Publisher’s Corner: There are no winners in the Amazon debacle

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announce in November 2018 that Amazon had chosen Queens as one of the sites for its new headquarters. With the deal falling through, a rift has developed between the governor and Senate Democrats who were critical of the financial incentives being offered to Amazon to relocate here.

You do not want to get on the dark side of Andrew Cuomo. When he gets angry, watch out, and he is angry now. Something that really shouldn’t have happened did happen. The newly empowered Democrats in the State Senate miscalculated and as a result, Amazon pulled out of the deal of the century. Make no mistake about it — the overwhelming sentiment in Long Island City (where the Amazon operation was to locate), in the city as a whole, and in New York State was that the arrival of Amazon was a very good thing. But as we political scientists sometimes pompously say, there were a number of intervening variables that screwed the whole thing up.

I confess that from the beginning, I loved what I saw of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She was a breath of fresh air in a moribund system of state politics. The first sign of trouble for the new political wunderkind was a foray into the Israeli-Palestinian question. She survived that by going public on some of her own Jewish roots. She won’t soon put her foot in that one again. Ocasio-Cortez probably had more to do with the Amazon deal going south than any other active player.

The polling in the affected area was very interesting. There was widespread support for the Amazon operation among Blacks and Hispanics. Why? Because the deal represented jobs at all levels. Progressives are known for their sympathy for the workers and for those who have traditionally come out on the short end of the economic stick. This was a chance for advancement, yet the progressives opposed to the Amazon deal seemed to be saying, “We know better than you — this is a bad deal for you.” In my opinion, it was a bad move for the progressive community. It isn’t that they weren’t right about corporate welfare and giving the richest man in the world and his company a huge tax break, but that’s the system.

Hey, if I were Jeff Bezos I might have done the same thing. He was not about to be made the bad guy by AOC and her group. AOC’s power was so great that she took the State Senate, particularly the deputy leader Mike Gianaris, who had been suspected by some of not being progressive enough, by storm. So Gianaris became the point man in the anti-Amazon fight and now is the face of the “where it went wrong” stories. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a terrific guy, but in every fight someone has to take the blame and this time he’s it. Just read the New York Times on the matter.

Also licking his wounds on all of this is the biggest of the kahunas, Governor Andrew himself. He had given his word and was even supported by arch-rival Mayor Bill de Blasio to make the deal. Andrew said that you gotta’ spend money to get money and he put the power of his office on the line. What he got in return was a real slap in the face and you really don’t want to be giving Andrew a slap. Hey, I ticked him off once and he didn’t come on my public radio show for another eight years.

But the worst news is reserved for the Senate Democrats who screwed this up. They have every right to fight with Andrew and probably should, but this was the wrong fight at the wrong time (too early) and it got Andrew so mad that he is saying what we all think he has been thinking – I was better off with my frenemies the Republicans than I am with these people who will not do what I tell them to.

So this was a fight that had a high cost for everyone: the Legislature, the governor, and the people who needed the jobs. No winners, just a lot of losers.