Amazon executives had to face up to angry protesters in New York as they attended a meeting at City Hall to discuss plans to open a second headquarters in the city.
The Seattle, Washington company has come under scrutiny since it announced intentions to build a new home in the Long Island City neighborhood, with New York State and the city offering $2.8billion in tax breaks for the company that surpassed a $1trillion valuation in September.
Members of the public paraded signs and jeered while some New York City Council members showed fierce opposition by trying to block the Queens borough project on Wednesday.
‘We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis,’ Fox 5 reports City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, said. ‘Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3billion in public money to the world’s richest company?’
However Amazon claims that the move will majorly help residents by injecting ‘over $186 billion in positive economic impact’ during the course of a quarter of a century.
It’s something Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agree with as it’s that said by splitting HQ2 between Arlington, Virginia and the Big Apple, 25,000 jobs will be created in the latter location over a decade.
In 15 years it’s estimated the company could hire 40,000 people in New York.
At the time of the announcement last month Cuomo said it was a ‘big moneymaker’ and that it ‘costs us nothing’.
On Wednesday the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation CEO, James Patchett, said the plan is ‘the single biggest job creation opportunity in New York’s history’.
But the City Council Speaker, Johnson, argued that the figures were biased because they were done by someone ‘hired by the state of New York, not by neutral third party academics or companies that can provide that economic analysis’.
The Council is angry they weren’t consulted about a project of this size and many believe that despite promises made by Amazon, they may not benefit the city which is set to rise in population by 131,000.
Amazon’s executives retorted that if they don’t fulfill the job creation agreement they won’t be entitled to the tax cuts.
However the meeting wasn’t so positive with even a City Councilman who previously supported the plan, expressed concern.
‘This is bad for Long Island City, bad for Queens and bad for New York City,’ said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, said. ‘The mayor and the governor caved to the richest man on Earth and then handed the bill to each and every New Yorker.’
Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos has an estimated net worth of $137.4billion
The Council members, many of them Democrats, broached topics including Amazon providing facial recognition technology to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Although he didn’t admit they do, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy replied that the government should have access to the best technology.
The Democrats see it as support for President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to aggressively crack down on immigration and increase deportation.
There was also concern about Amazon’s treatment of employees and whether the tech giant uses customers’ personal information in a negative way.
But Huseman denied it when Councilman Ben Kallos asked if the company had shared his wishlist on the shopping website with the media.