Nov. 13, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Local politicians, leaders and community groups will rally tomorrow morning against part of Amazon’s plans to locate its new headquarters to Long Island City.
The rally will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Gordan Triangle, located at 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard, and directly across from where Amazon is setting out to build a campus spanning millions of square feet in coming years.
Attendees include Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, State Senator Michael Gianaris, and a lineup of nonprofits including Make the Road New York and labor groups like ALIGN, who will speak out against the roughly $3 billion in government subsidies Amazon could be receiving as part of the plan.
The rally, while scheduled since last night, follows Amazon’s official announcement this morning of its plans to build new headquarters in the Queens neighborhood and in Arlington, Va.
The city and state, as part of the formal announcement, said the company will receive around $1.5 billion in state subsidies and potentially millions more in other city and state credits and incentives. The announcement also said that a plan will be put through by the state to rezone the area surrounding Anable Basin to facilitate the headquarters’ buildout.
But the billions in subsidies that could have led to more state revenue, coupled with the state-led plan to effectively rezone the Long Island City sites without binding City Council or local approvals, have led both Van Bramer and Gianaris to reject Amazon in the neighborhood.
“New Yorkers have real unmet needs from their government,” the two said in a joint statement. “Our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care.”
At the rally, the two will say no “to the richest company in the world robbing over $1 billion from state funding,” according to the event flyer.
“Too much is at stake to accept this without a fight,” Gianaris and Van Bramer said.
The statement follows scathing remarks made by the two in the days leading up to the formal announcement, with Van Bramer calling the roll out “an assault on community engagement and consultation on a project that would change the face of Queens.”
Both electeds noted, additionally, that they were not elected to serve as “Amazon drones.”
While the two Long Island City officials are now rebuking Amazon’s plans, both Gianaris and Van Bramer once expressed great enthusiasm for the project, even as the company said in its HQ2 search that economic incentives would be a critical decision driver, and despite past and current outcry from Long Island City residents over lacking infrastructure for such a project.
In response, Van Bramer noted: “It must be said that a billion dollar subsidy, and this rigged process were never contemplated by many of us when we gave early quotes on the bid.”
Gianaris, meanwhile, told the New York Times that he welcomes the 25,000 jobs Amazon will be creating if it means the company will invest in area infrastructure “without us having to pay a ransom for them to be here.”
Apart from the two politicians, a host of electeds have come out against the project or have shared concerns about its proceedings and resulting billions in state subsidies to Amazon, including City Speaker Corey Johnson, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Council Member Costa Constantinides and Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, meanwhile, released a statement today in strong support of the project in her district.
”Long Island City has been the beating heart of New York City since the modern city began at the turn of the last century,” she said. “With this announcement, our community is again poised to be the most successful mixed use neighborhood in New York.”
She added that people will be reverse commuting with Amazon’s presence in the area, and that many will elect to live in Long Island City–both measures that in part could offset infrastructure concerns.
Nolan’s stance, however, has raised eyebrows among constituents who recalled her opposition to large developments in Long Island City and criticism of the area’s strained infrastructure, even taking to denouncing the city’s prior plans to build where Amazon will be placing its headquarters, and going as far as to demand a “moratorium” on new buildings in the area recently.
Amazon’s plan includes building out a 4 million square foot campus around Anable Basin over 10 years that could expand to a total of 8 million square feet within 15 years. The company is also expected to build out public space, artists work studios, a school and manufacturing space as part of the deal with the city and state.
Amazon will be temporarily occupying 1 million square feet at One Court Square as the buildout at Anable Basin happens, a company spokesperson said to the LIC Post.