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Amazon May Be Close to a Deal, But at What Cost?

Reports say Amazon is finalizing plans to build a headquarters in Queens, N.Y. (King of Hearts/ Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Reports say Amazon is finalizing plans to build a headquarters in Queens, N.Y. (King of Hearts/ Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
November 7, 2018

NEW YORK - Amazon may be close to a deal to open one of two new headquarters in New York, but watchdog groups fear taxpayers could be the big losers.

News reports say Amazon is finalizing plans for new headquarters in Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Arlington, Va. The year-long hunt for locations sparked a bidding war as cities and states offered one of the world's richest companies tax incentives and subsidies to sway its choice.

Greg LeRoy, executive director of the nonprofit Good Jobs First, said elected officials in both states have kept those deals completely hidden.

"We can't begin to tell you if taxpayers would ever break even," he said. "We fear they won't, because so many other big megadeals, including many in New York state, are way too expensive for taxpayers to ever break even."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said getting an Amazon headquarters in New York would be a great economic boost for the state. The two headquarters combined are expected to employ about 50,000 workers with average salaries of $100,000 a year. However, LeRoy said past megadeals have cost an average of $658,000 per job in state and local subsidies.

"That would mean that the average Amazon worker would have to pay $658,000 more in state and local taxes than public services they and their family consume," he said.

At that price, he said, the result would be a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to Amazon shareholders.

Typically, LeRoy said, 80 percent of the new jobs megadeals create go to people who move into the area, not local residents, which means upward pressure on housing costs and greater strain on transportation and city services such as schools, police and sanitation.

"If Amazon isn't paying many taxes, or any taxes, for the costs of that growth," he said, "then it means everybody currently living and working in New York will get stuck with higher taxes."

LeRoy urged both Cuomo and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to disclose all incentives they've offered Amazon and to hold town-hall meetings at the proposed sites to allow public input.

More information is online at

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY