Billionaire Mario Gabelli blames Amazon’s failed NYC deal on ‘the financially illiterate’
The 76-year-old founder of GAMCO Investors, who grew up in the Bronx and got his undergraduate degree from Fordham University, blasted local politicians who opposed Amazon’s New York HQ2 over the nearly $3 billion tax breaks and subsidies the e-commerce giant was promised if it made the move.
“The screw up in New York City was the financially illiterate that didn’t understand that you have to bring Amazon in,” Gabelli told Yahoo Finance on Thursday. “You need to create scale. You need to create vibrancy. You need to create that kind of a feeling, so that next time New York has an air pocket, they’ve got a whole new wave of talent.”
Gabelli pointed to destinations such as Reno, Nevado, and Nashville, Tennessee, that are becoming “hotspots” and growth areas for investors.
“New York has got it, but it could lose it,” the billionaire commented. “If you didn’t think [the scrapped Amazon-New York City deal] was a mistake, you have to be financially illiterate.”
“We blew it, and we did not plan for the future.”
Amazon vowed to create 25,000 jobs — with an average annual salary of $150,000 — and a $2.5 billion investment with its new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, claiming it would have also generated “incremental tax revenue of more than $10 billion over the next 20 years.” The Seattle-based company is now planning to build a second campus in Arlington, Virginia.
The company said it was “disappointed” to pull out of the New York deal in early February.
“For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term,” the company said in a statement. “While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”
“We blew it, and we did not plan for the future. Anyway, I’m not emotional about it,” Gabelli joked.
However, a handful of local politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., applauded the news at the time.
“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” the congresswoman tweeted.
Deputy Leader of the New York City Council James G. Van Bramer also praised the community for “fighting together” against the plan.
“I am proud that we fought for our values, which is a fight for working families, immigrants, & organized labor,” the Democrat said. “Defeating an anti-union corporation that mistreats workers and assists ICE in terrorizing immigrant communities is a victory. Defeating an unprecedented act of corporate welfare is a triumph that should change the way we do economic development deals in our city & state forever.”