Amazon withdrew because of tensions within state government, says Paulin


Pelham Examiner file photo

Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D). Inc.’s decision to withdraw its plans for a secondary headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, was primarily due to tension within the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), a five-person council in New York State government that oversees financial projects, according to Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who is a member of the PACB.

Paulin also cited opposition within the New York State Senate.

A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence,” Amazon said in a statement. Amazon announced their withdrawal from the deal on Feb. 14. 

While pressure from the state senate was a factor in the withdrawal, Paulin stated that the true deal-breaker occurred within the PACB.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back, really, was when (State Senate Majority Leader) Andrea Stewart-Cousins nominated Michael Gianaris to the council.” Paulin said. “Gianaris, unlike every other member of the PACB, was going to veto the deal, so Amazon finally said that enough was enough and withdrew.”

Each member of the PACB has a veto over decisions of the board.

“It’s a very controversial topic,” Paulin said.

According to Paulin, $2.5 billion of the $3 billion in tax incentives promised Amazon were automatic for a business ventures of Amazon’s size.

“It would be hypocritical to deny these (incentives) when other companies who need fewer still receive them,” Paulin said.

The remaining $500 million in the deal was incentive for Amazon to use labor unions for its project.

“It would have been a great compromise,” Paulin said. “Otherwise, they would not have used any union labor.”

Paulin said the final outcome was “catastrophic” and a “big mistake.”

Paulin also discussed the influence of those in the N.Y. Congressional delegation, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the deal. Ocasio-Cortez had repeatedly urged rejection of the Amazon project due to the $3 billion in tax incentives.

“I can’t deny her involvement.” Paulin said. “I think she definitely had influence, but the New York Senate had more.”                                     

In a message from the Business Council of Westchester, Executive Vice President John Ravitz stated that the Amazon pull-out was a “huge loss for the entire region,” stating the move could set a bad precedent for other companies seeking business opportunities in the New York area.

“There are painful lessons to be learned from this major setback,” Ravitz said. “We will not make the same mistakes.”

State Senator Alessandra Biaggi had different opinions on the deal over time. Immediately following the announcement of the project, she expressed her frustrations with the incentives.

Government’s job should not be trying to bribe individual companies with subsidies,” Biaggi said.

After this initial pushback, she shifted her position when the deal seemed in jeopardy.

I want NYC to get the jobs & econ activity that (Amazon) will bring,” Biaggi said on Twitter. “(Amazon should) ‘return’ $2B of the subsidy back to NY for MTA & NYCHA.”

Biaggi’s office did not provide additional comment by our deadline.