The Amazon HQ2 effect? Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs faces resistance to smart city project in Toronto
It’s only been a few weeks since Amazon canceled plans to build a New York headquarters amid growing opposition to the deal — and it looks like the project’s opponents have emboldened activists in other cities.
For more than a year, Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs has been planning to build a mini smart city on Toronto’s waterfront, incorporating sensors to capture huge amounts of data. This week, opponents of the project launched a formal plan to resist it called Block Sidewalk.
People concerned with the innovation district, dubbed “Quayside” can add their names to a petition that seeks to stop the current iteration of the project and come up with a new plan.
“We have had enough, we need to block Sidewalk,” Alejandra Ruiz-Vargas, an activist involved in the Block Sidewalk campaign, said in a statement. “The process has not been transparent, the people have not had a real say in the corporate-run consultation process.”
Block Sidewalk was formed after reports revealed Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, is eyeing a bigger chunk of land than originally thought. The group also says it is concerned that, “Sidewalk Labs may seek to take a cut of property taxes and development fees in exchange for financing a range of infrastructure.”
Tax incentives were a key sticking point in the fight against Amazon’s New York campus as the public becomes more wary of economic development deals.
A Sidewalk spokesperson seemed unconcerned with the blowback, saying “robust public debate and discussion will only make these ideas better,” in a statement.
“We are excited about the proposal that is coming together – accelerating transit along the waterfront, more affordable housing and new jobs in the manufacturing industry,” she added. “This is the result of extensive planning work and discussions with more than 18,000 Torontonians over the last year.”
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