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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates Amazon HQ2 retreat from New York

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated Amazon’s Thursday announcement that the company would not build its second headquarters, known as HQ2, in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, as a result of local political opposition.

Ocasio-Cortez, whose Bronx and Queens district borders Long Island City, celebrated the announcement as a win for grassroots activism.

“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

When Amazon announced last November that it had reached a deal to build a second headquarters in Long Island City, Ocasio-Cortez, along with a host of local lawmakers and progressive activists, condemned the decision.

“We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones,” City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, both of whom represent Long Island City, said in a fiery joint statement at the time.

Some local politicians were outraged by the nearly $3 billion in tax incentives Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio offered Amazon, one of the world’s largest companies. They were also highly critical of a dealmaking process that circumvented City Council and avoided the standard city processes for making land-use decisions.

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Progressive activists, including the Democratic Socialists of America, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a member, have spent the past few months aggressively mobilizing grassroots opposition to the deal.

DSA celebrated the news on Thursday and promised to continue to fight against Amazon and other corporations.

Annie Shields, a member of the local DSA chapter and an editor of the progressive magazine The Nation, called the corporation’s retreat “a testament to what is possible when people organize together.” She added that she had rarely seen DSA members so fired up about an issue.

“Meetings and events for this campaign were jam-packed, and there was a critical mass of supporters to help create a formidable coalition to stop the deal,” Shields told INSIDER.

In November, Ocasio-Cortez said her office was overwhelmed with “outrage” from Queens residents and other constituents. The lawmaker said they were concerned with the tax incentives — the largest offered to a US corporation — when “our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment.”

But recent polling found that the majority of Queens residents supported the deal, even with the massive tax incentives. Support for the deal was higher in Queens and the Bronx than in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some major New York City unions were also in favor of HQ2.

In its statement, Amazon praised Cuomo and de Blasio and blamed their retreat on state and local lawmakers.

“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,” the company said. “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.”

Gianaris didn’t welcome the news, comparing Amazon to “a petulant child.”

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“Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” he told The New York Times. “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.”

State Sen. Jessica Ramos, a progressive Democrat who represents Queens, called the development a victory for “grassroots community organizing.” She noted that Amazon is still planning to build a distribution center in her home borough.

“What we, the people, did in Queens was finally draw the line in the sand,” Ramos said in a statement. “Queens is not for sale.”

With a promised 25,000 jobs, Amazon would have become the 11th-largest employer in the New York City area, behind the city, state, and federal governments, several hospital systems, and the financial behemoth JPMorgan Chase.

In addition, studies commissioned by the governor’s and mayor’s offices showed that HQ2 would have brought in a substantial amount of new tax revenue and economic development to the area. Critics have argued that the studies have a limited scope and do not account for the downsides associated with the project.

The saga of Amazon’s second-headquarters project, known as HQ2, began in September 2017, when Amazon put out its official request for proposals and nearly every major US metro area threw its hat in the ring.

After courting cities, HQ2 project was split between New York and Arlington, Virginia, where amazon has also promised to create 25,000 new jobs.

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