The rush to pick zones played out in some form in every state. The program, part of President Donald Trump’s December 2017 tax law, didn’t register for many until two months later, when the Internal Revenue Service issued its rules. States had to make their picks, which could shape how and where developers invested for a decade, no later than April 2018.

Investors who develop real estate or fund businesses in the 8,700 census tracts that were eventually chosen for the program are able to defer capital-gains taxes on profits earned elsewhere and completely eliminate them on new investments.

As in other states, most of New York’s 514 tracts are impoverished, with more than 20 percent of the population living below the poverty line. But a few outliers, such as the Long Island City tract, stand out. The poverty rate there is less than 10 percent and the median household income is about $137,000, higher than any other opportunity zone in the state, according to the most recent census data. Another zone the city pitched to Amazon, which includes the Brooklyn Navy Yard, also has one of the highest household incomes among the selected tracts.

Because the tax benefits are tied to capital gains incurred when assets rise in value, critics worry that these gentrifying neighborhoods will receive the lion’s share of new investment and that the tax perks will go to projects that would have been developed anyway. Because states could only pick a fixed number of tracts, selecting a gentrifying zone meant a poorer area would be left out.

Amazon’s headquarters competition was occurring in tandem with the selection process. By January 2018, the company had narrowed its options to 20 municipalities. Some were assembling subsidy packages more than twice the size of New York’s. The city wanted to stay competitive, but its hands were tied by a promise made by Mayor Bill de Blasio not to craft tailor-made subsidies.

The state had no such compunctions. Months later, describing New York’s “very strong” incentives, Cuomo joked about changing his name to “Amazon Cuomo” to win the bid.

The task of sorting through more than 2,000 low-income census tracts in such a short time fell largely to Pravina Raghavan, an executive vice president at the state agency who had built a reputation for savvy targeting of investments.

The time crunch meant local input was welcome. After the IRS regulations were issued, a call was arranged with city officials, including Katz, who nominated about 300 zones, according to the people familiar with the process. New York had pitched four sites to Amazon in October 2017. Two were developed areas in Manhattan. The others—in Queens and Brooklyn—were gentrifying neighborhoods that Katz would recommend for the tax breaks.

The state agency sent its selections to the New York Regional Economic Development Council, a group of local business and government leaders, for review. The suggestions didn’t raise eyebrows because both tracts had long been targets for public investment, which had helped spur their growth. Council members who spoke with Bloomberg said they had scant insight into the Amazon negotiations.

“I don’t recall that conversation even coming up,” said Kathy Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City and a council member. “It would have been on our lists already, just because the area was primed for investment and redevelopment. At that point, I don’t think we really thought we were getting Amazon. Only the most optimistic really thought that.”