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On Valentine's Day, An End to Amazon's Two-Bit Romance With New York

A fond farewell to this 'No low-rent rendezvous'

Activists and community members who opposed Amazon's plan to move into Queens rally in Long Island City, N.Y., in celebration of the company's decision to pull out of the deal. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Amazon corporation walked out in a huff. On Valentine’s Day, the retailer announced that its romance with New York is off.

Faced with stiffer-than-anticipated resistance, the company announced February 14th that it is pulling out of its previously reported plan to build a gleaming corporate headquarters in Long Island City.

The timing seemed perfect for what has felt from the start like a very old-school seduction routine.

Having led this city and others around in an embarrassing flirt-to-the-finish, Amazon, the wealthy suitor, chose to bed down in Long Island City. Now they’ve stormed out. Apparently, Amazon didn’t like the fact that the city of Lady Liberty wanted to set a few terms before sex. 

"Having led this city and others around in an embarrassing flirt-to-the-finish, Amazon, the wealthy suitor, chose to bed down in Long Island City. Now they’ve stormed out."

Like a macho man in the pre-feminist era, Amazon wanted things their way or no way. That’s how monopolies roll. Don’t ask questions, don’t consider options, and whatever you do, don’t conduct a background check. New York’s tryst with the the company was struck in private before local residents groups, unions, and state and city legislators got their say.

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Stuart Appelbaum of the retail union, who participated in what turned out to be the final meeting between Amazon and lawmakers, said the company had refused to compromise even on a demand that it not actively work against the unionization of its New York workers, and rumor has it they didn’t like activists talking about exploitation in their warehouses and their workplaces out of state.

In the #MeToo era, intimacy requires informed consent. So, too, development. City residents didn’t fancy an arranged marriage. The Amazon deal required answers to some basic questions: who will get what for what kind of compensation, and how do city taxpayers know they won’t be left high and dry when the fun is over, the profits are gone, and it’s time to clean up the mess?

Cities these days are getting smarter about their options. As viewers of my show saw when I visited with residents this January, Long Island City is not short of potential. What would development look like if the place and its people were courted with as much care and attention as a visiting corporate suitor? An investment of $3 billion—the estimated value of the subsidies offered to Amazon—could go a long way invested locally. 

Amazon may be jilted, but it’s not going anywhere. It can’t afford to. Even the company itself is saying it will still grow in New York. Lady Liberty’s a hot date. She’s found her voice, and she’s getting to know her worth. Good for her.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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