ROI-NJ Exclusive: Newark, state officials reaching out to NYC, Amazon in hopes of still getting piece of HQ2

By Anjalee Khemlani
Newark | Nov 9, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Newark and state officials are not willing to give up on their bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, and are proactively getting that message out — by reaching out to both New York City and Amazon officials to indicate they would like to collaborate on the massive project, four sources told ROI-NJ.

In fact, the idea of getting involved in a New York success has been floating around New Jersey for the past few months, according to one source.

The sources all requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

Among the reasons they asked for anonymity is because the entire situation remains speculative: Neither New York City nor any other municipality has been awarded anything yet by Amazon, although reports earlier in the week said Long Island City, Queens, was in line to get at least half of the HQ2 project.

Those reports spurred Newark and state officials to act.

One source said a Newark official has reached out to New York City in an effort to talk about how the two areas could work together.

A second source said the state, using an intermediary, has gotten word to Amazon that Newark is willing to take on a part of the project.

“The hope is, maybe we can get them to acknowledge us and get us a piece of the pie,” the source said.

Speculating on whether New York would be interested in sharing the spoils of an apparent victory is difficult.

One source said Gov. Phil Murphy’s existing relationship with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio is a plus. Two former DeBlasio staffers work in Murphy’s administration: Murphy’s communications director, Mahen Gunaratna, and the director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Paul Rodriguez.

Regardless of whether Newark gets a part of any potential New York City project, one source said northern New Jersey will benefit from a New York win simply because of its geography — and the difficulty a New York City location would have in handling an influx of 25,000 employees.

“If New York were to win all or some of the Amazon bid, there are regional benefits to Amazon going to New York, and New Jersey is part of those regional benefits,” the source said.

Another source said it’s an example of how the state can thrive in between the New York City and Philadelphia markets.

“We can be between two big markets and be big ourselves; it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive,” the source said.

Especially since it’s apparent people are already moving out of the city and into New Jersey at higher rates than in the past. It makes New Jersey the “release valve” for companies and individuals seeking relief from the effects of density, gentrification and the booming tech culture, the source said.

“That’s a big point here,” the source said. “If you’re going to talk about the spillover effect, it’s a spillover into an equally big glass. The real estate prices are cheaper (in New Jersey).

“When you look at the tech ecosystem in New York and you look at the way our ecosystem is beginning to thrive, equally, it makes total sense to have any spillover and contiguous jobs fall into New Jersey versus anywhere else in the tri-state area. Our trajectory is paired with theirs, it’s not second fiddle to theirs.”

In any case, the results are not yet in, sources said.

“Leaks are unfortunate,” one said. “A lot of these cities signed NDAs. That seems to be a theme among the reports. Newark people weren’t really out there blabbing.”

As Aisha Glover, who spearheaded Newark’s Amazon bid, told the New York Times, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

It is that spirit that makes some state officials still want to go it alone, according to one source.

“Some folks feel like we should just go full-fledged as New Jersey,” the source said.

Anjalee Khemlani | akhemlani@roi-nj.com | AnjKhem