“Why do you need our money?” asked Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council, at a hearing on Amazon’s $3 billion in tax breaks for their HQ2 project Wednesday.

The city and state of New York are giving Amazon $3 billion for the HQ2 project. And a helipad. This tax break will totally offset any tax revenues the HQ2 project will bring into New York.

Which means there would be no benefit to the governments of the city or state to focus on much-needed public investments, Johnson argued.

“We have 63,000 people sleeping in a homeless shelter tonight in New York City. We have subways that are falling apart. We have schools who aren’t getting the money they deserve. We have public housing that is crumbling around us not far from where Amazon wants to locate,” said Johnson. “Don’t you think there’s a better way for us to spend $3 billion than give it to your company, which is worth a trillion dollars, and the founder of your company, which is the richest man in the world?”

The New York subway system is in dire need of repair. So dire, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) declared a state of emergency in 2017. The system needs $37 billion in repairs, a burden that Cuomo wants to split between the city and state just like he split the Amazon HQ2 burden between the two.

And as for the housing Johnson mentioned, the residents of Queensbridge Houses — the largest public housing project in America — aren’t thrilled to have Amazon as their new neighbor. The HQ2 site will be on land in Long Island City, Queens that was originally intended to be used for affordable housing.

Queensbridge residents protested the deal with frowny-face parody Amazon boxes and signs calling the company “Scamazon.”

Hundreds also attended the city council hearing where Johnson grilled Amazon. One banner hung in city hall read “Amazon Delivers Lies,” and another read “Amazon Fuels ICE Deportations.” But there were signs in the crowd reading “Ready to Build” and cheering Amazon as well.

And as the hearing exposed the tense fault lines over the HQ2 deal, it is worth remembering that it isn’t done yet, and the bitter divide among New Yorkers on the issue has pushed Amazon to try to win over the city, after the city worked so hard to win over Amazon.

Amazon’s efforts haven’t exactly been successful so far, though.

“This seems like vulture monopolistic capitalism at its worst,” Johnson said.

The hearing was part of a series of such hearings the Council is pursuing, including an upcoming hearing focused on public concerns. New Yorkers can ask questions with the social media hashtag #AmazonAnswersNYC.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.


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