AMAZON HQ2: DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Is Amazon really ready to pull the plug on its New York City headquarters? We take a closer look at the project’s fate with Jeff Coltin of City & State. He’ll also share the latest on the controversy surrounding anti-gay remarks made by Bronx Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.

Aired February 11, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

IS AMAZON, THE BEHEMOTH RETAILER REALLY READY TO PULL THE PLUG ON HQ2, ITS MASSIVE LONG ISLAND CITY PROJECT?

THERE ARE CONFLICTING REPORTS, BUT REGARDLESS, THE COMPANY IS DEALING WITH SIGNIFICANT BACKLASH FROM THE PROJECT'S DETRACTORS.

WE'LL GET BACK TO AMAZON IN A MOMENT.

> BUT FIRST, TODAY'S BREAKING NEWS, A MAJOR BATTLE BREWING WITHIN THE SECURITY COUNCIL WITH CALLS FOR ONE OF ITS MEMBERS TO RESIGN.

BRONX COUNCILMEMBER RUBEN DIAZ SR., WHO IS ALSO A PENTECOSTAL MEN CENTER SAID IN A RADIO INTERVIEW THAT THE 51-SEAT BODY IS CONTROLLED BY, QUOTE, THE HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY.

HE HAS A HISTORY OF OPPOSING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND DIAZ SR.

HAS REFUSED TO APOLOGIZE.

COUNCIL SPEAKER COREY JOHNSON, WHO IS GAY WAS SINGLED OUT BY DIAZ IN THE INTERVIEW.

JOHNSON RESPONDED ON TWITTER WRITING, QUOTE, IN THE AFTERMATH OF COUNCILMEMBER SR.'S DEEPLY OFFENSIVE COMMENTS ABOUT THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, WE ARE POTENTIALLY VIEWING ALL POTENTIAL DISCIPLINARY SCENARIOS.

NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE.

I'M JOINED BY CITY AND STATES POLITICS REPORTER JEFF GOLDEN.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME ON.

FIRST WE KNOW WHAT COUNCILMEMBER DIAZ SR. SAID, BUT DO WE KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES NOW?

WE DON'T EXACTLY.

IN FACT, CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER COREY JOHNSON CANCELED A COUPLE OF PUBLIC APPEARANCES THIS WEEKEND, MOST LIKELY BECAUSE HE WAS NEGOTIATING WITH HIS MEMBERS, TRYING TO DECIDE HOW TO RESPOND TO DIAZ SR.

HOWEVER, WITHIN THE COUNCIL, MANY MEMBERS HAVE CALLED FOR HIS RESIGNATION, HAVE THESE CALLED FOR APOLOGIES, AND EVEN SOME OF THE MORE INFLUENTIAL CAUCUS, THE LGBT CAUCUS, THE WOMEN'S CAUCUS, THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS, THEY HAVE ALL CALLED FOR AT LEAST A CENSOR OF DIAZ SR.

THIS IS SURPRISING.

IT'S USUALLY A PRETTY COLLEGIAL BODY.

EVEN THE REPUBLICANS GET ALONG WELL WITH THE DEMOCRATS.

THIS IS PRETTY SURPRISING TO SAY THE LEAST TO SEE SO MANY DEMOCRATIC SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS REALLY TURNING AGAINST A FELLOW MEMBER OF THE BODY.

WELL, DO WE KNOW WHAT THE ACTUAL RULES AND REGULATIONS ARE WHEN IT COMES TO SOMETHING LIKE THIS, THAT WHEN A MEMBER OF THIS BODY SAYS SOMETHING OR DOZEN SOMETHING THAT IS NOT ILLEGAL, BUT DEEMED INAPPROPRIATE, WHAT IS THE ACTUAL RECOURSE THAT CAN BE TAKEN?

AS FAR AS WE KNOW, THE SECURITY COUNCIL HAS QUITE A BIT OF LEEWAY IN THESE SORT OF THINGS.

THE LAWS ARE BROADLY WRITTEN.

IN THE PAST, COUNCILMEMBERS HAVE -- I DON'T -- AS FAR AS I KNOW, I DON'T THINK ANY COUNCILMEMBERS HAVE BEEN FORCED OUT OF OFFICE OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS, BUT OTHERS IN THE PAST SUCH AS QUEEN CITY COUNCILMAN IN 2005 ALLEN JENNINGS THEY MADE COMMENT AND THERE WAS AN OFFICIAL CENSOR.

THE CITY COUNCIL CAME OUT WITH AN OFFICIAL NOTICE SAYING WE DISAGREE WITH WHAT THEY SAID, AND MAYBE THEY WERE STRIPPED OF COUNCIL COMMITTEES.

I THINK THAT'S MOST LIKELY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN HERE WITH DIAZ.

HE WILL PROBABLY BE ABLE TO RETAIN HIS SEAT, BUT IT'S LIKELY THAT WE'LL SEE HIM LOSE HIS COMMITTEESHIP WHERE HE RUNS THE INFLUENTIAL TAXI AND LIMOUSINE COMMITTEE.

OKAY.

ONE OF MY FINAL QUESTIONS WAS GOING TO BE HOW MUCH OF THIS IS POSSIBLY SYMBOLIC?

BECAUSE WE'VE SEEN A LOT LATELY FROM DEMOCRATS WHERE THEY DEFINITELY WANT TO TAKE A CLEAR STAND ON SOMETHING THAT IS DEEMED INAPPROPRIATE CIRCA NOW, BUT WHAT CAN ACTUALLY BE DONE IS SOMETIMES UNCLEAR.

RIGHT.

THIS IS POLITICS IN 2019.

I THINK ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE VERY CAREFUL TO JUMP RIGHT ON CONTROVERSIES AND MAKE SURE THEY'RE TAKING THE RIGHT SIDE OF THINGS, EVEN IF IT MEANS OFFENDING YOUR COLLEAGUES.

AND SO THE CITY COUNCIL RIGHT NOW IS PILING ON AND SAYING WHAT DIAZ SR. SAID IS WRONG, YET TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS AS FAR AS ACTUAL SUBSTANTIAL, YOU KNOW, ISSUES FOR DIAZ.

WELL, THAT'S A PERFECT SEGUE INTO THE OTHER THING WE'RE WAITING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS, AND THAT OF COURSE IS AMAZON.

FIRST OF ALL, IS THERE REALLY A CHANCE AMAZON COULD NOT SET UP HEADQUARTERS IN LONG ISLAND CITY?

THERE IS A CHANCE, SURE.

AMAZON DID NOT CHOOSE NEW YORK BECAUSE OF THE SUBSIDIES.

NEW YORK IS GIVING AMAZON SUBSIDY, BASICALLY, $2.5 BILLION DEPENDING ON HOW YOU MEASURE THEM, BUT THAT'S MUCH LESS THAN OTHER CITIES OFFERED.

JUST ACROSS THE RIVER, NEW JERSEY OFFERED $8 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES.

SO MUCH MORE.

AMAZON IS CHOOSING NEW YORK BECAUSE IT'S NEW YORK.

I DON'T NEED TO EXPLAIN.

THAT'S OUR AUDIENCE.

EXACTLY.

BUT ALSO BECAUSE OF THE WORKFORCE HERE.

IT'S A HUGE WORKFORCE.

IT'S EDUCATED.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT CAN FILL THESE JOBS THAT AMAZON WANTS TO FILL.

EVEN IF THERE SOME POLITICAL CONTROVERSY.

EVEN IF THERE ARE PROTESTS, THAT DOESN'T CHANGE THE BASIC REASON WHY AMAZON CHOSE NEW YORK.

AND AS 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' HAS REPORTED, THIS IS MOST LIKELY MORE OF A NEGOTIATING TACTIC.

KIND OF PUTTING THE FEAR IN POLITICIANS TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY DON'T LEAVE HERE.

SO IS THERE A CHANCE, THEN, THAT ANY OF THE PROTESTS WE'VE SEEN AS COUNCIL HEARING THAT WE ALL HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO WITNESS MIGHT GET AMAZON TO BUDGE AT ALL?

THERE WERE A LOT OF TALK ABOUT UNIONS AND UNION BUSTING ON THE PART OF THE COMPANY.

ABSOLUTELY.

AMAZON IS GOING TO HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO GIVE IN TO SOME CONCESSION.

WHETHER THAT IS DIRECT INVESTMENT IN THE COMMUNITY, ALLOWING THEIR WORKERS TO UNIONIZE OR AT LEAST NOT -- IF THEY WANT TO UNIONIZE, AND VARIOUS OTHER THINGS THAT AMAZON MIGHT HAVE TO TRY TO ALLAY THE FEARS OF THE COMMUNITY WITHOUT ACTUALLY PULLING OUT.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, WE DEFINITELY ARE WAITING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITH THAT, AND THE DEVELOPMENTS WILL BE LOOKING TO CITY AND STATE FOR.

SO, AGAIN, JEFF, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

HAPPY TO BE HERE.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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