New Jersey Herald | October 18, 2017 | David Klepper
New York City, Buffalo and Rochester are all preparing proposals to win Amazon’s second headquarters, a colossal economic development prize also generating interest among smaller upstate communities such as Albany and Syracuse.
Thursday is the deadline for proposals from communities hoping to host the $5 billion project, which Amazon says will bring 50,000 jobs to the winner.
New York City practically sells itself: the nation’s largest city, it’s already the world’s commercial hub and boasts Broadway, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and iconic neighborhoods. But the high cost of housing, office space and taxes, along with aging infrastructure, could hurt the city’s chances of winning the big prize.
More than two dozen specific proposals in the city have been suggested from 23 different neighborhoods in all five boroughs.
Amazon is no newcomer to the city. The company recently announced plans for a new Manhattan office and a warehouse on Staten Island. The state approved up to $38 million in tax breaks for those two sites.
A headquarters project would receive significantly more incentives, though don’t expect a blank checks from city officials. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said he won’t support a “traditional” cash subsidy on top of existing state tax incentives.
“We have a lot to offer,” de Blasio said. “But we will not provide the traditional add-on economic subsidies; that’s not something we believe in.”
Some progressive groups oppose any financial incentives for Amazon. In a letter to officials, organizations including Citizen Action and New York Communities for Change said the state “cannot afford to give away our tax dollars to corporations that don’t need them.”
Officials on Long Island and in suburban Westchester and Rockland counties have also expressed interest in Amazon. One proposal would site the headquarters near Belmont Park east of Manhattan. Suburban leaders say their communities offer proximity to New York City — but with more room to spread out.
Upstate communities may have a harder case to make. Officials in Albany and Saratoga are proposing a joint bid to satisfy Amazon’s preference of a local population of 1 million or more. Syracuse also is making a regional pitch, though like Albany and Saratoga it could lose points for its smaller labor pool and airport.
Rochester and Buffalo are mounting a combined effort to win the project, which would represent the crowning achievement of efforts to revitalize western New York as a center for technology.
Robert Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and a former lieutenant governor, wrote to Amazon earlier this year to tout the region’s benefits.
“Although we may not be on your immediate radar, once you have the chance to truly experience our community, I have no doubt that you will enthusiastically agree,” he wrote.