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Amazon HQ2 returning to New York City a ’50-50 chance’: Congressman Meeks

Zack Guzman
Senior Writer

Don’t call it an act of desperation.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials rolled out a charm offensive to implore Amazon to reconsider abandoning its plans to build its headquarters, dubbed HQ2, in Long Island City, New York.

Beyond Cuomo personally appealing to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, business leaders and state officials also signed an open letter published as a full-page ad in the New York Times Friday inviting the tech giant back to the city.

Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), one of about 70 people to sign the letter, told Yahoo Finance YFi PM he believes the plan to win Amazon back has a 50-50 shot at succeeding.

“I know that Amazon wanted to come to New York because of what New York offers,” Meeks said. “I’m not an oddsmaker, but I would guess that it’s a 50-50 chance.”

The open letter ad was paid for by the Partnership for New York City, a prominent business group, but shows how far business interests are willing to go to win back Amazon’s project that was originally split between New York and Washington D.C.’s Crystal City neighborhood.

At stake are the 25,000 jobs Amazon promised to bring with the building of the company’s HQ2, along with about $28 billion in projected tax revenue over 25 years, according to Empire State Development. Supporters of the deal have argued losing out on Amazon could mean losing out on other tech projects as well.

“When you think about the tech industry, whether it’s Google, whether it’s Yahoo, whether it’s Facebook, we want to make sure we’re diversifying our income and diversifying the people and the products that are here not just solely relying on financial institutions and financial services,” Meeks said.

Investing in a ‘public-private partnership’

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY., gestures while speaking during a hearing on Capitol Hill in (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Opponents of the initial Amazon deal, including freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have focused on bashing the idea of providing Amazon with nearly $3 billion in economic incentives in order to build in New York City. Meeks refuted that thinking, noting that it’s not as if the government is writing a check and handing it to Amazon, but rather investing in a “public-private partnership.”

“The return on investment of that $3 billion would be near somewhere $30 billion,” he said. “Now, I think that you’d take that kind of return on investment, right?”

The answer from Cuomo would presumably be “yes,” based on the open letter indicating he will play a more direct role in seeing that the Amazon deal gets approved. To that end, Meeks pointed to the state’s Public Authorities Control Board bypassing the nomination of state Senator Mike Gianaris, who has noted his opposition to the deal and would have had veto power, for state Senator Leroy Comrie as a sign the Amazon deal would go smoother a second time around. He called Comrie “more open-minded about the project.”

Meeks, who said he grew up in public housing, also reiterated his beliefs that bringing jobs to Queens would have less of a negative impact than opponents of the deal had stressed. On the issue of low-income residents being pushed out, Meeks argued that public housing tenants wouldn’t see rents increase because public housing rent is controlled by the city and that residents could enjoy the job opportunities Amazon’s headquarters could provide. Working through a deal to improve neighborhood schools would ensure a more equal future unfolds, but only if Amazon reconsiders, he said.

“You can’t close the gap in disparities in income with just the lowest-paying jobs, you need people to have the opportunity for greater paying jobs,” Meeks said. “This was an opportunity — or is an opportunity to make that happen.”

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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