NEW YORK — The Empire State Building, 4 Times Square, 1 World Trade Center and other New York City skyscrapers were bathed in orange light Wednesday night. Halloween had not come early. The color was a nod to the arrow in the logo of the giant retailer Amazon, designed to mark the moment New York City delivered its bid for the company’s second headquarters.
Competition is fierce. In a battle created by Amazon, some 50 cities are hoping to lure the company’s new urban campus, and some 50,000 promised new jobs, with a deadline of Oct. 19.
Taking Amazon’s criteria into account, New York’s proposal boasts of the nation’s largest tech talent pool, with 300,000 workers in the metro area, double that of either San Francisco or San Jose, California.
New York is also an international capital of finance, law, fashion, education, art, culture and communications. And despite recent problems, it has one of the best and most extensive public transportation systems in the world, as well as train stations and international airports.
The city’s proposal cites four neighborhoods — the West Side of Manhattan; Lower Manhattan; Long Island City in Queens and what is referred to as the Brooklyn Tech Triangle (the Downtown, Dumbo and Brooklyn Navy Yard areas) — that could accommodate Amazon’s requirements: 500,000 square foot modern of office space available in 2018 and another 7.5 million square feet over time as Amazon builds the kind of urban campus it has in Seattle.
New York City is not offering special subsidies or tax breaks for Amazon beyond the incentives available to any company.
“We see this as a competition for 50,000 new job openings — jobs we want New Yorkers to land,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. “We win it based on the talent of our workers and the incredible diversity of industries in this town. Those are the strengths you can’t buy with tax breaks.”
Chicago tried to get a jump on the competition by submitting its proposal Monday, three days early. The same day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey dangled $7 billion in subsidies and incentives behind its bid to put Amazon HQ2, as the project has become known, in Newark.
Handicappers place New York high on their lists of possible winners. Moody’s Analytics, an economics research firm, ranked New York sixth, behind Austin, Texas; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Rochester, New York; and Pittsburgh based on six criteria, including human capital, cost of doing business and transportation.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics said, it is very likely that Amazon will put HQ2 on the East Coast, “preferably the Northeast Corridor.” In that case, New York rises to No. 3 behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“New York gets dinged by its cost structure,” he said.
Amazon is expected to winnow its list of candidates by Dec. 25, but the review process will extend well into 2018.
In addition to New York City’s proposal, the state is putting up its own candidates. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing proposals from Western New York and the Finger Lakes; the Syracuse area; the region near Albany; and a metro New York City bid that includes Long Island and parts of the Hudson Valley.
The state’s top economic development official, Howard Zemsky, has crafted an incentive or subsidy package for Amazon, although state officials declined to release details because of the competitive nature of the contest.
In drafting its proposal, the state has had to navigate the upstate-downstate divide, not wanting to be accused of favoring New York City.
Zemsky also went out of his way at a meeting of the Partnership for New York City on Roosevelt Island on Oct. 3 to assure about 75 top corporate executives that the state was taking the competition seriously. And while the governor and the mayor have had an often fractious relationship, he told the crowd that the state and city were working harmoniously.
“This project is a major opportunity, and New Yorkers should know that we are doing everything we can to attract Amazon HQ2 — and 50,000 jobs — to the Empire State,” Zemsky said in a statement Wednesday.
City officials have also had to step lightly, not wanting to set off interborough rivalries. After Amazon announced the contest in September, officials from nearly every corner of the city wrote directly to Amazon explaining why it should come to their respective areas. The city itself received applications from 27 neighborhoods.
Ultimately, officials said that neither the Bronx nor Staten Island could meet Amazon’s criteria for an urban campus. Staten Island, however, may have won a consolation prize. Amazon is building a distribution center there that is expected to eventually employ 2,250 workers, albeit at lower wages than at the new headquarters. For that, the state is giving Amazon as much as $18 million in tax credits, based on its payroll numbers.
Last month, Amazon signed a lease for a large block of space on Manhattan’s West Side, where it expects to have 2,000 jobs in finance, sales and marketing. The company also has administrative offices on 34th Street and a photography and videography studio in Brooklyn with about 50 employees.
Some developers, like Stephen M. Ross, chairman of Related Cos., are skeptical that a company so sensitive to cost would consider New York City. Ross’ company submitted bids in New York, Chicago, where it has a vacant 62-acre parcel, and Boston.
City officials asked landlords in each of the four New York City areas to lock up 500,000 square feet of vacant space for Amazon until the end of the year.
The West Side of Manhattan features the Hudson Yards development, a transit hub at Penn Station and as much as 26 million square feet of available office space, as well as housing, culture and parks.
But is also the most expensive option in a city where housing and office costs are already higher than elsewhere.
Lower Manhattan, has evolved into a residential and commercial district since the Sept. 11 attacks, with a large development site available at the World Trade Center.
Amazon, according to the city’s proposal, could also make use of Governors Island, for an innovation center that could attract visitors and tourists.
The so-called Brooklyn Tech Triangle, may be more likely. There are already 17,000 jobs at 1,400 tech-related or innovative companies and an array of arts and cultural organizations in the area.
Next to Barclays Center, there is a site for a 1 million-square-foot tower.
The other option is Long Island City, Queens, a former industrial area that is similar to where Amazon built its campus in Seattle. The neighborhood has new housing, restaurants, bars, art galleries museums and locations for as much as 13 million square feet of new office space.
Boosters for each neighborhood have been eager to make their cases.
“Brooklyn stacks up well not just in the city but from a nationwide perspective,” said Regina Meyer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
“Long Island City checks every box Amazon has on its list,” countered Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership.