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New York Continues To Sift Through The Ashes Of Amazon HQ2 Deal

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Long Island City from Manhattan

In the days since Amazon suddenly pulled the pin on its New York City HQ2 plans, die-hard fans of the planned campus have been working to piece together the details of what made the deal go south, so quickly.

The political climate in New York City, and the scrutiny the company would face in the yearslong building process, is what finally tipped the scales for Amazon executives, according to report from The New York Times. Executives were reportedly confident that the deal would get government approval, but did not want to face recurring political battles long-term.

The story cites sources with knowledge of discussions leading up to the stunning reversal, and chronicles conversations before Amazon made its official announcement that it was withdrawing. Amazon Public Policy Vice President Brian Huseman called New York state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday to tell her the deal was off, the senator told the Times in an interview.

“He was saying, look, the political climate was just really, really hard,” she said. “He mentioned the City Council, the City Council speaker, the state, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. The political climate was really rough.”

The call followed days of back and forth between Amazon executives and politicians, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio scrambling keep HQ2 in the city. De Blasio went as far as trying to speak directly with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, according to the Times.

Last Monday, Cuomo and de Blasio met to strategize on how to salvage the deal, and reportedly received assurance from a senior executive later that day it was all still on. On Tuesday, representatives for the mayor and the governor talked with Huseman about publicizing the jobs that were coming. On Wednesday, unions and Amazon head of real estate John Schoettler had a meeting in Cuomo’s office that seemed to be productive — but hours later the company decided to can their plans for New York City, according to the Times.

Critics of the deal complained about the hefty incentive package, and feared the campus would lead to gentrification of Long Island City, and many were thrilled by Thursday’s announcement. High-profile critics included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state Sen. Michael Gianaris and Queens Council member Jimmy Van Bramer.

The mayor said over the weekend that Ocasio-Cortez did not understand the deal, and members of the real estate community have accused elected officials of leveraging anti-Amazon sentiment for their own gain.

But Gianaris stood by his opposition to the deal, telling Crain’s New York Business that he spoke out for his community. 

"If Amazon can't stand up and answer questions from the community they were about to profoundly change with their presence, it shows they were a bad partner to begin with," he said. "I wasn't doing this for any political posturing. This was all about the right thing for my community."