By EDITORIAL BOARD
Several state lawmakers have vociferously come out against Amazon’s plans to build its new headquarters in Long Island City. Their positions tend to vary slightly, but all come back to the idea that a company as profitable as Amazon shouldn’t be given up to $3 billion in state and city subsidies. Some want the online retail and entertainment giant to go elsewhere, and are calling for the state to withdraw the promised tax breaks and other incentives.
Here’s the thing: State lawmakers can derail roughly $700 million of the pledged $3 billion from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. And all they have to do is — nothing.
You see, the bulk of Amazon’s tax breaks — $1.2 billion — come from the Excelsior jobs program, which is available to any company that comes to New York and creates jobs that trigger the tax credit. The state’s proposed outline of these benefits in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) is contingent on this program’s being expanded and extended in a few years, well before the pledge to Amazon is fully played out.
This was all detailed in an insightful analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission of New York.
So, if lawmakers are truly opposed having Amazon in LIC, they simply need to stand up and say, “I pledge not to extend and expand this program.” If enough legislators do so, it would send a clear message to the tech company that it is not welcome — and that if it stays, it can kiss $700 million of the cash promised to it goodbye.
From our perch, it seems like some of the lawmakers voicing the loudest opposition to Amazon’s coming are not intellectually committed to this anti–big-corporation message, and are instead reading the political winds and jumping up and down to make sure they are lumped in with the energetic progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
If they truly believe Amazon’s arrival is bad for Queens and for New York City, then they should take that pledge. If they aren’t willing to do so, we should dispense with the political theater of protesting the arrival of 25,000 high-paying jobs and start working out the details of welcoming this tech behemoth into town, with an eye towards protecting the culture of Queens’ communities and making sure rent doesn’t skyrocket in the already increasingly unaffordable city.