Amazon Played Y'all Part 2

Newark, New Jersey - One of Amazon’s Top Contenders for their New Headquarters -  Photo by  Michael Moloney  on  Unsplash

Newark, New Jersey - One of Amazon’s Top Contenders for their New Headquarters - Photo by Michael Moloney on Unsplash

Imagine a game where all the players are asked to show their best cards, and then the dealer selects who would help him take the pot. Would you play?

Cities across the countries showed their best hand and Amazon selected the one that best served their very own interest. Let's face it, Amazon can thrive in any city it chooses to be in, and it had the opportunity to be on the right side of history and make ground breaking news by choosing a city like Detroit, who has been struggling to overcome the blight of the auto industry. Or if East Coast was where it was at, Newark, NJ should have received the bid. Newark has the potential to be an anchor for a major industry and the capacity for growth, as it has the space, with unused or underdeveloped land; and the people, with reputable colleges and universities like Seton Hall and Rutgers Newark Campus.

The tech giant had a chance to be philanthropic; simply because they can afford to. Granted, they don’t have to, but surely one can remember how they managed to not only survive, but grow, back when they weren’t even making a profit. They missed a chance to pay it forward; and once they become too big for their britches, they risk Americans canceling them almost as fast as Black people canceled Kanye.

But if their sights were set on NYC, as it is the greatest city in the world; (Say otherwise to any New Yorker, and see what happens); they had the opportunity to make a great city even better. Because with greatness comes major flaws. NYC is in critical condition when it comes to poverty, lack of affordable housing, and disparaging transportation.

That’s why NYC should not have entered the contest. If Amazon wanted to choose NYC on nothing other than its greatness, it could have been a win-win for both parties. While a company like Amazon setting up a headquarters or even a large satellite location is likely to cause disruption anyway, it’s the granting of incentives that makes this deal so much worse.  

At first glance, sacrificing 1.5B in revenue for a $10 billion return sounds, well, smart. Without even calculating the multiplier effect, surely the benefits will be the gift that keeps on giving.

However, $10 billion, over the course of 20 years, in projected tax revenue is not enough . New Yorkers need solid economic policy to promote social mobility. People of color need real opportunities for advancement. Amazon should not be and would not have been the answer to all of NYC's problems, but it could have created a pathway and set the standard of philanthropic behaviors for large corporations.

 

What Deal(s) Should Have Been Made?

Commitment to Education

There should be a partnership with CUNY for apprenticeships to include on-the-job training. Many middle-class families cannot afford to have college students taking on post-graduate internships. An apprenticeship would allow for concurrent work and school and create a pathway for a technical trade. All apprenticeships should be combined with free-tuition assistance for participants that do not qualify for the Excelsior scholarship.

 

Commitment to Diversity

Amazon should not only employ, but commit to having Leadership positions for people of color and minorities. Having diverse people at the table not only grants opportunities to those that need it most, it also ensures that all points of views are considered before decisions are made. No company wants to encounter issues like H&M or Starbucks because of a lack of diversity and inclusion.

Commitment to Economic Development

Long island City is already stressed with high rises and real estate at astronomical prices; especially since the rezoning efforts under the Bloomberg Administration from manufacturing to mixed-use. This deal could have been a great opportunity to bring large companies back into suburbia, and lessen the concentration of high paying jobs being in proximity to Manhattan. Shorter commutes would mean for happier and more productive employees. Other neighborhoods to consider could have been College Point, or Jamaica, Queens; neighborhoods in East or South Brooklyn; or areas in the Bronx.      

NYC did not secure the bag

Ultimately, NYC signed up to lose $1.5B before it was even earned. $1.5 billion dollars in subsidies may very well be peanuts to a company that values at a trillion dollars. But 1.5 billion in lost revenue means the world to a city that lacks affordable housing, struggling transit, and a wide wealth gap.

How could $1.5 billion in tax revenue help NYC now?

Transit

  • Circumvent or delay the planned MTA fare hike of 2019 and 2022.

  • Expedite the projected $477 million repairs on the L train that will displace residents and small businesses alike.

  • Fix the signal problems commuters experience daily, especially during rush hour.

Housing

  • Create more affordable housing units for the hard-working New Yorkers that pay more than 40% of their income on rent, or put up with the roommate that forgets to buy toilet paper.

  • Programs to assist New Yorkers through home ownership.

  • Sustainable pathways to curb homelessness.

Education

  • Provide free after-school for all children who attend public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade.

  • Increase in pay for teachers.

  • Additional funding for school supplies, so parents don’t have to buy tissues and hand sanitizers for classrooms.

Prison Reform

  • Release folks held on bail for minutia dollar amounts.

Share your thoughts! How could NYC spend 1.5B?