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Prime subsidies

Local outrage over the Amazon deal in New York, and scientific delight over termite pyramids in Brazil

Prime subsidies

Sidewalk graffiti expressing opposition to the location of an Amazon headquarters in New York (Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A New York moment:

All the buzz in New York at the moment concerns the new Amazon headquarters coming here with a promise of about 25,000 jobs. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, typically archenemies, showed a united front supporting the deal. But they seemed surprised by the level of anger from the community about it—people who feel the transit system is already overloaded, who don’t like how much money taxpayers will shell out for the deal, or who just don’t like Amazon. 

I listened to several local call-in radio shows, like The Brian Lehrer Show, and almost every caller had something negative to say about the deal. Their concerns included rising real estate prices and environmental worries about development on the waterfront. Welcome to New York, Jeff Bezos!

De Blasio appeared on Brian Lehrer to answer calls, and it was interesting to hear the self-described progressive defend bringing a large corporation to the city. (He has said he would never allow a big-box store like Walmart into New York.) He also found himself arguing on the show that more good jobs bring people out of poverty long-term. 

New York has promised about $1.7 billion in incentives, but most of that number involves incentives available to anyone bringing jobs to the state. New York government as a matter of practice offers a lot of corporate subsidies. The newish Yankee Stadium? It got $1.2 billion in public funding. 

New York Daily News editorial board member Alyssa Katz pointed out that Hudson Yards, a $25 billion development project on Manhattan’s West Side, is “getting far more in N.Y. government aid than Amazon.” Related Cos., the real estate developer overseeing the project, has received about $4.6 billion in public incentives. She added that “no one’s complaining except construction unions that aren’t getting 100 percent of the work.” 

Worth your time:  

Termites built 200 million mounds in hexagonal patterns over thousands of square miles in the forests of Brazil, according to a recent discovery. The earth they moved is the equivalent of 4,000 Great Pyramids of Giza.

Also: The Los Angeles Times had a team of reporters find people who experienced the Camp Fire firsthand as it exploded into an inferno, and the resulting piece is an amazing narrative that feels like a nightmare. Shoes melted into pavement as people tried to run away, authorities issued chaotic orders, tires popped from the heat. It’s devastating to think of anyone from that area with a missing loved one. 

This week I learned:

Better news from Northern California: The leukemia-stricken Batkid who took over the city of San Francisco five years ago is cancer-free.

Culture I am consuming: 

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a film about the true story of 1990s literary forger Lee Israel. (Laura Finch reviewed it for WORLD.) The pacing was a little off, but I really enjoyed the combo of Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant as the leads. My sister-in-law Kate Belz pointed out that it’s sort of an anti-Nora Ephron film, showing the seedy underbelly of New York in 1991. And indeed, Ephron is the butt of a couple of writer jokes in the film.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org