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Cuomo, New York business leaders plead with Amazon to reconsider

There’s no sign Amazon is rethinking its choice, but effort may show other tech firms they’re welcome.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hold a news conference in New York last year. An open letter published in the New York Times, signed by a group of business leaders, elected officials and others, urged Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos to reconsider the decision to abandon building a headquarters in New York City. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Dozens of business and civic leaders are making a last-ditch effort to persuade Amazon and its founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, to reconsider its decision to back out of its plans to bring 25,000 jobs to New York City.

More than 70 area leaders, led by the chief executives of Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JetBlue and MasterCard, urged the online retailer to reconsider its decision in a letter published Friday in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times.

“We know that the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming,” they wrote. “Opinions are strong in New York — sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.”

The appeal aligns with efforts by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to try to talk the company into returning to negotiations, including by placing a call to Bezos, according to the Times. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) As of Friday, though, the company has “given no indication” it would reconsider, the governor said.

The letter was meant to tell other businesses that New York’s economic climate is beneficial for them, Cuomo said in a radio interview with WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”

“That was petty politics that governed the day,” he said of the deal’s collapse. “It was a mistake, it was a blunder. We want business, we’re open for business.”

The head of the Partnership For New York City, the business group that organized the joint letter, said the letter also was meant to assure the technology industry as a whole that the city was eager to attract investment.

“This isn’t just about Amazon,” said Kathryn Wylde, the partnership’s president and CEO. “The treatment [of Amazon] is a black spot on our record in terms of our hope to continue to be a global commercial capital, specifically for the technology industry. We’ve gotten feedback from firms that have a presence on the West Coast. They’ve said the treatment that Amazon received, and their decision that it wasn’t worth it, was pretty shocking and caused other firms and entrepreneurs to question whether it was worth it to take on New York.”

Amazon representatives declined to comment.

Amazon drops plan to build headquarters in New York City

Amazon canceled the project and its 25,000 jobs two weeks ago amid an uproar over the company’s potential effect on the city and the $3 billion in state and local incentives promised to it by Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). Amazon is moving ahead with plans to bring 25,000 to 37,000 jobs to the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington County, in Northern Virginia, and says it will spread jobs that had been planned for New York around other company hubs.

Besides dozens of tech, banking and real estate executives in New York, elected officials including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D), Carolyn B. Maloney (D) and Max Rose (D) and religious, education and nonprofit leaders signed the letter asking Amazon to reconsider.

But opponents of the deal, who succeeded in turning away Amazon in the first place, remain undeterred, as 77 leaders from labor unions, advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations quickly responded that they were not backing down.

They still wanted to see economic growth in New York, the advocates argued, but not without first considering the effect on housing prices and racial and economic equality.

Like other big-city tech hubs, housing costs in New York have risen dramatically in recent years as Apple, Google and other Internet giants have expanded.

“Rather than pursuing economic development policies that lead to displacement, we demand policies that create housing stability and security. We call for Universal Rent Control that gives people, not the real estate industry, the power to determine where they live — no New Yorker should live in fear of a rapid rent increase or an eviction,” they wrote.

Of Amazon, the group added: “We defeated them recently, and we will do it again."

The office of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), who was sharply critical of the deal New York agreed to with Amazon, issued a statement to The Post saying: “If the elected officials spent half as much time talking to the community as they do Jeff Bezos, we might have come to an agreement."

A key critic of New York’s Amazon deal said he saw no weakening of opposition that might encourage the company to come back.

“Nothing has changed in the last two weeks,” said state Sen. Michael N. Gianaris (D-Queens). “It’s the same people saying they support it who supported it before, and the same people saying they have concerns.”