USA Today: Amazon played us: New York state senator (Op-Ed)

Originally published in USA Today on February 08, 2019.

Excitement was in the air. New York won Amazon’s competition, which pitted states against one another to extract the most generous subsidy package. While some rejoiced over the news, our aging subway system continued to crumble, Queens parents fought over scarce kindergarten seats, and housing costs skyrocketed. In an era of historic income inequality, granting massive subsidies to a very wealthy corporation does not mean we were smart: It means we were played.

While many localities went out of their way to offer various benefits to Amazon, in the end it chose the most predictable, logical locations for its corporate offices: the Washington, D.C., metro area and New York City. With access to large government and financial institutions, an unmatched talent pool and exciting neighborhoods attracting the best and the brightest from across the globe, it was unnecessary for New York to offer $3 billion for Amazon to choose what was already its most desirable location, an opinion shared by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

This fight is not just about Amazon but about the reckoning our nation faces regarding long discredited economic development policies. We should be well past the trickle-down theory of showering the very rich with taxpayer dollars in hopes of getting some back for working people.

Our money is better spent investing directly in our future: functioning mass transit, thriving schools, affordable housing.

We should not need to pay massive corporations to bring their largess to our communities — let us build that future ourselves.

We are at a critical inflection point. Continuing to subsidize companies like Amazon puts the wants of the wealthy before the priorities of the people. New York can be the biggest loser in this cynical game, or we can lead the way to a more promising future. It is time we make the right choice.

Michael Gianaris, a Democrat, is deputy leader of the New York Senate. His district includes Amazon’s proposed location in Long Island City, Queens.