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Know How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

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Protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in Long Island City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in New York. VOA

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Immediately after Amazon’s Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

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They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization. Pixabay

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon’s smile logo turned upside down.
In this Nov. 14, 2018 file photo, protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in New York.

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices.

At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed.

Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company “Scamazon” and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle.

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“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.” Pixabay

At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company’s decision to come to New York could be reversed.

“We want to invest in a community that wants us,” he said.

Then came a sign that Amazon’s opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon’s deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it.

“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.”

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Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris’ appointment, but he didn’t indicate whether he would take that step.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location. (VOA)

Next Story

Amazon Launches its Marketplace Appstore in India

With nearly 100 apps from across the world on the Amazon Marketplace Appstore, Indian sellers will now have easy access to more apps to help them create a better customer experience

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The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

Amazon on Monday launched its Marketplace Appstore in India, which is a platform created for sellers to discover trusted third-party applications that can help them automate, grow and manage their business.

The Amazon Marketplace Appstore enables sellers to focus on their business as it reduces the time and effort they spend on finding the right solution for their specific needs — be it finding a shipping provider or sales analytics tool.

Sellers can search, filter and compare applications to find the solution that best suits their needs.

“The platform is designed to intuitively connect the right developer with the right seller to ensure that both parties succeed,” said Gopal Pillai, Vice-President, Seller Services, Amazon India.

The Appstore features multiple solutions by Amazon and external developers, covering a range of functionalities and price points. Sellers can now browse and filter apps across 13 categories, including accounting and tax remittance, and inventory and order management.

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A delivery person pushes a cart full of Amazon boxes in New York City, U.S., Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

With the Appstore, Amazon essentially takes the ambiguity out of third-party validation by vetting each solution provider before featuring them.

With a few clicks, sellers can discover relevant solutions for their business, authorise data access and complete their purchase.

“We want to become the go-to solution for sellers to access business tools for their needs and minimise the time, effort and money otherwise spent on searching and experimenting for appropriate solutions,” Pillai said.

Also Read: Microsoft Opens Security Lab to Test Vulnerabilities

“The applications on the Amazon Marketplace Appstore have been verified and are reliable. We believe this will help both sellers and developers scale their businesses,” he said.

With nearly 100 apps from across the world on the Amazon Marketplace Appstore, Indian sellers will now have easy access to more apps to help them create a better customer experience. (IANS)