underlying photo by Robert Scoble

Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos

The New York Times published the wrong version of this letter. Here’s the correct one, unabridged.

Memo Salazar
Mar 4 · 4 min read

Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos

Dear Mr. Bezos:

New Yorkers do not want your false promises of 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues that Amazon was prepared to dangle in front of our state. There is a clear majority of rich, short-sighted, and greedy New Yorkers that do support this proposal, because they see dollar signs in their future and can’t wait to cash in on a yuppified version of New York City, jammed with trendy bars and overpriced restaurants affordable to a select few. Then there are those still hoping you’ll return because they simply don’t understand the real consequences of getting into bed with someone like you; they haven’t connected the neoliberal dots, yet, Jeff. They aren’t dumb- you and your ilk have just done a great job of keeping them distracted, worried, and confused. They buy from Amazon because it’s cheap, not understanding that each purchase actually makes it harder for everyone to earn a decent living. They ask Amazon to be their neighbor because they need jobs, not understanding that those minimum-wage service jobs you hand them won’t cover the increased rent they’ll be forced to pay.

We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was a debate that had barely begun- and yet, because a couple of local politicians asked some very reasonable and logical questions, you took your ball and went home. We realize the implications of this move, that it’s less about the activists that protested with signs or any Congressperson’s tweets and more about the arrogance of a company so powerful, and so entrenched in our economic and social fabric that it can’t be bothered to even pretend it cares about the communities it wants to bulldoze over. We know you don’t actually want to work with anyone, Jeff. You want- and expect- the public and their leaders to step aside and allow you to do whatever you would like to do, because you’re Amazon, and we need you to survive, and you don’t need anything at all. You are all-knowing (with your data) and all-hearing (with Alexa) and all-giving (with your online retail store.) You would rather go bully a different city into submission than negotiate with New York City’s government, because, in your eyes, anyone that gets in your way is a terrorist, and Jeff Bezos doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Amazon’s stance against unions is non-negotiable. Amazon not being subject to a public process of scrutiny is non-negotiable. Amazon being asked to do anything not part of its agenda is non-negotiable, so Amazon walked away.

Governor Cuomo will take personal responsibility for the destruction of Queens’ vibrant, livable neighborhood if this deal ever goes through, as will Mayor De Blasio. But just as guilty will be the misguided power players who have publicly asked you to come back, either out of ignorance or out of greed. It’s not just that your 25,000 jobs figure is a lot of smoke and mirrors. The real issue with why we don’t want you here, Jeff Bezos, is fundamental. You are not trustworthy. Your purpose in life is diametrically opposed to New York City’s. You want your empire to grow in every possible way- financially and politically- as much as possible, for as long as possible. We are a finite area of land that requires constant upkeep to maintain the precious balance of diversity that has made this the great city that it is. There is no possible arrangement between you and us that can satisfy both goals- someone will have to pay, and that someone is never you. When Seattle asked you to help pay for a homelessness crisis that you created (and they couldn’t afford) in the form of a tax, you forced them to repeal that tax. When Senator Bernie Sanders shone the spotlight on your inexcusable treatment of warehouse workers, you raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour… and then eliminated bonuses and incentives to nullify the increase. When Texas tried to collect millions in unpaid back taxes from you, you threatened them until they relented and let you keep the cash. A year later, you pulled the same stunt with South Carolina, with the same results. Your warehouse workers can’t take bathroom breaks, and your tech workers- despite the high salaries- last an average of 1 year at your company before they burn out. All of this- and so much more- makes it clear to anyone paying attention that you, quite simply, suck. You suck as a person, your company sucks as a company, and no sane person would ever want you anywhere near them or their loved ones. You have more money- and therefore, more power- than anyone on this planet, and yet you squander it making people’s lives worse. How stupid would we be to invite you into our home?

New York attracts the best, most diverse talent from across the globe. We are a dynamic new center of the country’s most inclusive tech economy. We all understand quite well why you considered joining us in building the exciting future of New York: because we’re a great city, and you want in. We also understand why you subsequently wanted to leave: because you’re a terrible person, and we’re not a good match. We appreciate that you figured this out sooner than later; all that’s left is for our Governor and his Business Elite friends to do the same.

Sincerely,

Memo Salazar
Resident and Activist,
Speaking for

Queens
(the people of)

New York
(the city of)

United States
(the country of)

Earth
(the planet of)

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