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Amazon Can’t Monopolize New York City

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Amazon is coming! Amazon is coming!—and New Yorkers are welcoming their robot overlords with clenched fists and a nasty snarl. City Council speaker Corey Johnson, newly empowered members of the Democratic legislature in Albany, the just-elected congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are all competing to see who can heap more scorn on the deal. The reactions come in various shades of negativity: shock at the size of the gift that the city and the Empire State are bestowing on an imperial company; contempt for the company’s warehouse-labor policies; anger about Amazon’s extortionate campaign to pit cities against each other; rage that Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio, who never agree on anything, got together to fill a secret loot bag for Jeff Bezos; fear that Queens real estate prices will launch into the stratosphere; anxiety that the move will flood the area with more people and money than it can comfortably absorb. There’s an apocalyptic tone to some of these complaints, a lurking sense that Amazon will scrub away what’s left to love about New York and send it into a death spiral of affluence.

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It’s important to separate the deal, which stinks, from the long-term effects, which don’t. At bottom, this is not a fight over taxes, but a debate over what Amazon represents for our metropolitan future. And if you think that one company can singlehandedly own, save, or ravage the city, then you underestimate New York.

Opponents are wise to suspect that Amazon’s lawyers outnegotiated ours and walked out of the meeting rooms exchanging glances of incredulous glee. The process was secretive and sleazy because our democratic leaders don’t trust our democratic process. There’s a reason for that. Most projects this big have to wade through years—decades!— of lawsuits, hearings, meetings, votes, more lawsuits, appeals, renegotiations, and yet more lawsuits, all of which can dramatically increase costs, kill good ideas, and turn bad ones worse. Democracy is a messy potholed road, but it’s what we’ve got, and Amazon should not get squired into the city through a separate VIP entrance.

The numbers are big. Amazon plans to spend $3.7........

© Daily Intelligencer