But as Amazon's decision (AMZN) nears, opposition to cities' huge packages of economic incentives is getting louder. Groups organizing to pressure local leaders say financial sweeteners are unnecessary due to Amazon's size and wealth, and they think the money would be better spent on services for the community.

"We're going to do everything we can to fight Amazon coming to New York, and [to stop] any benefits that our mayor and our governor might lavish on them," said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, an advocacy group that supports low-income communities in the region.

Amazon has long been a target of liberal advocates. They have protested its record on pay and work conditions at its warehouses and blame the company for the gentrification of its home city, Seattle. Senator Bernie Sanders has slammed the company's treatment of workers, though he ultimately supported Amazon when it said it would instate a $15-an-hour minimum wage for US employees last month.

Now the with the possible arrival of new Amazon headquarters in Long Island City and Arlingtonthe activist fight is spreading — and some local officials are on the activists' side.

"My understanding is the public subsidies that are being discussed are massive in scale," New York state senator Michael Gianaris, who represents the Long Island City area, told CNN Business. "Why we would need to give scarce public dollars to one of the richest companies on Earth is beyond me."


For state senator Gianaris, incentives aren't the only issue. He also wants to know what Amazon intends to do to ease stress on the area's schools and strained subway system. "This is a neighborhood that's already being overdeveloped," he said.

Activists say they have similar concerns about Amazon as they do about Walmart (WMT). Progressive groups have successfully kept Walmart out of New York City for decades, citing their treatment of low-wage workers and harm to smaller businesses.

"We believe Amazon is just the next iteration of what Walmart was," said Westin of New York Communities for Change.