10.25.19 – In 2017, Thor Equities offered Amazon entire Red Hoek Point project for HQ2

In September, 2017, Thor Equities, the owner of a large property at 280 Richards St. in Red Hook, offered all of its planned development project there to Amazon for that company’s second headquarters project, known as HQ2.

Joseph J. Sitt, President and CEO of Thor, and Peter Turchin, Vice Chairmain of CBRE, made the offer in a Sep. 25, 2017 letter sent to the NYCEDC, in response to the agency’s RFEI for the HQ2 project.

“Red Hoek Point presents a unique opportunity for Amazon to occupy the entire 7.7-acre campus totaling 794,777 RSF,” the letter began, adding that the site would be, “comprised of two heavy timber construction buildings designed by Norman Foster.”

How I obtained the information: Continue reading “10.25.19 – In 2017, Thor Equities offered Amazon entire Red Hoek Point project for HQ2”


9.11.19 – Thor Equities proposed Red Hoek Point as a site for Amazon’s HQ2

On 8.4.19, I submitted the following FOIL request to the NYCEDC:

I would like to know which properties were proposed to EDC for Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) within the following three zip codes: 11220, 11231, and 11232. As such, I am requesting a list of the addresses of properties located in those zip codes that were proposed to EDC in response to the agency’s RFEI for the HQ2 project. In order to make this as easy as possible to fulfill, I am simply requesting a list of the property addresses – no other information in relation to those properties is being requested at this time.

On 9.11.19, EDC’s FOIL office sent me a document listing one property, located at 280 Richards St. in Red Hook. The property is owned by Thor Equities, which refers to it as Red Hoek Point. Thor originally planned an office campus for the site (a related website is still live as of this posting). However, The Real Deal reported in February, 2019 that the project had been cancelled. According to the publication, the developer had decided instead “to build last-mile warehousing on the site.”

Other HQ2 properties in Sunset Park and Red Hook

A related letter from EDC, also sent on 9.11.19, stated that EDC “has previously provided you with the responses for all other properties located in the requested zip codes that were submitted in response to NYCEDC’s RFEI for the HQ2 project.” In other words, we now know which properties within the zip codes of 11220, 11231, and 11232 were officially pitched by their owners as HQ2 sites. In addition to Red Hoek point, we know:

  1. Industry City offered Amazon four million square feet for HQ2, and Liberty View offered one million square feet.
  2. Madison Realty Capitol offered Amazon 194,000 square feet in Sunset Yards, located at 341 39th St., and 511,000 square feet in the Whale Building, located at 14 53rd St. 

Of note, the Commodore Building, located at 4312 2nd Ave., and the large warehouse located at 3913 2nd Ave., were not offered to Amazon.

— Posted by JVS on 9.11.19; updated on 9.11.19 (I changed the title for clarity)

8.4.19 – FOIL request filed with EDC for list of Amazon HQ2 pitches from Sunset Park and Red Hook

The following FOIL request was filed with EDC on 8.4.19:

I would like to know which properties were proposed to EDC for Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) within the following three zip codes: 11220, 11231, and 11232. As such, I am requesting a list of the addresses of properties located in those zip codes that were proposed to EDC in response to the agency’s RFEI for the HQ2 project. In order to make this as easy as possible to fulfill, I am simply requesting a list of the property addresses – no other information in relation to those properties is being requested at this time.

— Posted by JVS on 8.4.19

7.29.19 – “Amazon eyeing large distribution center in Queens”

As reported by Crain’s New York Business on 7.29.19:

Amazon may still have big plans for Queens. The company is considering a huge, ground-up distribution facility in Maspeth, several sources familiar with the firm’s real estate plans said. The deal, if it gets done, would be the latest in what appears to be an effort by the $1 trillion ecommerce giant to significantly increase the scope of its delivery and warehousing infrastructure in the city. 

The company is seeking to potentially lease a former industrial site at 55-15 Grand Ave. in Maspeth that can accommodate over 700,000 square feet of new warehouse space. If Amazon takes the site, a distribution facility customized for its use would be built on the property…

Last week, Crain’s revealed that Amazon is considering up to 1 million square feet of space at Industry City, a large complex along the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. A source said that there too the company was eyeing a ground up, custom-built space for its use…

A spokeswoman for Amazon said “we have nothing confirmed” in Queens. She also declined to say whether the company was moving forward with a potential deal at Industry City. 

Read the full story here. 

— Posted by JVS on 7.30.19, backdated to 7.29.19

5.6.19 – Commodore Building and 3913 2nd Ave. were not offered to Amazon for HQ2 project

The Commodore Building, located at 4312 2nd Ave., and the large warehouse located at 3913 2nd Ave. were not offered to Amazon in September, 2017 as potential locations for the company’s second headquarters, known as HQ2.

Last month, I submitted a FOIL to the NYCEDC asking if either property had been pitched to the agency in response to its RFEI for the HQ2 project. The (partially redacted) FOIL response was received today, 5.6.19, and is available here for direct download. It is also embedded below. The response notes that no records were found in reference to either property.

According to signs on the two properties, 600,000 square feet are available in the Commodore Building, and 150,000 square feet are available in 3913 2nd Ave.

— Posted by JVS on 5.6.19

5.6.19 – Whale Building and Sunset Yards offered Amazon 705,000 SF for HQ2 project

In September, 2017, Madison Realty Capital offered Amazon a cumulative total of 705,000 square feet for the company’s second headquarters project, known as HQ2, in Sunset Yards and the Whale Building. Specifically:

  • 194,000 square feet was offered in Sunset Yards, located at 341 39th St., and
  • 511,000 square feet was offered in the Whale Building, located at 14 53rd St.

The proposal was sent to the NYCEDC on Sep. 25, 2017, in response to the agency’s RFEI for the HQ2 project. Last month, I submitted a FOIL to the NYCEDC asking if either property had been proposed as a potential site for HQ2. The (partially redacted) FOIL response was received today, 5.6.19. EDC’s letter closing the FOIL request and noting the redactions is available here.

EDC’s 2017 pitch to Amazon did not include either property.

According to information provided as part of the pitch, Madison Realty Capitol offered unleased space in Sunset Yards, which was undergoing refurbishment at the time. However, it offered space in the Whale Building listed as “partially occupied.”

The proposal is embedded below, and is also available here for direct download.

— Posted by JVS on 5.6.19; updated on 10.30.22 to correct the spelling of Madison Reality Capital

3.26.19 – EDC releases full Amazon HQ2 pitch

Here is the full pitch New York City and New York State sent to Amazon regarding the company’s second headquarters, or HQ2:

How I obtained this:

  1. I obtained the proposal by filing a FOIL request with the NYCEDC.
  2. Last year, EDC rejected the same request, as well as an appeal of that rejection. A FOIL staffer stated at the time that releasing the document “could have the effect of undermining NYCEDC’s potential negotiations” with Amazon, “causing it to lose leverage…[and] thereby compromising its ability to negotiate the best possible deal to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to the City.”
  3. After Amazon cancelled its NYC HQ2 proposal, I requested the document again on 2.17.19, and it was provided on 3.26.19.
  4. In a letter dated 3.26.19, EDC Records Access Officer Kurt Wintje wrote that the agency had “redacted portions [of the released HQ2 proposal]…that were determined to be exempt from disclosure pursuant to one or more of the following FOIL Sections: 87(2)(b) information that constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, including without imitation, direct business telephone numbers and e-mail addresses; 87(2)(d) trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise.”

— Posted by JVS on 3.27.19, backdated to 3.26.19

2.14.19 – Amazon statement announces cancellation of planned NYC second headquarters

Amazon released the following statement on 2.14.19:

After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. 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. 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 are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.

We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.

We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.

Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.

— Posted by JVS on 2.15.19, backdated to 2.14.19

12.12/13.18 – Coverage of first NY City Council hearing on Amazon’s HQ2

As reported by Recode:

Members of a New York City council committee denounced terms of the recent Amazon HQ2 deal in the first of three public hearings being held about the plans.

“We are not in the business of corporate welfare here at the city council,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, referencing the up to $3 billion in government subsidiesthe company will receive. Johnson, one of the fiercest critics of the deal, spoke at the council’s Committee on Economic Development hearing on Wednesday at City Hall.

Amazon says the move will bring at least 25,000 jobs to the city over the next decade and $27.5 billion in state and city revenue in the next 25 years. Johnson contested these numbers at the hearing, saying they warrant an outside independent verification beyond the report the state commissioned.

Johnson and other council members were upset about being denied oversight of the plan — but that wasn’t on Amazon alone. Both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo worked together with Amazon to bypass the standard review processes that would have given the city council a chance to veto or even review the deal. The hearing was the first opportunity council members had to publicly and directly vent their frustrations to key people behind the negotiations.

While city council members have threatened to throw a wrench in the process, they’re limited in what they can do. A five-member state board is expected to vote on some aspects of the deal in the new year. Some council members are hoping they can influence new appointees to the board to vote against the plan, but it’s not clear how realistic that outcome is.

As reported by Business Insider:

The New York City Council held its first in a series of planned hearings about Amazon’s HQ2 deal on Wednesday morning.

During his opening remarks, the council’s speaker, Corey Johnson, called the hearing “atypical” in its nature given how little input the council had earlier in the process.

“There’s a reason why the City Council is so involved in land use,” Johnson said in his opening statement. “It’s intended to protect the people.”

The state of New York pursued the deal as a General Project Plan, a state process that circumvents a local approval process that would involve the city council. Use of that program does not need approval from the city council…

The council invited both the Economic Development Corporation and Amazon representatives to answer questions from members and the public. Holly Sullivan, the Amazon executive who led the search for HQ2, and Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, were in attendance and responding to questions.

“We are still in the very early stages of this process and intend to be an active participant in the issues facing the community and make community investments that benefit New York City residents,” Huseman said in opening remarks. “Most importantly, we are here to listen and learn. New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and we are grateful for the opportunity to be a contributing part of its fabric.”

As reported by the New York Times:

It was variously described as a rite of passage, a take-your-medicine moment and a very New York-style welcome: Two Amazon executives raised their right hands and then faced more than three hours of public grilling by the New York City Council.

But if the ritual of barbed questions and evasive answers was not unusual, the circumstances of Wednesday’s hearing were: Amazon does not need the Council’s approval to locate new offices in Long Island City, Queens. Still, the appearance marked the company’s first major foray into New York’s public spotlight since announcing the deal.

Council members took advantage of the executives sitting before them to vent their anger at the terms of the agreement, as well as at Amazon’s business practices, treatment of labor unions and work on behalf of federal immigration officials…

“We believe this project will be a positive economic impact for the city and the state,” said Brian Huseman, vice president of public policy for Amazon. Repeatedly, his remarks were met by guffaws from the audience of antagonists.

Lobbyists for Amazon, hired to navigate an increasingly hostile political landscape, sat in a row near the front, and could be seen occasionally huddling with a de Blasio official on the sideline…

“James, you disrespected this body with how you handled this process,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City, said to James Patchett, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, during a particularly aggressive exchange…

Mr. Patchett showed more frustration with the Council, sparring at several points with Mr. Van Bramer, who pressed him to discuss Mr. de Blasio’s involvement in the negotiations.

“I certainly spoke with him or met with him in person over 10 times,” Mr. Patchett said of his interactions with the mayor.

“So the mayor cannot meet with many of his own commissioners about everyday city business and how the city functions,” Mr. Van Bramer said, “but he can meet with you 10 times at least in the last year just on this Amazon deal?”

At about the same time, the mayor’s press secretary posted a 2017 letter on Twitter from Mr. Van Bramer that expressed support for the city’s bid to bring Amazon to Long Island City. (Mr. Van Bramer has said he regretted his early enthusiasm.)


As reported by Curbed NY:

The first of a promised series of City Council hearings on the deal to bring Amazon’s second North American headquarters to New York City was at times contentious, but did little to shed light on what, if anything, will change regarding the subsidies Amazon is getting for locating its offices in Long Island City. Representatives from the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Amazon were also criticized for the decision to cut the City Council out of the process, forgoing the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) in favor of the state-led General Project Plan (GPP)…

Johnson suggested the anger seen in Queens over Amazon’s arrival was because the company chose to “avoid the land use process.” Patchett and Huseman argued that even without ULURP, plenty of community input that would happen under the Community Advisory Committee, announced the day before the hearing. (As Johnson noted, this will have no legal authority.) An hour into the hearing, Huseman told the Council that it was the company’s view that the GPP was “the most efficient” route to taking care of the land use and design issues around the project…

Some of Patchett’s testimony took aim less at the Council itself and more at the people who’ve decried the deal at all. Bringing up the city’s economic downturns in the late 1980s, post-9/11, and at the peak of the Great Recession, Patchett said the addition of Amazon to the city’s economic portfolio would help the city weather the next financial storm whenever it happens, echoing a recent Times op-ed which argued for the city to rely less on Wall Street…

Amazon posited itself as just your friendly “customer-centric company,” not a trillion-dollar corporation whose warehouse workers routinely describe awful working conditions and are kicking off a union drive locally due to said working conditions. Pitching a government hellbent on deportation schemes some facial recognition software is just making sure the government “has the best technology available to them,” not amoral profit seeking.

Van Bramer did see some positives from the afternoon. “By putting this pressure on and shining a bright light on this, we’re having an effect on all of this,” he told Curbed. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on them to answer for what they’ve agreed to in the deal. I think that’s a good thing and I do believe that will produce some changes here.”

— Posted by JVS on 1.5.19, backdated to 12.12.18

12.11.18 – “Top city official gave Amazon a role in public records release”

As reported by Politico NY:

In its effort to woo Amazon to New York, a top city official promised to alert the e-commerce giant to public records requests, in case the company wanted to try to obstruct those requests in court.

In the event a reporter — or anyone else — sought documents related to the city’s bid to house the company’s new headquarters, the official agreed to “give Amazon prior written notice sufficient to allow Amazon to seek a protective order or other remedy,” according to the non-disclosure agreement signed by Economic Development Corporation executive vice president James Katz…

While it’s commonplace for economic development authorities in New York to promise early notice of public records requests to businesses they deal with, it’s unusual for them to so explicitly state their reason for doing so…

The normally adversarial administrations of de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo teamed up to submit an 81-page bid to host Amazon, in response to the company’s nationwide competition last year. All told, Amazon will get $3 billion in subsidies, most of them granted as-of-right…

The city and state also assured Amazon it could use eminent domain to acquire properties, as well as “override local zoning.” The company’s planned 4- to 8-million-square-foot headquarters, spanning several waterfront lots, will circumvent the typical and often lengthy city public land use process…

A spokesman for Amazon said the agreement was standard and only protects confidential information the company may have shared with cities while it was selecting its final locations.

Read the full story here.

The non-disclosure agreement linked to in this story can be viewed below and is available here.

— Posted by JVS on 1.5.19, backdated to 12.11.18