Jan. 15, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Amazon is raising the stakes in its campaign to get the public behind its Long Island City campus, with the company preparing to send out yet another mailer that puts the heat, this time, on State Sen. Mike Gianaris, an outspoken critic of the tech-giant’s plans.
The mailer, to be sent out in a few days time and focusing on the thousands of jobs at the company’s planned site, directs locals at the sign off to call Gianaris at his Astoria district office and “tell him to support to project.”
The mailer is the second Amazon will be sending out, and features an image of the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, with the company’s orange smile/arrow design wrapping over it. Adjoining text points to the 25,000 jobs Amazon will be “delivering” for Queens.
The other side of the mailer includes four columns that expand on the new jobs and how the company’s presence will boost Queens’ economy.
“We want to make sure New Yorkers know the details of our investment and how it benefits them,” an Amazon spokesperson said of the new mailer. “Our new headquarters will directly create 25,000 new jobs and tens of thousands of indirect jobs in construction, food service, human resources and retail.”
The company also said that its campus will generate more than $27 billion in new tax revenue for the state “that otherwise wouldn’t exist,” which can be used to improve transportation and schools, build affordable housing, and more.
It is unclear how many mailers will be sent out and to what areas, although the first mailer, released earlier this month and also appearing an as open letter online, was received by residents in Long Island City, Astoria and Sunnyside.
While the new mailer includes much of the same information from the prior, it is the first to directly name an elected official for residents to lobby. The first mailer called on locals to give their thoughts on the project to the City Council.
But Gianaris, who represents the neighborhood where Amazon’s is planning on building its 4 million square foot campus, brushed the upcoming mailer off and vowed to continue his fight against the Amazon deal.
“It’s ironic that Amazon wants billions of our taxpayer dollars and is spending so much to convince the people of western Queens that it is entitled to those dollars,” he said in a statement. “People will not be fooled by slick advertising.”
The state senator, who serves as deputy majority leader, has spoken out against Amazon’s plans since reports began trickling in in the days leading up to the company’s official November announcement. He was, however, among several elected officials to sign a letter of support for Amazon in the city’s bid to the company during the HQ2 search.
Gianaris has repeatedly bashed the billions in subsidies the e-commerce giant is set to receive as part of its deal with the state and the city, and denounced the negotiations process that excluded him and other elected officials.
He has also introduced legislation to ban non-disclosure agreements in economic development negotiations, like the type that made the Amazon deal possible, and another to ban insider real estate trading after reports emerged of Amazon employees buying properties in Long Island City before the official HQ2 announcement was made.
On social media, the state senator often retweets or posts anti-Amazon messages. After a Jan. 7 briefing held by the Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution Workers Union, where Gianaris and other officials were joined by Seattle council members who warned of Amazon, he tweeted that the “#scamazon deal is not a fait accompli.”
But Gianaris has been careful to voice his support for jobs and employment in the community, and does not necessarily appear to reject Amazon’s presence in Long Island City.
“If Amazon wants to come here, they should be talking about subsidizing Long Island City, not squeezing subsidies out of New York State and New York City,” he said during a rally after the November announcement.
At the same event, he later told the LIC Post: “If they want to come here, get rid of public subsidy, and then start a conversation about what they’re going to do to help the neighborhood handle the influx of people. That’s the starting point.”
The upcoming mailer nevertheless points to Gianaris’ role in shaping discourse over HQ2, which is moving through a state-run rezoning and will result in a General Project Plan for the site.
The plan, to come after a 14-month environmental and planning process, will require review in part by the State Public Authorities Control Board, which is made up of representatives including the legislative majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.
The PACB has been described as a possible avenue for detractors of the plan to gain leverage, with recent Democratic control over New York State government, and Gianaris’ role as deputy majority leader, guaranteeing that all eyes will be on the board once the plan reaches it.