One thing’s for sure: Jeff Bezos hits back.
Thursday night, the world’s richest man posted on the website Medium what appears to be the Trump-allied National Enquirer’s extortionist attempt to swap his silence for their pictures of his, well, package.
Friday morning, the Bezos-owned Washington Post broke the news that Bezos-owned Amazon “is reconsidering” the deal it cut just three months ago with Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to put 25,000 jobs and half of its “HQ2” in NYC’s LIC. WTF?
Unlike the Enquirer, our lawmakers are hitting above the belt in pursuing the devilish details the company hid behind a non-disclosure agreement our mayor and governor signed as Amazon spent a year pitting governments against each other to extract as much as possible from its prospective new hosts.
Amazon, de Blasio and Cuomo announced New York was a winner in November, just as a blue wave swept the country and the state, and as tax revenue here was plunging after a decade of growth. As the trains Cuomo controls break down, the deal includes a helipad. As the public housing de Blasio controls breaks down, he’s carving out square footage for the behemoth that ravaged storefront retail next door to the western hemisphere’s largest housing project.
So the deal wasn’t greeted with the expected fanfare, but with cries of outrage, including from Queens Rep. and new Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Already, the City Council has held two hearings led by Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City, and Speaker Corey Johnson asking hard questions the company seems unprepared to answer. Last week, the Legislature nominated state Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens, a fierce critic of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board that would likely have to unanimously approve it.
This is high-stakes stuff, but New York City is a big place that’s played for plenty of high stakes and managed to get along alright so far without Amazon.
However this plays out, I hope it kickstarts the overdue conversation about the city’s relationship to big tech before we get ever more locked into its terms and conditions.
Take Google, which has used the Amazon backlash to trumpet its own less extractive expansion through Chelsea and the Village from its HQ here in the city’s fourth-largest office building, where the colorful “Google” sign above the old Port of New York Authority one expresses the changing of the guard.
When I visited someone there, I signed some agreement on a tablet before entering, like the terms of service no one reads before installing software.
I want to call the Enquirer sloppy for doing more or less that in a note to Bezos he posted declaring itself “CONFIDENTIAL & T FOR DISTRIBUTION,” but given how long the paper has been running this game and the role they played in electing President Trump, maybe it’s the rest of us who have been sloppy.
Inside the Google building is a vast cafeteria, with chefs providing delicious food in generous portions, there for the taking. It’s quite a pitch: Are you feeling lucky? Come sample the cornucopia human curiosity provides, one search at a time.
Google’s parent company Alphabet, which is building its own beta city inside Toronto, was also the grandparent of the company that provided those LinkNYC kiosks with free wifi and charging and calls, and that often attract camps of gutter punks and junkies — including right around Google’s Chelsea campus. The kiosks can provide all that at no cost to New York or New Yorkers because they extract information from each of us walking by with a device.
I don’t fault Amazon for taking what it can. It’s up to us, and our representatives, to do the same and hit back.