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Cuomo Makes Personal Push to Win Amazon Back; Local Leaders Pen Open Letter to Bezos

Part of Anable Basin today, where Amazon was planning on building its headquarters. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

March 1, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been attempting, in the weeks since Amazon dropped its plans for Long Island City, to make the company reconsider its decision and return to New York, according to a New York Times report that comes at the same time a lineup of local leaders released an open letter to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, with the same plea.

The report, published on Thursday and citing two people with knowledge of Cuomo’s efforts, said the governor has had many phone calls with Amazon executives, including Bezos, where he offered to help the company move through the government approvals process for the project.

The company, which said more than two weeks ago that it decided not to go forward with its plans for corporate offices at Anable Basin because of fierce opposition, mainly from elected officials, was essentially offered guaranteed support for the project by Cuomo, according to the New York Times source.

Amazon executives, however, reportedly gave no indication that the company would reconsider its reversal.

The news comes as a group of 80 elected officials, unions, civic leaders and business executives and owners signed on to an open letter urging Bezos to reconsider “so that we can move forward together.” Signees include Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney, chief executives at Silvercup Studios and Goldman Sachs, 32BJ SEIU, and leaders from the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Queensbridge Houses and LIC Partnership.

“New Yorkers do not want to give up on the 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues that Amazon was prepared to bring to our state,” the letter, which appeared as an full-page ad in Friday’s New York Times’ print edition, reads. “A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed.”

The letter makes mention of the staunch opposition the company faced after the deal it struck for the campus with the city and state, which included tax incentives totaling at a potential $3 billion, was announced in November.

“We know the public debate that followed the announcement of the Long Island City project was rough and not very welcoming,” they wrote. “Opinions are strong in New York—sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.”

The group also promises that Cuomo “will take personal responsibility” for the project’s state approval, and that Mayor Bill de Blasio will work along with him to manage the community development process.

The letter was paid for by the Partnership for New York City, a business group, which also released a petition version for the public to “join us in welcoming Amazon to New York.”

Cuomo confirmed his talks with Amazon over the past weeks during an interview on The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday. He noted, however, that the conversations were “private,” and would not confirm if he spoke to Bezos as the Times reported.

“It was about what I believe were the distortions and the oddities that occurred with the Amazon transaction,” he said about the calls, adding that the open letter, which states that “a clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by [the] decision not to proceed,” simply says, “here are the facts.”

The governor also said that Amazon, since announcing on Feb. 14 that it dropped Long Island City campus plans and that it would not pick back up with its HQ2 search, has not appeared to budge in its choice.

“I have no reason to believe that Amazon is reconsidering,” he said. Would I like them to? Certainly? But I have no reason to believe that.”

But his continuing efforts to win the company over, he said, also work to convey that New York is open for business, and that what the company experienced was out of the norm.

“We want all businesses nationwide to know that this was an oddity,” he said. “Don’t think that if you come to New York the same thing is going to happen that happened to Amazon. That was a small, vocal minority. That was local, petty politics that governed the day and we don’t operate that way.”

Cuomo went on to ask, “Who is Make the Road?”–among the more prominent grassroots group that organized against the Amazon deal–and said the politicians that railed against the project and likely drove the company away, like State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, would be “irrelevant” if Amazon decided to come back.

“At this point they are irrelevant,” he said. “There are other ways that the state can get it done, and I told Amazon that. The state approval process I will personally guarantee.”

Van Bramer responded to Cuomo’s comments in a tweet earlier today.

“As long as I am alive I am relevant. As long as I have a voice I will raise it,” he said.

His statements on the two Queens politicians comes as Gianaris, who was appointed by the senate to serve on a state body that could have unraveled the Amazon deal, had his nomination rescinded recently due to Cuomo’s seeming unwillingness to approve the pick.

Gianaris, since referred to as the “Amazon slayer,” would have held veto power over the deal if his appointment to the body were successful, a prospect that appeared to frighten the e-commerce giant and eventually lure them away from Queens.

Make the Road New York has since responded with its own “open letter” to Cuomo’s comments on WNYC. The nonprofit’s executive director also denounced the governor’s behind-the-scene efforts to bring Amazon back in a statement released last night after the Times story.

“Andrew Cuomo needs to stop groveling at the feet of corporations and billionaires and start listening to our communities, who overwhelmingly reject this deal,” said Deborah Axt.

The immigrant nonprofit was also among dozens of grassroots groups that signed an open letter, released yesterday, against Cuomo’s efforts, noting it “does not accurately reflect the desires of immigrant communities, working-class communities, and communities of color.”

“Amazon left the first time around because of fierce vocal opposition, and that opposition still remains,” they wrote. “We defeated them recently, and we will do it again.”

The company had planed on building corporate offices over a mix of city and privately owned lots west of Vernon Boulevard and between 44th Road and 46th Avenues. The lots are held by city agencies like the Departments of Education and Transportation, while the private sites are owned by Plaxall, the plastics manufacturer.

What will become of the waterfront sites, which already had significant developments in the pipeline prior to Amazon’s campus plans, is still unclear, even as efforts are mounting to get the company back.

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34 Comments

VVNY

Give me a break. They want $3 billion in subsidies so they can sell their products at near to below cost and will continue destroying other businesses. How is this a good deal for a community? If you give one company subsidies you have to give other companies the same otherwise this corrupts the whole system.

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To 80 ppl who signed open letter with Mr.Cuomo

…“Group of 80 elected officials, unions, civic leaders and business executives and owners signed on to an open letter urging Bezos to reconsider “so that we can move forward together.” Signees include Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney, chief executives at Silvercup Studios and Goldman Sachs, 32BJ SEIU, and leaders from the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Queensbridge Houses and LIC Partnership.”
>>>Would all 80 of you take your time and explain to all of us how you feel about this article bellow …
Amazon Will Pay a Whopping $0 in Federal Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits
http://fortune.com/2019/02/14/amazon-doesnt-pay-federal-taxes-2019/

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John O'Reilly

Come someone please contact the NYPD and ask for a wellness check on Melinda Katz? The Queens Borough President has been MIA on the Amazon issue, which obviously is the biggest issue facing Queens affecting multiple future generations. Ms. Katz lack of involvement on the Amazon issue speaks volumes about her capacity to deal with controversial issues routinely faced by the Queens DA.

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disappointed

Agreed – the three that you mentioned shows up to every neighborhood event, and every school fundraiser. For all their railing about infrastructure, Van Bramer and Gianaris can’t even be bothered to show up at the meeting this weekend on LIC schools..

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Or Else

Getting a look at their online supporters may have convinced Amazon overlords that this was not a group that they wanted to face when it turned on them after realizing what brutal employers they are.

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RobLIC

Except some of us property owners along the waterfront are very pleased with our neighborhood elected officials. I live six blocks away and would have greatly benefited with my property’s value skyrocketing to ridiculous heights – but I’d prefer a liveable neighborhood and city.
With Amazon here, the 7 train would have been even more hellish. Amazon should do like Google- keep creating thousands of jobs in NYC WITHOUT demanding billions in giveaways.

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Just rent

If amazon want to come/bring executives and hire outside talent here, then they should rent office space like google, Facebook, Spotify, etc. They already have 5k employees here and it’s likely that will grow to 15-20 over time regardless. The dealbreaker here was the campus. It’s just silly to think a low/no profit logistics company that will likely not be around in 20 years should be allowed to build a monument of failure for future generations to scoff at. Jimmy and Mike got this one right.

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silent majority

People easy solution just vote against JVB and Gianaris out of office. That is your duty. These clowns are useless. They are just upset they could not extort Amazon for their cut and pet projects. They felt disrespected. That’s what this is all about. Make your displeasure felt.

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Tamik

Too many people were ill-informed. AOC still thinks there is $3 billion left over since Amazon left.
Protesters went to Queensbridge housing and handed out flyers stating they will be evicted when Amazon goes up.
Local politicians such as Gianaris and Bramer flip flopped on Amazon because they feared the Cortez backlash.
NYCHA and School leaders were ignored. In fact, the majority of New Yorkers were ignored.
Such a great loss to our beautiful city.

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licposter

There are numerous signors from the neighborhood – – long-time fixtures like Giana from Manducatis and Josh Bowen, Eric Bienam etc who I would argue are more respected than the likes of JVB.. To say now that there’s no input from unions and the community is fake news.

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lic

can’t wait for JVB or Gianaris to gripe about how they weren’t consulted on the letter.

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LIC Resident

Im guessing AOC didn’t sign the petition? Let not forget her roll in this. Scaring the spineless Genaris and JVB into submission.

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Amazon stock prices plummeted in January

So the abrupt withdrawal may be a face-saving way to present diminished expectations to stockholders. Otherwise why not go with the runner up contestant in the rigged talent show?

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LIC Direct

And don’t forget Jimmy “Littleman” Van Bramer the serial killer and mass murderer of 25,000 direct and thousands of indirect jobs….

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Charmed?

“Opinions are strong in New York—sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm.” Cute, but bullies are rarely susceptible to charm.

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Enough of the BS

Wow the horror! Amazon voluntarily raised minimum wage! Give me a break.

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Do the Math

The minimum wage is for an 8 hour day only. Required overtime is not paid.

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Queens resident

You are so ill informed. We are still getting the warehouse jobs. Cuomo is fighting to get the well paid jobs. Get your facts straight.

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Marino

Hopeful, but I doubt it will work.
Mike Gianaris will always be remembered as the politician that killed 25,000 jobs.

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Luis

Let me get this straight!
Amazon wanted to bring:
– 25,000 permanent jobs
– 11,000 Union jobs for construction & maintenance
– $28 billion in tax revenue
– a brand new public school for LIC
– money, training and job partnerships with LaGuardia college
– job training facilities in Queensbridge NYCHA

Instead, a small minority led by Mike Gianaris and Jimmy Van Bramer chased them away so they can build more residential glass towers with the 25% “affordable housing” that no one can afford.

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FACTS

Gianaris and JVB can kiss their political careers goodbye. JVB will eventually become a librarian and Gianaris an ambulance chasing lawyer.

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Maybe Amazon needs a librarian?

Hahahahaha I can’t wait to watch unemployed jvb the librarian when the library still isn’t completed!

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anon

JVB White Castle is hiring. The tiny little burgers shouldn’t intimidate you. Can you say “ do you want fries with that”?

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VOTE GIANARIS OUT!

Gianaris the POS chased away 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues.

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Grateful in LIC

I am grateful to see this and only wish this occurred during or before the onslaught from JVB and Gianaris. Special call out to my labor leader for signing the letter. There is still hope.

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A Stakeholder

If , through meetings open to all, stakeholders can agree on projects and parameters, and specifications drawn up accordingly, then bids on long term rental of the public land can be assessed and selections made in a transparent and productive manner.

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Mrs. Garrett

Don’t incur the wrath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (makes sign of the cross). She will put you on her naughty list!

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