Not smiling over Amazon

Amazon selected Long Island City in Queens and National Landing in Arlington, Virginia, as the two locations for its new headquarters (HQ2). Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are touting it as the biggest economic development initiative in the history of New York state, with more than 25,0000 full-time jobs with an average salary of $150,000.

More than 238 cities across North America competed for the project, with Amazon planning to spend more than $3.5 billion over 15 years. It sounds like a great return on investment, right?

Did you know that Amazon is the third largest retailer? The company has more than 610,000 employees worldwide, making it the second largest U.S.-based, publicly traded employer behind Walmart.

It has disrupted small businesses dramatically, including in every town in New York.

And it refused to charge sales tax for purchasers’ states until last year, and still doesn’t charge sales taxes for purchasers’ counties and cities. Plus, it still doesn’t collect sales taxes on purchases from third-party vendors on its platform, which makes up a huge proportion of its sales.

In other words, it owes a great debt to the taxpayers since for years it has gotten to avoid having its buyers contribute to the costs of government, like other businesses must do — businesses that can’t afford to compete with this giant.

So why did New York state fork over $1.5 billion to lure Amazon here? That is taxpayer money. It is also almost triple the $573 million Virginia and Arlington offered.

It’s simply wrong.

Next Saturday is Small Business Saturday, and small ma-and-pop stores in our hometowns are encouraging everyone to shop locally instead of (or at least before) ordering your holiday gifts online.

Our local businesses are struggling with increased minimum wages mandated by New York state, health care insurance and workers’ compensation, property taxes and the costs of a storefront. Local businesses paying local taxes helps keep residents’ property taxes down.

While Amazon coming to New York City is a seen as an economic boost, plenty of negative effects for that area need to be addressed. Housing prices will increase, infrastructure will be stressed, highways and transit will be congested, competition for good workers will be stiffer, etc.

Do a huge, wealthy corporation and a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Queens really need help from taxpayers?

We feel that this $1.5 billion would be better spent investing in educating a workforce, building better transportation, encouraging affordable housing, supporting small business, etc.

We feel that New York is hard on its own businesses and yet jumps into national frenzies to compete for, and lavish tax money on, celebrity businesses such as Amazon and movie filming.

Also, we don’t like that this is just coming out now, after the deal is done. Our governor made this secret offer in a closed bidding process without telling New York taxpayers or their representatives in the state legislature.

Amazon went with the most obvious locations, the U.S. financial and political capitals, where it was probably leaning toward all along. Yet in the meantime, every bidding city made a fool of itself and showed it is willing to sell itself out to corporations. Like the Hunger Games, this process was set up by Amazon to show the nation who is in charge, and have locales pay tribute.

That’s our opinion. What do you think? Has Amazon affected our local businesses? Is New York’s $1.5 billion investment in it worthwhile? Please share your viewpoint in a letter to the editor or Facebook comment.