Taking Stock

Print Friendly

Amazon’s NYC HQ2 Deal: Where’s The Fair Shake For Other Competing Merchants?

Other than clueless New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and slightly less clueless Governor Andrew Cuomo and Amazon itself, who actually likes the fact that one of the world’s most powerful companies is getting a heavily subsidized ride to open HQ2, its second headquarters (along with Crystal City, VA), in the Big Apple?

The fact that local citizens and lawmakers (including city councilman Jimmy Van Bramer whose district covers Amazon’s planned Long Island City site) knew virtually nothing about the deal until it was announced is unseemly enough. When you add the future effects of increased traffic (both automobile and subway), potentially spiraling real estate costs and the city’s $2.8 billion incentive package bestowed upon Amazon, how is this a good deal for most New Yorkers?

And if you believe de Blasio and Cuomo’s “promise” that the Amazon deal will fetch a return of $12.5 billion in tax revenues, I’d advise you to check the dealmaking scorecard of both politicians.

But there’s a separate hypocrisy that’s also occurring with the Amazon lovefest – the unfairness of nearly $3 billion in incentives to the country’s fastest growing retailer and the effects Amazon’s local presence will have on existing retailers that have operated for many years in the city of New York.

What kind of incentives have independent retailers who are supported by Allegiance, General Trading, Key Food, Krasdale or Wakefern received over the past 10 years? How about Fairway, Stop & Shop or Target? And even though Amazon-owned Whole Foods has received some financial help with some of its newer NYC projects, that aid is nothing like the bonanza it will be receiving from a mayor and governor who seemed to have selectively shifted from their usual anti-business mindsets.

And how about Walmart? Whatever you think about the “Behemoth,” has there ever been a more determined effort than the one waged by New York City’s political leaders to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs?

Local pols have consistently used the “anti-union” mantra when railing against the Bentonville, AR-based juggernaut. But wait a second, isn’t Amazon a non-union company? And Walmart may get the last laugh with this ridiculous political tug of war, by already selling products in the city through its jet.com and walmart.com online entities.

This story is far from over. Once Amazon’s plans become more crystalized, the pushback will become stronger. And we’re already seeing some initial signs of protest. According to Bloomberg, some associates at the company’s newly opened (September 2018) 855,000 square foot fulfillment center in Staten Island have publicly stated their intent to unionize, allying themselves with the Retail Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Additionally, anti-Amazon stickers decrying the Long Island City plan have appeared on products at several Whole Foods stores in NYC. Such attention-getting slogans as “Don’t buy it – the Amazon deal is a bad deal for NYC” and “Stinks – the Amazon deal stinks for NYC” have been placed on both produce and dry grocery items by mysterious Amazon skeptics.

“We’re looking at any and all ways in which we can reassert the city’s and people’s process here. It cannot be that the mayor, governor and (Amazon CEO) Jeff Bezos – literally three men in a room – can conspire to give him $3 billion…,” said councilman Van Bramer.

He’s right. Not only would his constituents ultimately suffer, many other New York City denizens and merchants would also feel the torment of this insider deal.