Nearly a year after Amazon abruptly canceled plans to build its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, new information has surfaced revealing that New York officials offered $800 million more in incentives and grants than initially disclosed to lure the tech giant to the state. Documents revealed from a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by The Wall Street Journal showed that the $2.5 billion deal also included reimbursements for construction costs, additional tax credits and grants, and even the potential for the state to pay some Amazon employees’ salaries.
After the company’s much-publicized courting process to find a (suspected) home for HQ2 in 2017, the decision to split the project and place one headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and the other in Queens was met with immediate pushback from New York residents and as local politicians. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the potential HQ2 site, strongly opposed the deal to give away billions to the tech giant, while others worried that the influx of thousands of tech workers would raise housing prices and displace locals. Yet, New York’s deal still seem to pale in comparison to other offers—New Jersey topped the list at $7 billion in incentives.
State officials defended the inflated offer, citing initial expectations of a larger HQ2 in Queens. “Throughout the negotiating process, we sharpened our incentive package and ultimately secured a better return on investment for the state and the biggest economic development opportunity in New York’s history,” Matthew Gorton, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, told the Journal.
The new information reignites debate about the cost versus benefit of Amazon’s nixed plans. Supporters claim that the revenue and investments from the online retail giant—over $27 billion in 25 years by some estimates, as well as thousands of jobs—would have made the initial subsidies a small price to pay. “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes, because it would be a great economic boost,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo jokingly told reporters during the bidding process. Criticisms over the state’s eagerness to appease Amazon at whatever cost, however, ultimately prevailed.