William Rudin, head of his family’s New York City property development empire, told CNBC on Thursday that the political pressure that led Amazon to withdraw its plans to build a Queens headquarters was borne out of a lack of understanding of the benefits.
“Unfortunately, that message didn’t get out in the way it should have,” said Rudin, a billionaire, referring to the promises Amazon had made to the city about improving infrastructure and schools around the site in the Long Island City neighborhood.
Rudin, chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York trade association, was a supporter of the Amazon deal.
New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, along with fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, mounted what turned out to be a successful campaign to thwart the Amazon deal, protesting the $3 billion in tax incentives the city offered the e-commerce giant.
Ironically, Rudin said in a “Squawk Box” interview, about 65 percent of those incentives were already on the books to encourage any company to bring operations to one of the city’s four boroughs outside Manhattan — Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.
“The city, the last 20 or 25 years, has been trying to diversify our economy, and getting away from Wall Street and bringing it out into the outer boroughs,” added the CEO and co-chairman of Rudin Management. “We’re a higher tax city and state, as we know, and higher costs. That’s why these extra incentives were needed to try to get them here.”
Despite Amazon’s decision, Rudin believes New York City will continue to thrive, citing the growing presence there of technology giants Facebook and Alphabet’s Google. He also pointed to Estee Lauder’s decision to move employees to the same Long Island City area that was supposed to house the Amazon headquarters.
In the heart of Manhattan, a group called the Job Creators Network, put up a billboard slamming liberal firebrand and freshman lawmaker Ocasio-Cortez, whose nickname is AOC, over Amazon. It reads, “Thanks for nothing, AOC.” The JCN counts Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus as one of its creators.