Last November, after an extended RFP bidding process involving initially 280 cities, narrowed down to twenty “finalists”, Amazon announced Long Island City in Queens, New York as its “HQ2” winner. New York’s agreements with Amazon guaranteed $27 billion in revenue for New York with $3 billion returned to Amazon in tax credits. In February of this year, however, on Valentine’s Day no less (slightly tone deaf!), Amazon abruptly canceled its plans entirely and reversed course, citing mounting criticism it received from state and local politicians, activists and community groups in and around Long Island City. The main arguments from the so-called resistance were that it would cause housing costs to skyrocket, drive out low-income residents and worsen congestion on the subway and streets. Others have distilled the story into three categories: (1) subsidies/corporate giveaways, (2) secrecy and backroom dealings and (3) corporate social responsibility and corporate behavior.
On this episode of The Medium Rules, host Alan Baldachin is joined by Ari Wallach and Duff McDonald with a view to dissecting the various causes and effects, both short and long-term, implicated and exposed by the Amazon HQ2 debacle. Is this a story of corporate greed and Albany arrogance finally getting their respective comeuppance? Or, was the turning back of Amazon HQ2 an ahistorical blunder of epic proportions? How much should we care about community preservation, or is this just a nostalgic fever dream of a very vocal, activist minority? To what extent are we required to extrapolate the Amazon HQ2 into broader American political and social currents tracing back to Occupy Wall Street and the rise of the new left, or is the story much more localized in nature?
Ari Wallach is the founder and CEO of Longpath Labs. We had the pleasure to connect with Ari for our very first episode of The Medium Rules last June. Longpath Labs is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to promote and advocate long-term modes of thinking, synthesizing and responding to humanity’s greatest long-term challenges.
Duff McDonald is a first timer on The Medium Rules. Duff is a New York-based journalist and is the author, most recently, of The New York Times bestsellers The Golden Passport and The Firm. A long-time magazine writer, Duff has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Esquire, Fortune, Business Week, Wired, Time, and other publications. Duff wrote the book review for the New York Times on Brad Stone’s essential book on Amazon, The Everything Store. Duff is currently working on a book with Christiane Lemiuex about what makes entrepreneurs tick – Christiane is the founder and CEO of The Inside and a previous guest on The Medium Rules.