Farewell, New York - And Thanks For Nothing
The recriminations over who lost Amazon commence today and will continue for years to come. The implosion of the project, which would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, is on a scale without precedent in modern times, dwarfing Mike Bloomberg’s failed effort to build a west side stadium and Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay’s efforts to construct a new west side highway.

The Amazon debacle was a mosaic of failures, with each player in this tragic drama contributing in unique ways.

The online retailer, the governor, the mayor, the members of the Legislature and City Council – everyone who joined this fight - came out the worse for it. Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio are both battle-tested veterans of New York’s development wars. They know the union landscape, the sentiments of the communities (Cuomo is from Queens) and the fact that tax breaks are unpopular. Sure, they may have misjudged the potential reaction to the deal, or failed to prepare for the fight. But maybe Amazon simply felt that they knew better.

What of the other politicians who fell mindlessly into lockstep opposing Amazon despite widespread public support for the deal? Did all those Democratic electeds really want Amazon to go away, or did they just want to make headlines while fighting for a better deal? How are they feeling this morning?

But the primary villain in this murder mystery is Amazon itself, which spearheaded a rollout so inept and poorly thought-through that the project never recovered. The faceless company men and women who represented Amazon (Jeff Bezos was a maddening non-presence in all this) were shockingly ill-prepared to navigate the political and media terrain. Plunged head-first into this war without a plan, they nevertheless participated at a strange remove.

In the end, they pulled the plug on the project with virtually no notice given to the mayor or governor; Bezos wouldn’t even take their phone calls. Amazon had come to New York and been greeted with a Bronx cheer. Shocked by what they encountered, they took off without saying goodbye.
The City is Singing a Different Song
This was a gross failure of communications and messaging strategy - of failing to sell a vision; of failing to understand the playing field before the game began; of failing to predict not just an opponent’s next chess move, but the one after that as well.

Amazon’s arrogance blinded them. By the time the company pulled in powerhouse public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker, it was a battlefield promotion in a war that was going very, very badly.

Knickerbocker tried. The second of two City Council hearings at which the execs appeared went far better than the first . The company organized a pro-Amazon rally on the City Hall steps.

But oh, the first – three hours spent testifying before grandstanding City Council members while being berated from above with anti-Amazon chants. The audience laughed mockingly practically every time Brian Huseman, the company’s vice president of public policy, opened his mouth.

This is not the same city that routinely used to go to extraordinary efforts to attract businesses. Now folks are weary of development and an influx of high-paying jobs that could drive up rents even higher. Ocasio-Cortez saw that, but the mayor and the governor didn’t. And Amazon? Maybe executives thought they’d be showered with praise. Had they ever visited New York?

So now the rest of the United States can scratch its head and marvel at the crazy doings in New York City: you lobby to bring a company to your city, along with all its jobs, and then you treat it terribly. Then that company kills the idea of a second headquarters altogether, depriving other cities of those jobs.

Now there’s a messaging challenge.

Trial by Feuer
 Nothing beats a good trial – the sleazy characters, the bombshell revelations, the legal tactics. Covering a trial may be a journalistic art form as old as evening editions, but when it’s done right it still has the power to rope in readers like little else.

When the reporter covering the trial is Alan Feuer at The New York Times , and the man on trial is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as the drug cartel crime lord El Chapo, reading the stories can be akin to watching a classical pianist hitting every note on the Steinway grand with confidence and poise. While we’re relieved that El Chapo was found guilty, we’re kind of sorry the daily dispatches will cease.
With no television cameras allowed, a Federal trial is one of the last corners of the news universe that demands good descriptive writing. Feur described love in the drug world this way:

“If you have ever wondered how someone becomes the mistress of a drug lord, consider the cautionary tale of Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López. It does not have a happy ending.”
And like any true New Yorker, he grouses about traffic:

“Every few months or so… something awful happens: The police must close the entire Brooklyn Bridge, stranding hundreds of motorists as the world’s biggest drug lord is swept across the East River in a speeding motorcade of heavily armored cars.”

We’re eager for Feuer’s next star turn.
Here and There
Comings and Goings in Media and Communications

Jessica Estepa joins CNN Politics after leaving USA Today Adya Beasley  leaves the Wall Street Journal to become VP digital media at Seaberry Design & Communications… David Hatcher becomes an executive producer at BuzzFeedNews, having left WNBC… Rich Oppel becomes Editor-in-Chief Emeritus at Texas Monthly Ben Dooley , of Agence France-Presse, joins The New York Times as a business correspondent based in Japan.
“They wanted the political gain, they should have done it in a different way. They get put into office for us, not to work for themselves.” - Gianna Cerbone, owner of Manducatis Rustica, a restaurant in Long Island City, on the Amazon critics.

Have a career announcement for Here and There? A Quotable quote?
Kirtzman Strategies is a strategic communications and public affairs firm that works with public officials, nonprofits, companies, tech startups and education organizations.
Kirtzman Strategies | info@kirtzmanstrategies.com | kirtzmanstrategies.com