AMAZON HQ2 DOA IN NYC

After numerous protests to keep the tech giant away from New York, Amazon announced that it will not be bringing its new headquarters to the Big Apple. Council Speaker Corey Johnson weighs in. Ruben Diaz Sr. was punished for his recent anti-gay remarks. After calls for an apology and his resignation were not met, the New York City Council voted to dissolve the committee that Diaz chairs.

Aired February 14, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

AMAZON IS OUT.

IN A STUNNING TURN OF EVENTS, THE RETAIL GIANT ANNOUNCED THIS MORNING THAT IT'S CANCELING PLANS TO BUILD A SPRAWLING NEW CAMPUS IN QUEENS.

A MOVE THAT PROMISED TO BRING SOME 25,000 JOBS TO NEW YORK CITY.

IN A STATEMENT, AMAZON SAID 'WHILE POLLS SHOW THAT 70% OF NEW YORKERS SUPPORT OUR PLANS IN INVESTMENT, A NUMBER OF STATE AND LOCAL POLITICIANS HAVE MADE IT CLEAR THAT THEY OPPOSE OUR PRESENCE.'

WHILE AMAZON'S MOVE WAS ANNOUNCED WITH FANFARE LAST YEAR, IT WAS MET WITH OPPOSITION FROM LAWMAKERS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO SAID THE DEAL GAVE TOO MUCH AWAY IN CITY AND STATE INCENTIVES.

ONE LAWMAKER, CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER CORY JOHNSON.

THE SPEAKER VISITED WITH US TODAY TO TALK WITH 'METROFOCUS' THIS MORNING BEFORE AMAZON MADE ITS ANNOUNCEMENT TO BACK OUT.

I ASKED HIM ABOUT AMAZON AND WHAT HE WOULD SAY TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE THE DEAL WOULD DO MUCH TO HELP NEW YORK DIVERSIFY INTO THE TECH SECTOR.

I THINK WE DO NEED MORE TECH JOBS, AND WE'VE DONE A GOOD JOB AT ATTRACTING A NUMBER OF HIGH TECH JOBS HERE.

YOU'VE SEEN GOOGLE HAS COME IN AND CREATED ALMOST 15,000 JOBS IN THE LAST TEN YEARS.

FACEBOOK AND TWITTER AND ALL THESE OTHER BIG TECH COMPANIES AND SMALL TECH COMPANIES HAVE COME TO NEW YORK.

I'M NOT SAYING THAT AMAZON, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, SHOULD COME HERE.

I'M SAYING IT WAS A SECRETIVE PROCESS.

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SIGNED NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS TO NOT TALK ABOUT THIS.

AMAZON IS GOING TO RECEIVE --

THAT BY ITSELF RAISES TROUBLING QUESTIONS.

WHETHER YOU LIKE AMAZON OR NOT, THAT, I THINK, BY ITSELF IS SOMETHING THAT IS FAIRLY CURIOUS.

AND GOVERNMENT MONEY IS ON THE LINE.

SO AMAZON IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALMOST $4 BILLION IN TAXPAYER MONEY.

THEY ARE AVOIDING AND SUBVERTING THE PROCESS THAT THE CITY COUNCIL HAS AND HAS HAD SINCE THE 1970s ON LARGE PROJECTS.

THEY'RE GETTING A $500 MILLION CASH GRANT FROM THE STATE.

JEFF BEZOS IS GETTING A HELIPAD TO LAND ON HIS BUILDING.

AMAZON IS WORTH $1 TRILLION.

JEFF BEZOS IS WORTH $160 BILLION, THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD.

WE HAVE CRUMBLING SUBWAYS, SCHOOLS THAT ARE NOT GETTING THE RESOURCES.

SO IS THIS THE BEST WAY TO SPEND THAT MONEY SHOULD GO THROUGH A PUBLIC PROCESS THAT HAS CHECKS AND BALANCES.

AND IS SOMEONE GOING TO ASK THESE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS?

THAT'S WHAT THE COUNCIL HAS DONE.

AMAZON HAS BEEN UNWILLING TO NEGOTIATE.

THEY WILL NOT AGREE TO LABOR NEUTRALITY AMONGST THE WORKERS IF THEY WANT TO ORGANIZE AND BE PART OF A UNION.

SO THERE ARE A SERIES OF QUESTIONS HERE.

THESE ARE QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANSWERED BEFORE THE DEAL WAS ANNOUNCED, AND IT'S OUR JOB AS PEOPLE THAT HAVE TO OVERSEE PUBLIC MONEY AND LAND, THIS IS PUBLIC LAND THEY'RE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF.

SO IT'S NOT SAYING WE DON'T WANT YOU, BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS THAT WORK FOR EVERYBODY, BOTH SIDES.

LET'S BE HONEST, AMAZON SET UP THE HUNGER GAMES.

SO THEY TOOK ALL THESE CITIES AND THEY HAD EVERYONE SIGN NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS.

NO ONE KNOWING WHAT THE OTHER ONE WAS OFFERING.

AND EVERYONE TRIED TO SWEETEN THE POT, SWEETEN THE DEAL, AND THEY WERE SEDUCED BY AMAZON'S JOBS.

WE WANT JOBS, I'M NOT AGAINST THAT.

I THINK, AND AMAZON ALLUDED TO THIS, THE TWO CITIES IN THE METROPOLITAN AREA IN THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA THAT HAVE THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS THAT QUALIFY AUTHOR THESE TYPE OF JOBS IN THE TECH INDUSTRY IS NEW YORK CITY, WE HAVE 320,000 PEOPLE THAT ARE QUALIFIED TO DO THIS TYPE OF WORK, AND THE METRO WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA, WHICH IS THE OTHER LOCATION THEY CHOSE.

SO IT FELT LIKE THEY SET THIS PROCESS UP TO TRY TO SQUEEZE AS MUCH OUT OF THE FINALISTS THAT THEY KNEW THEY WERE LIKELY GOING TO PICK ANY WAY.

I FEEL LIKE WE WERE PLAYED.

THE DEAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN NEGOTIATED IN A MUCH MORE TOUGH AND DIFFICULT WAY FOR A $1 TRILLION COMPANY.

IN A WIDE-RANGING CONVERSATION, I ASKED ABOUT THE CONTROVERSY OF COUNCIL MEMBER DIAZ'S HOMO PHOBIC MARKS, IN WHICH HE SAYS THE COUNCIL IS CONTROLLED BY THE HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY.

I WAS IN SHOCK.

I GUESS I SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN IN SHOCK AND I SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN IN SHOCK BECAUSE HE HAS A LONG TRACK RECORD AND HISTORY SPANNING 30 OR MORE YEARS SAYING THINGS LIKE THIS.

BUT I WAS IN SHOCK BECAUSE IT'S CONFUSING IN SOME WAYS, BECAUSE OVER THE LAST YEAR, WHENEVER I'VE SEEN HIM, WHEN WE'VE INTERACTED ONE ON ONE, HE'S NEVER BEHAVED IN THIS WAY.

I WANT TO ASK YOU THAT.

WORDS CAN BE ONE THING, THEY CAN BE HARMFUL.

BUT CONDUCT IS SOMETHING ELSE.

HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN A SENSE OF SOMEHOW A BARRIER BETWEEN YOU AND HIM BECAUSE OF HIS ATTITUDE?

NO, I HAVEN'T.

BUT, AGAIN, THERE ARE PLENTY OF PEOPLE AND LBGT WILL KNOW THIS REALLY WELL, THAT YOU CAN HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS WHO SAY I ACCEPT YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE, BUT I DON'T ACCEPT ALL THE OTHER THINGS YOU'RE PUSHING FOR.

AND PART OF THE GAY MOVEMENT, THE LBGT RIGHTS MOVEMENT HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE WE HAVE TRIED, AND I THINK SUCCEEDED, IN CHANGING THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE WHO MAY NOT HAVE SUPPORTED MARRIAGE EQUALITY BUT CAME AROUND.

COUNCIL MEMBER DIAZ IS DIFFERENT, BECAUSE HE HAS A LONG STANDING TRACK RECORD OF SAYING HATEFUL AND DIVISIVE THINGS.

I MADE A MISTAKE, I MADE A MISTAKE BECAUSE WHEN I CAME IN A LITTLE MORE THAN A YEAR AGO AS SPEAKER, I TRIED TO GIVE EVERYONE A FRESH START.

I ASKED EVERY COUNCIL MEMBER WHAT COMMUNITY THEY WANTED TO CHAIR AND TRIED TO BE ACCOMMODATING TO THEM.

A LEOPARD DOES NOT CHANGE ITS SPOTS.

AND I GUESS THIS IN SOME WAYS WAS INEVITABLE THAT SOMETHING LIKE THIS WOULD HAPPEN.

BUT IT'S PAINFUL FOR ME PERSONALLY, PAINFUL FOR THE ENTIRE CITY COUNCIL, AND PAINFUL TO THE STAFF, THERE ARE A LOT OF LBGT STAFF MEMBERS AND NON-LBGT STAFF MEMBERS THAT THIS WHOLE INCIDENT, OVER THE LAST WEEK, HAS BEEN PAINFUL.

SO I'VE BEEN TRYING TO HANDLE IT RESPONSIBLY.

WE DISSOLVED THE COMMITTEE YESTERDAY AND WE'RE GOING TO MOVE AHEAD.

THERE HAVE BEEN CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION.

HOW DO YOU THEN CONNECT, IF YOU WILL, THE NOTION OF SAY, ALL RIGHT, YOU SHOULD LEAVE, YOU DON'T BELONG HERE BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF YOUR COMMENTS, WHICH YOU OBVIOUSLY BELIEVE.

BUT THE FACT THAT HE'S BEEN SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME, AND PEOPLE ELECT HIM TO THESE POSITIONS.

WHAT ABOUT THE IDEA THAT SAYS, IT'S UP TO THEM TO DECIDE WHAT THEY WANT HIM OFF OR NOT.

HE SAID HE'S NOT GOING TO RESIGN.

I THINK HE SHOULD, AND HE HAS THE RIGHT, OF COURSE, TO STAY ON THE COUNCIL, BECAUSE HE WAS ELECTED TO THE COUNCIL.

I THINK IT COMES DOWN IN SOME WAYS TO A LEVEL OF SELF-AWARE NESS AND UNDERSTANDING WHETHER OR NOT YOU CAN BE EFFECTIVE FOR YOUR CONSTITUENTS IN A BODY THAT'S ABOUT GETTING THINGS DONE.

AND WHAT YOU SAW THIS PAST WEEK AT THE COUNCIL WAS, I THINK, AN OVERWHELMING REBUKE OF WHAT HE HAS DONE, HIS COMMENTS, AND HIS TRACK RECORD OF COMMENTS, AFTER HE SAID THIS, HE DOUBLED AND TRIPLED DOWN, CLAIMING HE WAS THE VICTIM, SAYING HE WOULD NOT APOLOGIZE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT HE HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG.

HE WENT FURTHER SAYING THE INITIAL COMMENTS OF THE 'HOMOSEXUAL' COMMUNITY, I SAY THE GAY COMMUNITY, THE LBGT COMMUNITY, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THEM CONTROLLING THE CITY COUNCIL BUT THEY CONTROL THE ENTIRE POLITICAL STRUCTURE IN NEW YORK.

THIS IS SO OUTLANDISH, OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY, THAT IT'S HARD TO REASON WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS BELIEFS LIKE THIS.

WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

WE'RE TRYING TO MOVE AHEAD, AND THE BODY TOOK A BIG STEP IN DISSOLVING THE COMMITTEE AND HAVING PEOPLE ON THE RECORD ABOUT THAT, AND SOME OF THE SPEECHES AND COMMENTS WERE VERY EMOTIONAL AND MOVING, HEARTBREAKING IN SOME WAYS.

PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT HOW PAINFUL THIS WAS.

I TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY, AND I WANT TO TRY TO HAVE US MOVE AHEAD AND HEAL THESE OPEN WOUNDS.

HOPEFULLY IT WILL.

CONGESTION, IS SOME VERSION GOING TO HAPPEN FAIRLY SOON?

I HOPE SO.

YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT MORE AND MORE SUPPORT HAS BUILT, AND THE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER HAS BEEN A SUPPORTER OF CONGESTION PRICING FOR A LONG TIME.

HE REPRESENTS THE DISTRICT IN THE NORTH BRONX.

GOVERNOR CUOMO HAS MADE THIS A CENTER PIECE OF HIS EXECUTIVE BUDGET, WHICH WAS JUST UNVEILED A FEW WEEKS AGO.

AND THERE WAS SOME BIG PROPONENTS IN THE STATE SENATE.

NOW THAT YOU HAVE DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OF THE ASSEMBLY AND STATE SENATE, THERE'S A BIG OPPORTUNITY.

THE REAL QUESTION IS, WHAT DOES THE FINAL DEAL LOOK LIKE?

I WANT FULL CONGESTION PRICING.

WE NEED IT BECAUSE WE NEED A DEDICATED REVENUE STREAM TO FUND THE NTA AND CUT DOWN ON CONGESTION IN MANHATTAN.

ANYTHING IS DIFFICULT TO PREDICT IN ALBANY.

I DON'T HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL, BUT I FEEL OPTIMISTIC.

CAN YOU GET AN IRON CLAD DEDICATION SAYING ALL OF THAT MONEY GOES HERE?

THAT'S WHAT I SUPPORT, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT IS IN THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL.

THE PROPOSAL SAYS THAT MONEY WOULD COME INTO THE NTA.

WE NEED THAT TO GO DIRECTLY INTO NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT, WHICH IS THE SUBWAYS AND THE BUSES IN NEW YORK CITY.

THE MTA ARE THE SUBWAYS, BUSES, THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD AND METRO NORTH.

AND WE NEED THAT MONEY DEDICATED JUST TO MASS TRANSIT IN NEW YORK CITY.

AND WE SHOULD PUT SOME OF THAT REVENUE TO TRANSIT DESERTS, INTO NEW EXPRESS BUS SERVICE, IN AREAS OF THE CITY, IN EASTERN QUEENS AND IN SOUTH BROOKLYN, THAT EXTEND BEYOND THE REACHES TO HAVE SUBWAY, SO THAT EVERY PART OF NEW YORK CITY IS GETTING SOME LEVEL OF INVESTMENT AS IT RELATES TO MASS TRANSIT.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

YOU HAVE BEEN RELIGIOUS, IF YOU WILL, IN BOTH YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AND POLITICAL LIFE, ABOUT BEING HONEST AND CANDID, AND TRANSPARENT.

AND YOU'RE OPEN WITH PEOPLE ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT YOU THINK AND YOU DO.

AND IN THAT VEIN, YOU SAID THAT YOU'RE CONTEMPLATING THE NOTION OF RUNNING FOR MAYOR.

YOU ALSO SAID IF YOU DO, IF YOU DO, YOU WERE GOING TO LIMIT CONTRIBUTIONS TO $250, NOT THE $2,000.

AND YOU WERE GOING TO TAKE A LOOK AT IT.

SO WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW IN THAT LOOK?

ARE YOU ANY CLOSER TO MAKING A DECISION?

WELL, I TALKED ABOUT THIS JUST LESS THAN A MONTH AGO.

THE REASON WHY --

IT'S GOING TO BE AN INTERNTY IN THE POLITICAL REALM.

THE REASON I DID THIS IS IF I MAKE THIS DECISION, AND I'M LEANING IN THE DIRECTION OF DOING IT, BUT THERE'S NO FINAL DECISION BECAUSE IT'S MORE THAN TWO YEARS AWAY, THE REASON WHY IT CAME UP THIS EARLY IS BECAUSE I'M DOING HISTORIC AS IT RELATES TO FUND-RAISING.

I'M NOT TAKING MONEY FROM LOBBYISTS OR REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS, OR CORPORATE PACS.

THE CONTRIBUTION IS $2,000 FROM AN INDIVIDUAL, I'M MAKING THAT $250.

WHICH MEANS TO RAISE THE FULL AMOUNT OF MONEY, I NEED ABOUT 7,000 NEW YORKERS TO CONTRIBUTE $250.

THAT IS GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME.

I THOUGHT IF I SEND THIS OUT AS AN INVITE, IF I ANNOUNCE THIS VIA AN E-MAIL TO A FRIEND THAT WANTS TO HOST A HOUSE PARTY, THE MEDIA WILL SAY, HOW COME YOU'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS?

SO INSTEAD, I PUT IT OUT THERE PROACTIVELY TO BE ABLE TO START TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION AND DO IT IF A WAY WHERE IT DIDN'T LOOK LIKE I WAS HIDING ANYTHING.

I LOVE NEW YORK CITY.

IT'S A CITY OF DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS.

I CAM HERE AT 19 YEARS OLD WITH TWO BAGS, KNOWING ONE PERSON.

IT'S BEEN JUST -- IT'S BEEN MY OYSTER FOR SO LONG.

AND I JOKE, WE'RE FILMING THIS TODAY ON VALENTINE'S DAY.

I'M SINGLE, BUT I SAY THAT I'M SINGLE BUT IN A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP WITH NYC.

SO I'M GOING TO CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON THE CITY I LOVE AS SPEAKER AND WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

BEYOND THE NOTION OF POLITICS, YOUR STORY IS ONE THAT SAYS YOU CAN MAKE A LIFE.

YOU CAN TAKE DIFFICULTIES IN YOUR LIFE AND TURN THEM AROUND AND YOU CAN TAKE OFF ON A TRANSEN DANT ARC AND THIS CITY ALLOWS YOU TO DO IT.

GOOD TO HAVE YOU WITH US.

WE ALWAYS GET A BETTER SENSE OF WHAT'S GOING ON WHEN YOU ARE HERE WITH US.

SO LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING YOU BACK WITH US.

THANK YOU.

I LOVE 'METROFOCUS.'

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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