missed connections

Andrew ‘Amazon’ Cuomo Just Can’t Let Amazon Walk Away

Andrew Cuomo in happier times, imagining how nice it will be to have Amazon in NYC. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As a group of wise boys becoming men once said, it’s so hard to say good-bye to yesterday. It was just a few weeks ago that Long Island City was preparing to become home to a new Amazon office campus and 25,000 incoming jobs. It was a deal fiercely sought by Governor Andrew Cuomo and a host of other state and local politicians and business leaders, who used $3 billion in tax incentives to make the deal even sweeter.

Then everything went south. Amazon, facing headwinds from local politicians, decided it didn’t need the to be in New York and pulled out of the deal in early February.

Now, Cuomo, who joked that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if it would land the deal with Amazon, is furiously working the phones, according to a report in the New York Times, trying to see if he can woo back Amazon. Per the Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who was staggered by Amazon’s decision to pull out of its plans to come to New York City, is working intensely behind the scenes to lure the company back, even connecting with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, to make a personal pitch.

The governor has had multiple phone conversations with Amazon executives, including Mr. Bezos, over the past two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the efforts. In those calls, Mr. Cuomo said he would navigate the company through the byzantine governmental process.

Mr. Cuomo did not offer a new location but rather guarantees of support for the project, one person said. Amazon executives gave no sense the company would reconsider.

It’s an odd look for Cuomo, who is the epitome of a transactional politician and has rarely demonstrated the willingness (or ability) to achieve goals through persuasion, preferring instead to act by fiat. Charm is not really in his bag of tricks.

Nevertheless, he persists. There’s also an open letter published in today’s Times, signed by politicians, businesses, and groups who support the deal. (Curiously, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the letter, despite issuing a statement that castigated Amazon for acting in bad faith.) The letter says that whole activist and politician pushback was just part of New York’s charm:

We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming. Opinions are strong in New York — sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.

Hey, I’m protestin’ here! Only in New York do people hold rallies against your company, baby!

The deal, announced 17 weeks ago, was a surprise to many in the city — details of the negotiations were kept secret at the behest of Amazon, meaning many local groups and communities that would have been affected (and many of the city council and state politicians who wield a tremendous amount of power in the city) weren’t involved. When the the details of the plan were made public, including the sheer size of the tax incentives offered to Amazon and perks like a promise that local officials would help clear the way for a helipad for Amazon’s site in Queens, activists and anti-Amazon politicians had plenty of ammunition to use. The heat proved to be too much for Amazon, and it seems unlikely that whatever promises Cuomo makes to Amazon would change the facts on the ground.

Update: This article originally stated that State Senator Mike Gianaris’s appointment to the Public Authorities Control Board would have made the Amazon deal difficult, as Gianaris is a vocal critic of Amazon and would have had veto power on the Amazon project. However, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins rescinded Gianaris’s nomination on Saturday, and Senate Democrats have nominated State Senator Leroy Comrie in Gianaris’s stead.

Andy ‘Amazon’ Cuomo Just Can’t Let Amazon Walk Away