have taken effect.

That's not really a solution all by itself. Making the incentives performance based merely opens the possibility of being able to sue, nothing more. And when you're talking about companies with the size, power, and lack of scruples as Amazon, suing can be a losing proposition regardless of how correct your position is.

That's literally paid by those employee taxes? Unless you'd rather more homeless and drug addicts move in, which it seems is what NYC local politicians wanted.

NYC has a giant statue inviting homeless and drug addicts in. And good for them.

>taxes that otherwise wouldn't be paid at all.

That is fallacy of excluded other possibilities. Especially for a place like NYC.

I generally like AMZN, nevertheless I'm happy just on sheer principle that the bullying behavior by the 800lb gorilla didnt succeed this time.

That's not a fallacy, it's the well known concept of opportunity cost, which rational decision-makers always consider.

The flaw is an implicit assumption that no alternative opportunities exist. Or in other words, the well-known concept of pricing.

It is exactly like a pushy customer demanding a discount on their groceries, saying: "Well, if I don't buy them you won't get any money at all!"

If you are confident you can sell enough groceries at the regular price, the economically correct decision is say "I don't need YOUR money" and laugh in their face.

It isn't any more "bullying" than you shopping various car dealerships to get the best deal on a new car.

It's more like asking for a discount cause you want 20 cars.

Guaranteed sale is nice, but if I think I can clear out those cars pretty easily without a discount I'm gonna be a lot less inclined to do it.

That's not bullying, either.

more closer would be a Saudi prince agreeing to become a US citizen in exchange for a personally reduced income tax rate. Would you support it?

Suppose we change it slightly: a Saudi prince wants to become a US citizen in exchange for some considerable investment into our economy. Do you find it objectionable? Because that's literally one of the available options today.


And schemes like these exist in most countries out there, it's not just a US thing.

There is no personal tax rate decrease in EB5 in exchange for the investment.

The point is that we're already selling citizenship for money.

In your original example, the only reason why it would ever make sense is if the Saudi prince in question can somehow produce more wealth for the public than they'd pay in taxes. In that scenario, it's exactly the same in the end, once you balance everything - you have sold them citizenship for money.

And if they don't pledge to earn you more than you'd save, then why would you even consider such a deal?

Would you call that "bullying" by the Saudi prince?

Yep. Definitely. This is exactly what Saudis do to US every time they can, like that 100B defense contract that made current White House into Saudis' faithful servants afraid to even mention Khashoggi or Yemen.

It's not irrational.

What's irrational is not following up by banning every single deal of this type. Every single one.

Taxes collected increases revenue for NYC; to speak of "profit" we'd have to account for the cost to collect that revenue from Amazon.

Sure but the fact is when your mom and pop business is going to pay a higher effective tax rate than Amazon you're effectively subsidizing one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. You're not attracting amazon by slashing taxes across the board you're giving one company a sweetheart deal. Which is simultaniously at odds ideologically with both libertarian and progressive thought. From a Libertarian perspective you can see the state as shaking down all of Amazons competitors to pay for building Amazon's infrastructure, training Amazons employees, and enforcement of Amazon's monopolies on IP. This is perverse.

The US and NYC specifically is approaching historic levels of inequality. If you want to reverse that you have to say no to giving one of the most powerful companies in the world a sweetheart tax deal. If NYC doesn't say no then who will? The scuttling of this plan doesn't reflect a lack of rationality. It reflects different priorities than you have. The more powerful Amazon gets thanks to these sweetheart deals the more leverage they will have and that can mean negative consequences for the populace.

Now they're turning that all away. It's such an irrational decision that if I were Amazon, it would raise a big red flag for me as well.

Why even pick NYC in first place ? That place, and other 1st tier cities, are red tape hell. Amazon should have known this.

Google is expanding to create 25,000 GOOD JOBS! But since it didn't extort $$$ out of politicians, the politicians can't as easily take advantage of it.

If you can get high-tech companies who are willing massively expand to create lots of GOOD JOBS without have to short $3 billion from the state budget, that might mean that the $3 billion dollars was a total waste and boondoogle....

> Google is expanding to create 25,000 GOOD JOBS!

No they aren't. They're expanding by about 7000.

Eh, sadly I think if Amazon had shut up about the process and just silently negotiated for tax breaks this probably would have gone through without issue. These sorts of stupid tax breaks get offered to large companies all the time and it's always a race to the bottom (and, with our broken campaign finance laws and legality of post-service employment, often times deals that are just clear losses get passed so some politician can get a sweet 5mil/year when they retire onto that same company's board of directors)

You are foolish if you believe they did not.

But they probably did. It was just behind closed doors rather than publicized.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure any such tax breaks would have to be public data by now, even if they were originally hashed out behind closed doors.

If you're implying that Google got tax breaks, and no one noticed the public data confirming these tax breaks, please provide evidence of the data that has been overlooked.

> would have to be public data by now

Show me the public data source where I could conceivably find that out and I'll do "please provide evidence of the data that has been overlooked". Because I don't think that data source exists.

I don't think you realize how opaque tax records are in many places. You seem to be implying that there is a way for the public - or even journalists - to acquire the tax and assessment information of individual companies. Attempting to do so is considered fraud in most jurisdictions (e.g. attempting to use a FOIA request for the personal information - including tax records - of someone else or a business of which you are not an officer).

Property taxes are generally searchable online. Redfin will tell you residential real estate taxes for a property, for example.

The assessed property tax values of the property. What does that have to do with the actual amount paid? Tax breaks for an entity don't apply to the assessed value of property owned by them...

Every taxing district I have looked up property in shows the actual amount billed. They always show all applicable credits the property or its owner qualify for. I haven't tried to look up NYS records, but I don't think it's any different.

But again, what portion of the taxes in question are actually property taxes. I pay lots of business taxes and my business owns no property.

You are saying if I bought a piece of property and paid property taxes on it, that all of my business taxes would suddenly show up in the property tax records?

It's basically standard practice for any business to negotiate tax breaks for building in one place rather than another. I'm not going to spend any real amount of time tracking down theoretically publicly available documents on these deals. Sure the records exist, but I have no knowledge of a database I can search, and I'm not putting in a FOIA request.

Here's an article discussing the topic at large[0] (and Google is one of the beneficiaries here).

[0]: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/jul/02/us-cities-and...

> It's basically standard practice for any business to negotiate tax breaks for building in one place rather than another.

Yes, this is common. But just because it's common doesn't mean it's right or should be allowed.

Please point to where I said anything about right or allowed.

Ass and umption.

A sheriff of a small town told me how they ended up spending thousands of dollars to SWAT team which he thinks he will never use. The reason ? After some school shooting in another end of USA the folks of his county wanted to know how their LEAs plan to defend the local schools. The correct response here was that they do not expect such law probability even and even if it happens there is very little they can actually do.

But public does not like it and hence they had to put together a fake plan and waste money. Which could have otherwise gone into preventing real crimes.

Honestly, it's a bit like a doctor giving someone a sugar pill.

Except it's a vulnerability to SWATings. Also the cost acquisition and maintenance is non-negligible.

More like it's a sugary pill that gives you diarrhea that also does nothing useful.

One difference is that sugar pills can actually be very effective.

and don't cost $$$ (unless that's important for the placebo effect!)

A doctor giving someone a sugar pill and telling them it’s an active ingredient is definitely illegal. Placebos are used in medical studies where the patients know that they might be receiving a placebo.

>Turns out that publicly shaking down cities across the US tends to draw out the opposition.

Unless it's for a football stadium.

> Unless it's for a football stadium.

You haven't seen the perpetual and energetic fights in my part of the nation about public funding for football (and other professional sports) stadiums. Sports businesses trying to get tax money to be spent in order to enhance their profitability is absolutely something that brings out the opposition.

Correct. St. Louis and San Diego both let pro football clubs leave recently.

It's more complicated than just St. Louis and San Diego not wanting to put up money. The owners of the respective teams wanted to move to LA pretty much no matter what, and requested particularly absurd things so they could pretend they tried

I think Oakland would be a better example of a city not caving in to giving to Raiders money to build a stadium...

So Las Vegas gave them a lot of money.

That trend seems to be (gradually) changing, although yeah, it seems like many municipalities still let themselves get shaken down by stadium-owners.

Is it just a coincidence that the Giants and Jets both play in New Jersey. Maybe Amazon should just move across the river and call it the New York office.

This was one of the common critiques of the LIC HQ2 plan - LIC doesn't _need_ Amazon to continue redeveloping well, but a nearby city like Newark gets access to the same talent pool and a big anchor tech campus could do a lot more good there. If you're gonna throw tax incentives around, it seems prudent to do the most good with them.

(Granted, Newark is in NJ... and the proposed tax deal was from NY. Thinking as adjacent states instead of a region bites.)

This is true, but sadly it’s democratic and lots of fans turn out in support. I don’t get it, but that’s probably because I’m not a pro sports fan.

And hot off the press, here's an article on that very subject in Memphis, TN: https://granolashotgun.com/2019/02/14/easy-payments/

Well, the NY football teams play in a New Jersey swamp so that didn't really work out for NYC either.

Other than the fact that stadiums are known to cost cities a lot of money without returns and NYC gets to avoid those costs and benefit from the branding.

Hundreds of thousands of people don't turn out for a parade for Amazon. They do when pro teams win championships.

Football stadiums get subsidized because football is extraordinarily, wildly popular with most of the people that pay taxes. Those taxpayers spend massive sums of money on sports every year, across the NFL / MLB / NBA / NHL / MLS / NCAA. Those people pay most of the taxes that fund the government that then pays for the stadium subsidies.

Taxpayers love sports, love spending money on sports, and the majority of taxpayers are clearly fine with subsidizing sports at all levels. They vote with their dollars and... votes, over and over again, year after year, decade after decade, to keep supporting sports subsidization.

See: football attendance and ticket spending on NFL and college games annually, as well as sports packages for television, merchandise sales, etc.

You've got it backwards.

Sports are very popular, and stadium-lovers are vocal with their representatives.

But they are an outspoken minority. The majority of tax-payers do not support subsidizing stadiums.

And stadiums will get built regardless of whether the city gives them free money, because they're profitable. So why subsidize private profits from public coffers?

IT never works out for the city/tax payer.

Stop Padding Billionaires’ Profits by Paying for Sports Stadiums


Being a sports fan does not imply you are happy with tax dollars being used to fund stadiums.

It worked out for Amazon. The biggest goals of HQ2 were to get around barriers to further growth and development in Seattle and to hedge against the risk of further populist backlash in Seattle. The fact that a populist backlash in New York happened so suddenly demonstrated that NY suffers the same afflictions as Seattle.

Pretty on point. Amazon is pretty decided to step aside those toxic politics, that is why I am surprised they choose NYC in the first place, because the climate there isn't that different from Seattle. Well, it turns out to be rather quick running into its conclusions. Fun ride.

Google doubled their occupancy to 7k. Amazon was promising 25k jobs. I'm stunned out how so many people in this thread are pretending thats equivalent.

You've got something confused here. Google's current occupancy in NYC is >7K. They were/are planning to more than double that to ~20K.

So it's absolutely an expansion of a similar scope.

empty promise is useless. did they sign a contract saying if they hire 1 person less than 25k and their average salary is 1 dollar less than 150k by certain time then they will refund all tax breaks? when bezos signs that contract then I would believe this.

Their entire deal, which was released with the initial announcement, is predicated on them creating those promised jobs and building those promised buildings. There are benchmarks along the way and all the incentives are based on meeting those benchmarks.

In short, yes, they would have signed a contract stating that.

Their dog and pony show almost netted them $3bn.

That type of payday might be worth a bit of scrutiny.

No it didn't. The vast majority of those incentives were on the table for Amazon, or anyone else, without the theatrics.

Oh, sorry, it was "only" 1/2 a billion that was specially on the table for Amazon (if up thread comments are to be trusted)

That's not peanuts.

I never said it was, or that it in itself wasn't a problem. It's far less than $3B though, so anyone talking about billions specifically for Amazon is wrong.

Also, if your problem is large tax breaks for corporations, the focus should be on those programs that make available the other $2.5B available, since any corporation with a similar scale project could get that. Focusing specifically on Amazon distracts from the existence of these programs and whether that existence is a good idea.

As an aside, your snarky tone detracts from your comment and hurts the discourse.

Exactly, this was a huge communication error on Amazons and the politicians' side. Offering such huge subsidies to a single company will never go down well in the current political landscape - especially not in a city with a resurgent left.

> not in a city with a resurgent left.

IRRATIONAL left. This investment on the part of Amazon gave way way way more to the city than it got back in subsidies.

It's kind of ridiculous. If I were Amazon, I would drop NYC in a heartbeat if they didn't appreciate that degree of investment.

The subsidies were 1.525 billion. Amazon's investment was expected to be around 2.5 billion. Only an irrational fool cannot do that math.

This is only irrational in a narrow accounting sense, and even then only if you believe in the numbers turning out as purported. You are considering a simple one-time game of "give me this and I'll give you that".

What is the long term effect of having government hand out money to every business that creates a hype? What is the effect of the amount of similar deals that will inevitably get hyped?

Should you play the game at all? Is it reasonable for someone to come along with this kind of deal? Is there no sense of fair play - that all corporations should be treated equally - whose logic is outside of the simple arithmetic?

The simple arithmetic that you are suggesting can potentially lead to unpleasant situations. What if the opposite were to happen? Supposed some big firm like Google decided to ask the government for money, or else they leave and sack every employee who doesn't want to go to their new location?

You could have firms queueing up to present you with new math problems.

Subsidies are paid out of tax dollars. Surely you're not arguing that Amazon's 2.5 billion investment will go straight back to the city's coffers?

It would generate property tax (if not abated) and income tax for the workers (both hired after the fact, and hired to complete the construction), but at what percentage of the total investment? 10-20%?

You comparing apples and oranges. Subsidies are a direct transfer of wealth, whereas Amazon's investments would remain assets of Amazon.

> Google buys entire city blocks and nobody bats an eye.

Was it highly subsidized by taxpayers like Amazon's purchase would have been?

Tax breaks are just a temporary discount on taxes that otherwise would be paid at all.

It's not like Amazon was getting CASH to move to NYC.

That’s assuming that space would be left empty. Which in NYC is unlikely.

Have you been to Long Island City? It's low-slung warehouses and taxi parking lots.

You're also assuming that the people who will take Amazon's space wouldn't have moved to some other place in NY or built a bigger building.

I guess time will tell. We can track how long it takes for another company or companies to develop the same properties. Hopefully it will be less time than the length of the tax breaks

No they are not.

But because the dog and pony show draws more public scrutiny, is that not a better, more transparent process for the tax payers vs the norm of corporations "quietly" making deals with city governments?

If Amazon required all bids and contracts be made public AND brought in the media circus to invite scrutiny that would seem to be the most in the public interest.

LIC and Queens was more resistant to hipster techbros than say, Chelsea. Manhattan is already a playground for the rich, lower manhattan even more so. LIC was justifiably worried about tax payer subsidized gentrification.

I mean, they're still doing that. Amazon is still planning on staffing up their existing NY offices, just to the tune of 5k new jobs instead of 25k.

The big dog and pony show was about asking for major tax benefits. They're still welcome to open a giant LIC office, they just won't get showered with a tax windfall for it. That's Amazon's decision that it wasn't worth it.

From what I heard, Google also doesn't get the kind of deals with tax breaks that Amazon did. Amazon wanted to leverage their added value (which is clearly existing) into some benefits. That did not work in this case, but it wasn't at all obvious it won't. Majority of New Yorkers supported the deal, as it was.

Also, "nobody bats an eye" is not right either - there are tons of protests against Google, which has been widely reported. They just didn't have a focus point like Amazon did, but if any city had a wide contingent of young socialist politicians caring about PR much more than for the jobs for the city population - the same could happen to Google too.

I think it's the fact Google got no tax breaks (as far as I know) to do so.

The issue are the concessions, not necessarily the actual building of the HQ.

> Turns out that publicly shaking down cities across the US tends to draw out the opposition.

Unless you're Elon, then it's celebrated.

I think you're misreading Musk's reputation outside of tech circles. If they're aware of him at all, he's more or less viewed as a Bond villain at this point.

A guy who is Elon Musk in all but name is literally the main villain in "Venom".

I thought he was Tony Stark from Iron Man!

yes Amazon ruined the show itself, it feels too proud about itself these two years probably.

> shaking down

Shaking down someone for money is done by threatening them, i.e. extortion. Amazon did not threaten NYC, and therefore it is not a shakedown.

Amazon still plans to dramatically expand it's workforce in NY/NJ.

Im not sure what the point of any of this was.

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