After 65 Years, Union Insurers Will Leave the Big Apple

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Amalgamated Life Insurance, created in 1943 by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (now part of UNITE HERE) has opted to move to the suburbs north of New York City rather than renew its Manhattan office lease.

Amalgamated hasn’t fully explained why it’s leaving the city. It cited the $480,000 in tax breaks offered by officials in Westchester County and its expiring lease with New York University (a dominant landlord in the area), but it was offered a more generous subsidy from New York City officials hoping the insurance company would stay.

For those of us New York, the competition between municipalities raised some concern since intrastate bidding wars for a company is against state law. Except of course, unless a company is considering relocating out of state. Hence, the report that Amalgamated looked for office space in Newark, New Jersey.  While we may never know if Newark was a serious contender it wouldn’t be the first time a firm used the old tried and true tour of New Jersey to “kick the tires and then go back to New York to negotiate a deal.” Add the legal logistics of moving an insurance company out of state and the claim to move to Newark gets weaker.

Yet, the most troubling aspect of this deal is that officials in Westchester are bucking a positive national trend to increase public investment for jobs located near public transit.  The company’s Manhattan location is right near several subway and bus lines. While the city Amalgamated is moving to, White Plains, is on a commuter train line, the site chosen by Almagamted (the former headquarters of General Foods), is not within walking the train station.

Amalgamated’s plan to move might make the insurance company’s bottom line, but its effect on current employees and environment certainly isn’t neutral.

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