Gone in a New York Minute: How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Immediately after Amazon’s Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon’s smile logo turned upside down.

In this Nov. 14, 2018 file photo, protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in New York.

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices.

At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed.

Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company “Scamazon” and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle.

At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company’s decision to come to New York could be reversed.

“We want to invest in a community that wants us,” he said.

Then came a sign that Amazon’s opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon’s deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it.

“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.”

Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris’ appointment, but he didn’t indicate whether he would take that step.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location.

On Wednesday, Cuomo brokered a meeting with four top Amazon executives and the leaders of three unions critical of the deal. The union leaders walked away with the impression that the parties had an agreed upon framework for further negotiations, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“We had a good conversation. We talked about next steps. We shook hands,” Appelbaum said.

An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The final blow landed Thursday, when Amazon announced on a blog post that it was backing out, surprising the mayor, who had spoken to an Amazon executive Monday night and received “no indication” that the company would bail.

Amazon still expected the deal to be approved, according to a source familiar with Amazon’s thinking, but that the constant criticism from politicians didn’t make sense for the company to grow there.

“I was flabbergasted,” De Blasio said. “Why on earth after all of the effort we all put in would you simply walk away?”

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Gone in a New York Minute: How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Immediately after Amazon’s Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon’s smile logo turned upside down.

In this Nov. 14, 2018 file photo, protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in New York.

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices.

At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed.

Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company “Scamazon” and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle.

At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company’s decision to come to New York could be reversed.

“We want to invest in a community that wants us,” he said.

Then came a sign that Amazon’s opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon’s deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it.

“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.”

Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris’ appointment, but he didn’t indicate whether he would take that step.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location.

On Wednesday, Cuomo brokered a meeting with four top Amazon executives and the leaders of three unions critical of the deal. The union leaders walked away with the impression that the parties had an agreed upon framework for further negotiations, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“We had a good conversation. We talked about next steps. We shook hands,” Appelbaum said.

An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The final blow landed Thursday, when Amazon announced on a blog post that it was backing out, surprising the mayor, who had spoken to an Amazon executive Monday night and received “no indication” that the company would bail.

Amazon still expected the deal to be approved, according to a source familiar with Amazon’s thinking, but that the constant criticism from politicians didn’t make sense for the company to grow there.

“I was flabbergasted,” De Blasio said. “Why on earth after all of the effort we all put in would you simply walk away?”

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Pence Rebukes Europe Over Iran, Venezuela, Russia Links

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence strongly criticized European allies Saturday for their stance on Iran and Venezuela, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous, revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Pence told delegates.

He also called on allies to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. More than 20 European states have done so, but the European Union has stopped short of fully recognizing Guaido as president. Disputed president Nicholas Maduro is widely accused of vote-rigging to win last years’ election, while the country is mired in poverty and hyperinflation.

“Once more the Old World can take a strong stand in support of freedom in the New World. Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pence said.

China repeatedly was singled out by the vice president as a threat to the United States and its allies.

“The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, as Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment.”

Pence repeated Washington’s calls for European NATO allies to do more to meet their military spending targets — and cautioned against developing economic links with Moscow, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline currently under construction between Russia and Germany.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Pence said.

Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the stage later Saturday, and said Europe was losing out because of its stance on Russia.

“At a time when the Europeans allowed to draw themselves into a senseless standoff with Russia and incurred multi-billion-dollar losses from the sanctions pushed for from overseas, the world is rapidly changing. Actually, the EU has lost its monopoly on the regional integration agenda,” Lavrov said.

China’s senior delegate did not respond directly to the accusations made by Vice President Pence, but instead he offered a defense of multilateralism.

“Our world stands at a crossroads and faces a consequential choice between unilateralism and multilateralism, conflict and dialogue, isolation and openness,” Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the politburo and a former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., told delegates.

Those sentiments were earlier echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strongly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that Europe was taking advantage of America on trade.

The Munich Security Conference is seen as a key annual forum for world leaders to discuss global security concerns and conflicts — both in public and in private — in dozens of closed-door meetings taking place inside the venue.

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

“There is still a lot of grief over the old order being gone where everything was much more predictable, or at least appeared to be more predictable. So that’s slowly setting in,” said Gaub.

The tone of the conference speeches suggests that even among allies, tensions over a changing world order are no closer to being solved.

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Pence Rebukes Europe Over Iran, Venezuela, Russia Links

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence strongly criticized European allies Saturday for their stance on Iran and Venezuela, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous, revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Pence told delegates.

He also called on allies to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. More than 20 European states have done so, but the European Union has stopped short of fully recognizing Guaido as president. Disputed president Nicholas Maduro is widely accused of vote-rigging to win last years’ election, while the country is mired in poverty and hyperinflation.

“Once more the Old World can take a strong stand in support of freedom in the New World. Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pence said.

China repeatedly was singled out by the vice president as a threat to the United States and its allies.

“The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, as Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment.”

Pence repeated Washington’s calls for European NATO allies to do more to meet their military spending targets — and cautioned against developing economic links with Moscow, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline currently under construction between Russia and Germany.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Pence said.

Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the stage later Saturday, and said Europe was losing out because of its stance on Russia.

“At a time when the Europeans allowed to draw themselves into a senseless standoff with Russia and incurred multi-billion-dollar losses from the sanctions pushed for from overseas, the world is rapidly changing. Actually, the EU has lost its monopoly on the regional integration agenda,” Lavrov said.

China’s senior delegate did not respond directly to the accusations made by Vice President Pence, but instead he offered a defense of multilateralism.

“Our world stands at a crossroads and faces a consequential choice between unilateralism and multilateralism, conflict and dialogue, isolation and openness,” Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the politburo and a former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., told delegates.

Those sentiments were earlier echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strongly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that Europe was taking advantage of America on trade.

The Munich Security Conference is seen as a key annual forum for world leaders to discuss global security concerns and conflicts — both in public and in private — in dozens of closed-door meetings taking place inside the venue.

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

“There is still a lot of grief over the old order being gone where everything was much more predictable, or at least appeared to be more predictable. So that’s slowly setting in,” said Gaub.

The tone of the conference speeches suggests that even among allies, tensions over a changing world order are no closer to being solved.

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Порошенко обговорив з Меркель «азовський пакет» санкцій

Президент України Петро Порошенко зустрівся з канцлером Німеччини Анґелою Меркель.

«З канцлером Німеччини обговорили шляхи протидії російській агресії проти України. Наголосив на важливості посилення тиску на Росію для звільнення полонених українських моряків, незаконно затриманих у Керченській протоці, а також усіх українських заручників, що незаконно утримуються як в Росії, так і на окупованих нею територіях Донбасу та Криму», – мовиться у повідомленні на Facebook-сторінці президента.

Він додав, що скоординував з Меркель дії для запровадження «азовського пакету» санкцій проти Росії.

Президент України в ці дні бере участь у Мюнхенській безпековій конференції.

15 лютого Порошенко заявив, що “азовський пакет” санцій ухвалять наступного тижня.

Російські силовики захопили 24 українських моряків і три кораблі поблизу Керченської протоки 25 листопада. Російські слідчі звинувачують українських військових у незаконному перетині кордону Росії.

Україна вважає те, що сталося, актом агресії, а своїх військових, яких утримують у московських слідчих ізоляторах «Лефортово» і «Матроська тиша», військовополоненими. За Женевською конвенцією про військовополонених, вони повинні бути негайно звільнені, заявляють у Києві.

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Порошенко обговорив з Меркель «азовський пакет» санкцій

Президент України Петро Порошенко зустрівся з канцлером Німеччини Анґелою Меркель.

«З канцлером Німеччини обговорили шляхи протидії російській агресії проти України. Наголосив на важливості посилення тиску на Росію для звільнення полонених українських моряків, незаконно затриманих у Керченській протоці, а також усіх українських заручників, що незаконно утримуються як в Росії, так і на окупованих нею територіях Донбасу та Криму», – мовиться у повідомленні на Facebook-сторінці президента.

Він додав, що скоординував з Меркель дії для запровадження «азовського пакету» санкцій проти Росії.

Президент України в ці дні бере участь у Мюнхенській безпековій конференції.

15 лютого Порошенко заявив, що “азовський пакет” санцій ухвалять наступного тижня.

Російські силовики захопили 24 українських моряків і три кораблі поблизу Керченської протоки 25 листопада. Російські слідчі звинувачують українських військових у незаконному перетині кордону Росії.

Україна вважає те, що сталося, актом агресії, а своїх військових, яких утримують у московських слідчих ізоляторах «Лефортово» і «Матроська тиша», військовополоненими. За Женевською конвенцією про військовополонених, вони повинні бути негайно звільнені, заявляють у Києві.

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Суд в Москві розгляне скарги на арешт 8 захоплених українських військових наступного тижня

Наступного тижня Московський міський суд розгляне апеляційні скарги захисту на арешт вісьмох захоплених українських військовослужбовців. Про це повідомив адвокат Микола Полозов.

За інформацією адвоката, 18 лютого суд розгляне скарги на арешт Віктора Беспальченко, Владислава Костишина, Володимира Лісового та Володимира Варімеза.

20 лютого заплановано засідання з розгляду апеляції Андрія Ейдера, Андрія Артеменка, Василя Сороки і Олега Мельничука, додав адвокат.

осійські силовики захопили 24 українських моряків і три кораблі поблизу Керченської протоки 25 листопада. Російські слідчі звинувачують українських військових у незаконному перетині кордону Росії.

Україна вважає те, що сталося, актом агресії, а своїх військових, яких утримують у московських слідчих ізоляторах «Лефортово» і «Матроська тиша», військовополоненими. За Женевською конвенцією про військовополонених, вони повинні бути негайно звільнені, заявляють у Києві.​

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US to Slash Payouts From 9/11 Victims Fund

The special master overseeing a U.S. government fund to compensate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said Friday that future awards would be significantly reduced, typically by at least 50 percent, because the fund was running short of money. 

 

Rupa Bhattacharyya, the special master, said the reduction in payouts from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was necessary because the $2.375 billion remaining in the $7.375 billion fund was not enough to compensate the thousands of additional eligible victims and family members. 

 

“I am painfully aware of the unfairness of this plan,” Bhattacharyya said on a conference call with reporters. “It is the best that we could do.” 

 

Roughly $5 billion has been awarded on more than 21,000 claims, about three-quarters of which came from New York. 

 

Bhattacharyya said the fund would have needed to be $12 billion, instead of $7.375 billion, to compensate everyone fully. 

 

Nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, when airplanes hijacked by al-Qaida members crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field.  

The fund opened in late 2011 for first responders, including police officers and firefighters; cleanup and construction crews; and people who lived, worked or went to school near the attacks. A similar fund ended operations seven years earlier. 

 

Nearly 40,000 compensation claims have been filed in the last seven years, but half were filed in 2017 and 2018. 

 

Thousands more are expected. 

 

Bhattacharyya attributed the faster pace of claims to the growing number of cancers, other serious illnesses and deaths linked to the attacks, and the fund’s warning in October that future payouts might be reduced. 

 

The new procedure calls for base payouts, before offsets for sums awarded from other sources for the same injuries, to be reduced by 50 percent for claims submitted before Feb. 2, 2019, and 70 percent for claims submitted later. 

 

Bhattacharyya said she “could not abide” by alternatives that would have awarded nothing to eligible victims. 

 

People have until Dec. 18, 2020, to file claims.  

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