New York’s Amazon dreams aren’t dead yet, at least not in the minds of some of its leading executives and politicians.
James Gorman, the chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley, Mastercard Inc. CEO Ajay Banga and former Mayor David Dinkins were among those who signed an open letter to Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos, urging him to reconsider his decision to walk away from a deal to build part of the retail giant’s second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. The letter promises that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “will take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval.”
Cuomo himself didn’t sign the letter, but the New York Times reported that he had made a personal pitch to Bezos in an effort to revive the deal. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.
Earlier Thursday, Cuomo told reporters that he’d reached out to Amazon after the company decided to kill the deal in the face of angry backlash from some local politicians and community leaders.
“I’ve had many conversations with Amazon. I hope that they reconsider,” he said. “Up until now, we haven’t seen any change in their position. It would be helpful if the state Senate said that they would approve it. That would be helpful. But in the meantime I haven’t heard any changes.”
Real estate developers Rob Speyer and Bill Rudin, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO David Solomon, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, four members of Congress and several union heads, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, are among more than 75 city leaders who signed the letter to be published as an ad in The New York Times imploring Bezos to reconsider his Feb. 14 decision.
New York’s bid, led by Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, won the competition among 200 bidding cities to attract the company to the Long Island City site, across the East River from Manhattan. A second portion of Amazon’s HQ2 will be built in northern Virginia.
“Governor Cuomo will take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval and Mayor de Blasio will work together with the governor to manage the community development process, including the workforce development and infrastructure investments that are necessary to ensure that the Amazon campus will be a tremendous benefit to residents and small businesses in the surrounding communities,” the ad states.
The deal, reached after a year’s search, held out the promise of 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs for New York, and in return the city and state offered as much as $3 billion in tax breaks and grants. The city and state would have reaped as much as $27.5 billion in revenue from the deal, according to Cuomo.
But opponents in the City Council and state Senate objected to an agreement that was hashed out in secrecy and used tax dollars to lure a company worth almost $800 billion and run by Bezos, the world’s wealthiest individual.
The Times reported that Cuomo is “furiously trying to win back” the company.
“The state Senate made a terrible blunder,” said Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo. “The governor will take over the process and can comfortably assure Amazon the approval will get done.”
The four members of the New York congressional delegation who signed the letter were U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Max Rose.
“Who in their right mind wouldn’t sign that letter?” said Alan Suna, CEO of Silvercup Studios, a Long Island City-based motion picture sound stage. “The financial benefits to New Yorkers — the jobs it offers — present a once in a lifetime opportunity. I signed this letter to show Amazon there’s really support for them to come here.” Dozens of film and television series are made at Silvercup, including some by Amazon.
“This sent a terrible message to the tech industry,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a civic organization comprised of corporate executives that paid for the ad. “We felt that we had to speak up and counter the misinformation that has dominated public debate.”