Kremer’s Corner: Amazon HQ – History in the Making

For the past year over 200 cities, towns and regions have flooded the office of Amazon with proposals aimed at winning the 25,000 potential jobs that come with having the new headquarters built in their community.

If you will recall, the competition was fierce and when the state and the city announced that they would aggressively compete for this honor, there was a loud cheer from dozens of influential groups who wanted to get the prize.

A few weeks ago, the word came forth that New York City and Virginia were the winners.

In order to woo Amazon to this state it took the promise of substantial tax and development benefits that will cost over $1 billion.

For a few brief days, there was joy and jubilation in our state at the thought of having such a major economic generator in Long Island City. And then for the usual reasons, the forces of darkness, also known as the not-in-my-backyard crowd, began attacking the project.

There is no doubt that the granting of government tax benefits and other goodies has been abused by some recipients. I can point to a few projects that were going to be built which never needed a dime in benefits.

But any developer would have been insane not to take advantage of what was available. The facts are the facts. The Amazon deal would never have happened but for the granting of generous incentives to come here.

For a moment let’s imagine what the local outcry would have been if Jersey City or Bridgeport, Conn. was chosen as the Amazon site.

Every living, breathing politician from Buffalo to Montauk Point would have mounted a soapbox and accused Gov. Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio of governmental malpractice.

The same naysayers would have screamed that the state and the city failed to offer the right package of moneys to entice Amazon to come here. Editorial boards around the state would have faulted these two leaders for failing to do their jobs.
There is no question that placing a massive number of new buildings on the Queens waterfront is a gigantic challenge. Long Island City is already home to dozens of new structures, many of them rental housing.

To understand the enormity of what is going on in that community just look over your shoulder as you drive to or from the Midtown Tunnel and you will see cranes and more cranes dotting the landscape.

But unless you are totally oblivious to your surroundings, when you are in Manhattan, you will spot new development almost anywhere you look. Whether it is the West Side of Manhattan, the Grand Central area or the Lower East Side, buildings are going up at a rapid pace.

Even though structures rise quickly from street level, there is plenty of time for each community to adapt to the next wave of new residents and plan accordingly.

The few guardians of the status quo, who oppose the Amazon project, are totally unable to understand how big a deal this is for the entire state of New York.

Because of federal neglect and a terrible tax reform bill, the slow trickle of residents packing up and leaving is becoming very visible. Many of them are old-timers who were close to leaving us anyway. All they needed was a shove from Washington and the Congress gave it to them.

There is also no doubt that countless young people are leaving parts of New York seeing that there are no economic reasons to stay. If you could question these departing travelers, many of them will tell you that their destination is Texas, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The announcement of Amazon’s decision was a welcome alarm bell for the next generation that there is no reason to leave and that New York can claim to be a new Silicon Valley.

If I were a parent of a 20-year-old in Buffalo, I would rather have my child settle in the Big Apple than move to the other coast.

It will take some time for the professional agitators to end their screaming about the evils of having an Amazon headquarters here. With some patience and sound planning, the arrival of Amazon here may go down in history as the major economic event of the century for our state.

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Jerry Kremer

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