Eric Adams privately signals he’s open to working with Amazon if he becomes mayor
Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams has privately signaled he’s open to strengthening New York’s relationship with Amazon and other tech giants if he wins election in November, according to people familiar with recent conversations he has had with business leaders.
Adams’ openness to fostering stronger ties with Amazon comes as the e-commerce giant looks to expand its footprint in New York after a deal for a headquarters in Queens was scrapped in 2019.
Adams is favored to win the mayor’s race over Republican Curtis Sliwa.
Amazon bolted on the plan to build in the Long Island City section of Queens after strong resistance from progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Amazon had promised to create at least 25,000 jobs, but critics said the company was getting too many tax breaks and was not involving the local community.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was a proponent of the original deal, blasted Amazon after it pulled out, taking direct aim at its billionaire founder and then-CEO Jeff Bezos.
“The retail giant’s expansion in New York encountered opposition in no small part because of growing frustration with corporate America,” de Blasio wrote in a New York Times op-ed at the time. “For decades, wealth and power have concentrated at the very top. There’s no greater example of this than Amazon‘s chief executive, Jeff Bezos — the richest man in the world.”
De Blasio and his team were approached in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic by allies in the business community about resuming high level talks with Amazon, including potentially speaking with Bezos himself, according to a person briefed on the matter. De Blasio signaled he wasn’t interested, this person noted.
These people declined to be named in order to speak freely about private conversations. A spokesperson for de Blasio did not return requests for comment.
Even without the deal, the tech giant and others have found ways to expand in New York. Amazon‘s spokesman said it has created more than 34,000 jobs in New York. Google says it plans to invest $250 million in New York with more jobs on the way. Facebook is leasing a ton of New York office space.
Amazon, though, appears to be ready to expand its presence even further. In an email, spokesman Zachary Goldsztejn said Amazon is looking to invest more in the Empire State and work with the local officials, including newly elected leaders. He noted that the company has created over 34,000 jobs in the state.
A spokesman for Adams did not deny that the Democratic nominee is hoping to work with Amazon and other tech behemoths but noted he’s only willing to engage with businesses that have the interests of New Yorkers in mind.
“Eric has made clear that he believes believes businesses of all sizes should be welcome here in New York as long as they have the interests of working people in mind,” Evan Thies, a spokesman for Adams, told CNBC in a statement. “As mayor, Eric will create the environment for business to grow and have a home in order to lift up the middle income and working class New Yorkers who need their economy to work for them.”
Adams himself said during the Democratic primary campaign that he would have supported a deal with Amazon in Long Island City, with certain provisions.
“I would’ve supported building the Amazon deal in Queens with modifications,” Adams told The New York Times at the time. “I would have allowed them [local residents] to be part of the community benefits agreement. Allowed them to be a part of the type of jobs, employments for the young people in that area, the retraining. I would have ensured that we would’ve have decent, prevailing wages, good benefits and New York could’ve led the way. And really, I believe, change the way Amazon‘s method of doing business.”
Amazon could also be interested in working with a newly led City Hall for another reason. Its new CEO, Andy Jassy, was raised in suburban Scarsdale.
When he was running Amazon Web Services, Jassy in 2014 returned to the town where he graduated high school to address the community.
Asked who inspired him at the time, Jassy said: “My boss Jeff Bezos,” according to a local news report of the event. “He is the most brilliant thinker I know, he is unbelievably creative, has technical acumen and unusual empathy for the customer.”