NEW YORK — Amazon abruptly abandoned plans Thursday for a big new headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks promised to what is already one of the world's richest, most powerful companies.
"We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York," the online giant said in a blog post, adding that it already has 5,000 employees in the city and plans to increase that number.
The stunning withdrawal was a serious blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the project, competing against more than 200 other metropolitan areas across the continent that were practically tripping over each other to offer incentives to Amazon in a fierce bidding war it openly stoked.
Amazon announced in November that it had chosen the Long Island City section of Queens for one of two new headquarters, with the other in northern Virginia. The company had planned to spend $2.5 billion building the New York office.
De Blasio criticized Amazon for its abrupt withdrawal, saying the company gave up on trying to engage New Yorkers.
"You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world," the mayor said in a statement. "Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."
Amazon said it does not plan to look for another headquarters location at this time and will continue with its plans to build new offices in Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee. The Arlington campus is expected to be the same size as the New York one, with 25,000 employees. The Nashville office is expected to have 5,000 workers.
Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining that the project was an extravagant giveaway to one of the world's biggest companies and that it wouldn't provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.
The list of local grievances against the project grew as the months wore on.
City Council members scheduled hearings at which they grilled Amazon officials about the company's labor practices, its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide facial recognition technology and other issues. City politicians denounced the process by which the deal was negotiated as secretive.
"This is proof of why it is so important to have an inclusive and transparent process from the beginning," said New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat.
A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against. Construction-industry groups had urged the public and officials to get behind a plan.
The statement on Amazon's blog reads:
“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture — and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
“We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.
“We do not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
“Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.”