Amazon said Thursday it was scrapping its plans to build a new corporate campus in New York City's borough of Queens, following a wave of opposition spearheaded by local politicians. But not everyone in the borough is happy to see Amazon go.
After a several-months-long tour of the country in search of a new headquarters, dubbed "HQ2," Amazon in November chose two sites, opting in the end to split its operations between New York City and Crystal City in Northern Virginia. Amazon said the location in New York, along the Long Island City neigborhood's waterfront, would create at least 25,000 high-paying jobs over the course of the next 10 years.
The backlash against the deal ensued almost immediately after details revealed the company would receive up to $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives. While activists chafed at the deal, many local business owners were excited by the prospect of several thousand new customers patronizing their businesses, from eateries and coffee shops to art boutiques and bars. That excitement has now turned to resentment, however, after it became clear Amazon wouldn't be moving forward.
"I'm out cold. I'm angry. I'm so many emotions, I can't even tell you," says Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, founder of Manducatis Rustica, an Italian restaurant on Vernon Boulevard a few blocks away from where Amazon's new campus would've been. To be clear, she is not upset with Amazon. She had been in contact with the e-commerce giant since January, and even brokered a two-hour long Q&A session last month between local business owners and three Amazon executives to discuss the project.
Cerbone-Teoli is fuming at how local politicians foiled the deal. "They don't realize that they just committed political suicide," she says, referring to state Senator Michael Gianaris, who has been a vocal critic of the Amazon deal.
"It's not even for me," she tells Inc. "It's for those jobs; it's for the people; it's for the learning center. It's so much bigger than myself or my business or anything else," she adds. Amazon had planned to build a 10,000-square-foot learning center within its facilities to train and recruit talent from within the community.
She even tried to help salvage the deal, after reports surfaced last Friday that Amazon was reconsidering its move. She and other business owners launched a petition on Change.org to rally support. They received nearly 4,000 signatures in a week. Meanwhile, a separate petition opposing the deal launched by Gianaris collected roughly 5,500 signatures in three months.
"I asked them to reconsider," says Cerbone-Teoli, adding she spoke on the phone with an Amazon executive after the news broke. "They're not. They can't. They are not going to."
Like Cerbone-Teoli, other area businesses were hopeful the entrée of Amazon would lead to improved sales--and they hatched expansion plans accordingly. Now with the deal off the table, business owners are starting to reconsider.
Elijah Kliger, the founder and CEO of InstaVet, chose Long Island City to build his company's first brick-and-mortar animal hospital before Amazon announced its pick for its HQ2. Upon learning of the new headquarters, he opted to lease twice the square footage. Now he's locked into a 12-year lease for a space he's no longer sure he can afford.
"Initially, we had budgeted to hire about 25 to 30 people," says Kliger, noting that the plan was to offer a 24-hour service. To make ends meet now, he is cutting down the hours his facility will be open--and that means fewer jobs. "Now we are [hiring] about 10 to 15," he says. "We are going to do what we can to keep our heads up."