Nassau upset over Amazon pullout


Nassau County elected officials expressed disappointment after Amazon announced Feb. 14 that it would drop its plan to open part of its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Richard Kessel, head of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, said the panel had hired a consultant to see how the county could have taken advantage of Amazon’s planned investment in the state.

“We were identifying businesses that could do business with Amazon and become part of its supply chain,” Kessel said in a Feb. 15 interview. “We were also looking to develop workforce, transit-oriented developments. We were ready to take advantage of the Amazon venture.”

He called the company’s decision to abandon Long Island City, which came after several Queens elected leaders criticized the deal, unfortunate. “I think Amazon would have been a home run for the county,” he said.

Those who opposed the Amazon deal, including freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said New York City and the state should not have agreed to provide $3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to the company, owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Amazon would have created 25,000 to 40,000 jobs over 10 years and provided $27 billion in new revenue for New York City and the state.

Kessel, responding to Amazon’s critics, said it’s sometimes necessary to provide such incentives. “People have to understand that if you want businesses to come here and flourish, you have to incentivize them,” he said. He said he did not expect Amazon to abandon the deal, and thought it would work out an agreement with its detractors. “I was very surprised,” he said.

In a statement, Amazon said, “While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”

The company also announced that it would still build half of its second headquarters in northern Virginia and Nashville, and would not search for an alternative to Long Island City at this time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who helped broker the deal with Amazon, expressed anger at Democrats in the State Senate for opposing the deal. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Westchester, had appointed State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, to a panel that could have vetoed the Amazon agreement. Gianaris represents Long Island City and vocally opposed Amazon coming there.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran had urged Amazon to reconsider its decision, and at the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Feb. 13 meeting suggested she would welcome them at the Nassau Hub. “Two-thirds of Long Islanders supported this move because they knew it would be good for them, their families and their pocketbooks,” she said in a Feb. 14 statement. “Long Island was poised to reap enormous benefits from the move, which would have brought a flood of new high-wage jobs, business development and much-needed tax revenue to the entire region.”

After the announcement U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove, released a statement accusing New York politicians of attacking the financial giant, which he called “one of the biggest players in the new economy.”

“When you are from Michigan, you do not attack the automakers; when you are from Iowa, you do not attack the corn industry; and when you are from California, you do not attack Silicon Valley,” read the release, “Yet, in New York we are very cavalier and short-sighted in attacking these job creators and state revenue generators.”

Suozzi also called the move a “huge loss” for New York as well as Long Island. “We are in a major battle with other states and countries to attract employers who will bring good jobs and good wages, and it will make it harder to attract major employers and jobs here in the future,” he said. “We must be more strategic going forward.”

Alyssa Seidman contributed to this story.