Amazon’s Virginia HQ2 faces some New York-style pushback
Amazon could be facing a New York-style backlash in response to its plans for a massive second headquarters in Virginia.
Inspired in part by the success of community activists and elected officials like New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a group of advocates calling themselves “For Us, Not Amazon” is demanding that Northern Virginia reject the tech giant’s plans for a second headquarters in Arlington.
The activists are decrying the negative impact of displacement and rising housing costs on low-income and minority communities in the region, along with Amazon’s anti-union stance, all of which New York opponents of Amazon had also brought up.
Roshan Abraham, an organizer with Our Revolution Arlington, said during a recent meeting of “For Us, Not Amazon” that the county should vote the deal down, according to Washington Business Journal. “If Amazon chooses not to come to Arlington over $23 million, good riddance.”
According to data from real estate firm Long & Foster, median home prices in Arlington have risen by 10 percent from a year ago, to $607,500, while inventory has dropped by 38 percent — and by 48 percent in nearby Alexandria.
A December poll showed 68 percent of Virginians approve of the Amazon deal, while 30 percent disapprove.
“Since this deal was announced, neither the state nor the county has done any outreach to the communities that will be most impacted by HQ2 — the working class communities, immigrant, Spanish-speaking, and black and brown communities. These groups have been systematically excluded from the discussions about HQ2, which significantly skews the approval ratings of the deal,” Abraham explained to Fox News via email.
The “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition has spent weeks canvassing in those communities and has found the overwhelming majority of residents they’ve spoken to do not support the Amazon deal.
Amazon’s plans for the Crystal City neighborhood would see 25,000 jobs created over the course of 12 years with average wages of over $150,000. The tech giant, which has saidthat its tax payments in Virginia will reach $3.2 billion over two decades, would receive $573 million in state and local incentives from Virginia as part of the deal. If the Arlington County Board approves the package, Arlington would give Amazon $23 million over the next 15 years.
Protesters unfurl anti-Amazon banners from the balcony of a hearing room during a New York City Council Finance Committee hearing titled ‘Amazon HQ2 Stage 2: Does the Amazon Deal Deliver for New York City Residents?’ at New York City Hall, Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, which tracks corporate subsidies, said that organizers in Virginia would learn from New York advocates and slammed the entire way that Amazon solicited bids from cities nationwide.
“Amazon’s arrogance in staging a rare public auction that caused hundreds of politicians in three nations to embarrass themselves – and waste millions of taxpayer dollars on bids that never had a prayer – will go down in history as both a financial failure and as a negative turning point in the corporation’s reputation,” he said in a statement.
Some community members in Arlington, and Nashville, where Amazon is set to expand its presence, have pushed back in the wake of Amazon ruling out New York City.
“Communities of color, immigrant families, women, and millennials in and around the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia and the urban core of Nashville, Tennessee, demand decent and affordable homes, safe, stable jobs, and reliable public transit — and want immediate answers and accountability from Amazon,” a coalition of activists battling Amazon said in a statement.
Another organizer wondered why a company with a market capitalization of around $800 billion should be given any public funds at all.
“How can money be given to one of the wealthiest companies in the world when we have real social needs that should be prioritized,” Danny Cendejas, an organizer with La ColectiVA, which advocates for social justice for Latinos, told NBC News.
During a recent meeting with leaders in Arlington, representatives from Amazon said they hoped to be “good neighbors” and want to “build a sustainable long-term partnership” in the region.