New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not ruled out the possibility that Amazon could reopen a negotiating process to enter New York City, despite her previous statements slamming the tech giant’s plan for a second headquarters in the Big Apple.
Saikat Chakrabarti, the freshman congresswoman’s chief of staff, blamed Amazon for backing out when the going got tough after a range of community groups, labor organizations and activists pushed back on its plan to build a complex for 25,000 workers on the Queens waterfront.
“What [Ocasio-Cortez] was vocal about was the process by which it happened,” Chakrabarti told Bloomberg TV. “The deal was sort of sprung on the community without any input and there’s a real cost whenever tech companies come in without community input, rents go up, people get evicted, there’s an actual human cost that is associated with Amazon coming in.”
However, a spokesperson for Amazon defended the company’s actions in a statement to Fox News on Tuesday:
“On day one we had our first community meeting at Queensbridge Houses. That meeting included everyone in the local community infrastructure and it set the tone for the sustained and widespread community outreach we conducted in the months that followed.”
Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the area where Amazon’s second headquarters was set to be built, has been hit by critics in the business community and fellow progressives for her role in forcing Amazon out of New York.
Speaking to reporters during the opening of her new Queens district office on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said she understood why Gov. Andrew Cuomo would want to bring Amazon back to the negotiating table but said that the massive tax breaks the tech giant was set to receive are only part of why she was opposed to the deal.
“It’s not a personal animus towards Amazon,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at her district office.
“One of the most concerning aspects in what happened with the deal previously is you have all of these folks in Long Island City, in Sunnyside, in Woodside and all the way out to Jackson Heights, that will be impacted by this and they were not consulted,” she added.
Ocasio-Cortez initially slammed the Amazon deal because it would have given a range of tax breaks and public subsidies worth up to $3 billion to Amazon in exchange for the creation of 25,000 full-time, high-paying jobs over 12 years. For its part, Amazon has said the second headquarters would have brought in about $27.5 billion in tax revenue to New York City and state over 25 years.
New York has a thriving tech sector – Google plans to double its workforce to 14,000 over the coming years – while Facebook, Uber, WeWork and Apple are all expanding in the city.
The freshman Democratic congresswoman, along with other local politicians, including New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, highlighted the deal’s cost and the potentially negative impact of gentrification at a time when the city is dealing with a crumbling, underfunded subway system.
“Part of it has to do with tax breaks, but it’s not the whole story,” she told CBS News.
When asked by Bloomberg TV whether it was possible that they’d welcome Amazon back, Chakrabarti didn’t entirely close the door.
“If we can do it through a community process, if there’s a way for the community to actually engage and make their demands heard, that would have been the way to do that,” he told Bloomberg TV. “We welcome a process, we welcome having a community process, yes, but I don’t know where the talks are at this stage.”
However, when Amazon announced it was pulling out of New York on Feb. 14, the company said they were not planning to reopen the HQ2 process and would instead invest in Virginia and in Tennessee, adding: “There are a number of folks on the ground who oppose our presence. We don’t think there’s a path forward in terms of working with them over the long term.”
Fox News reached out to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for comment.
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