Amazon HQ2 backlash builds in New York over subsidies

SEATTLE — Tuesday night, the Empire State Building was lit up in Amazon orange.

By Wednesday, the backlash was building in Queens.

Opponents staged a protest against the subsidies New York City and New York state offered Amazon to build half of HQ2 in Long Island City.

Amazon announced $1.5 billion in direct incentives to build in Queens, but the total state and city subsidies in New York are now widely pegged at about $3 billion.

"I deleted the Amazon app off my phone," New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris said. "Everything that's going on is just bad news. We are here to say to Amazon, take that welcome mat that was rolled out for you yesterday, put it back in the package it came in and send it back to Seattle where it belongs."

In Seattle, the leader of the local anti-Amazon fight is city Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a socialist.

To activists in New York, she offered solidarity and a warning.

"What our movement has learned in Seattle is, hands down, corporate politicians are not on your side," Sawant said.

Sawant's push for a head tax on big employers like Amazon failed, when a public backlash led seven city council members to repeal the tax weeks after they passed it.

Political leaders in Virginia and New York pushed hard for Amazon, and see big benefits.

"It's a great day for New York City. It's an extraordinary day for Queens," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

So, who will actually benefit?

Seattle holds those lessons, too.

"If you look at what happened here in Seattle, there's going to be winners and losers," said University of Washington marketing professor Jeff Shulman at the Foster School of Business.

"Well-educated, landowning individuals are going to do very well in this economy and people who are renting, and people maybe without a college degree, are going to find there may be more jobs but there will be more competition for those jobs and wages will probably be stagnant like they've been somewhat here," Shulman said.

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