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Local Officials Slam Amazon Deal, But Remain Split on Company’s Presence in Long Island City

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (left) and State Senator Michael Gianaris. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Nov. 14, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

A slew of politicians and advocacy groups took to Long Island City today to say ‘no to Amazon’ in a rally that ultimately revealed divisions among local electeds about the e-commerce giant’s presence in the neighborhood.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris, the two electeds who represent the district where Amazon intends to build its massive campus, once again came out strong in today’s protest against the “bad deal” the company struck with the city and state, but were split on whether Amazon should be in Long Island City—period.

The pair had once shown enthusiasm for the project in a letter sent to Amazon last year, shortly after the company announced its search for a second headquarters location. They are now the most prominent and central voices against the Amazon deal, releasing scathing joint statements about the plan in the days leading up to the company’s official announcement on Tuesday.

The two have since bashed the billions in tax-payer subsidies Amazon is set to receive as part of the deal, in light of critical infrastructure and other pressing needs that could use the funding, and ripped into Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for effectively shutting them and other officials out of the process.

“Somehow, folks who consider themselves progressive Democrats have seen fit to throw $3 billion at the richest man in the world,” Van Bramer said at the rally, noting that on this cold day, he was “steaming mad.” He added, “We should all be outraged at what has happened here.”

Ernie Brooks, a Long Island City resident and member of the LIC Coalition, holding a sign at the “No to Amazon in LIC” rally. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

He noted that the nearby Queensbridge Houses, which are due billions in repairs from city government along with other NYCHA developments, had no heat or hot water this morning, adding insult to injury in a deal that also brings with it a helipad for Amazon.

Gianaris, meanwhile, said the deal is bad news all around, and effectively called for a boycott of Amazon. He noted that he has since deleted the Amazon app from his phone, and vowed to no longer purchase from the company.

“We are here to say to Amazon—take that welcome mat that was rolled out for you yesterday, put it back in the package it came in, and send it back to Seattle where it belongs,” he said.

Both, however, have revealed different bottom lines when it comes to Amazon being in the area.

State Senator Michael Gianaris (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

When asked by reporters if the rally was either meant to denounce the hush-hush deal and subsidies, or the general presence of the company in Long Island City, Gianaris said, “it’s about a lot of things.”

He did not, however, necessarily signal a full rejection of the company in the area.

“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.

When asked by the LIC Post to clarify his stance on the company, Gianaris said he is for jobs and employment in the community, but not if it means paying to get them.

“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,” he said. “That’s the starting point.”

Van Bramer, on the other hand, is completely opposed to the Seattle-based company setting up shop in his district. Questions about being open to working out a new deal with Amazon were met with a simple, unequivocal, “no.”

He later affirmed to the LIC Post that there was nothing the company could do to receive his blessing. “End of story,” he said.

Beyond the two Long Island City legislators, thoughts on the company in Queens were also without consensus among the coalition of electeds and nonprofits at the ‘No to Amazon’ rally.

Some clearly opposed Amazon in New York City in general, while others appeared willing to entertain the idea if some conditions were met.

Council Member Costa Constantinides, who represents the neighboring Astoria, said many parts of Amazon’s deal are still under wraps, and compared the process to the popular children’s tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“We got a bunch of magic beans, but we don’t know what it is,” he said.

Constantinides noted, however, that Amazon should take back the deal and start again.

Naureen Akhter, director of organizing for Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said her office unequivocally opposes the development.

“Our infrastructure cant handle it, our real estate market can’t handle it,” she said. “We’re here to stand in solidarity with every community group and elected official who had the backbone to say no to Amazon in Queens.”

All, however, denounced the city, state and Amazon in their actions to bring the company to the area.

“Let’s throw the deal in the garbage,” Gianaris said. “We all agree on that.”

Van Bramer said he and the City Council are set to meet on the matter and discuss next steps, which could include drafting legislation, legal suits, and other measures to make Amazon feel the fight it is up against.

Amazon, in its memorandum of agreement with the city and state, is set to build a campus potentially spanning up to 8 million square feet around Anable Basin, just a few short blocks from where today’s rally was held, and bring around 25,000 jobs over the course of 10 years.

Amazon headquarter location in Long Island City

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.

While the new headquarters were met with opposition before Amazon made its official announcement yesterday, some electeds and local leaders are enthusiastic about the plan.

Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who were part of negotiations with Amazon, said the deal is historic for New York and is sure to deliver on promises to drive economic growth.

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, who has consistently expressed opposition to large-scale developments in the district and even recently demanded a moratorium on new buildings in the area, said Long Island City is once again poised to be the most successful mixed use neighborhood in New York with the Amazon deal.

Other supporters include Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the LIC Partnership and LaGuardia Community College. Pursuit, the Long Island City-based nonprofit that trains low-income New Yorkers for tech jobs, is also enthusiastic about Amazon’s plans, along with local real estate companies like Rockrose and Modern Spaces.

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.

The Anable Basin area, where Amazon intends to build its headquarters. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

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50 Comments

Henry

I am very, very tired of JVB and AOC and the like, throwing public temper tantrums and getting folks who only read the headlines, behind them as they have verbal fits in the public square. If these politicians really want to be community leaders, why are they not creating a plan where Amazon will fit into the neighborhood with all of the needed infrastructure? The Amazon arrival is a done deal. Make it the best situation for the community. Come up with a reality based long term plan for western Queens that includes jobs and good affordable housing. JVB does not seem to mind that there has been high rise apartment building after building built in LIC in the last six years with no affordable housing included. Why has this happened? In part because politicians like JVB and his ilk have no insight or plan for what the community truly needs to move forward for current and new residents.

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Amazon ftw

I would say he is showing opposition only because he was left out of the process and meeting. It’s more of an ego thing than anything.

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Gardens Watcher

Well put Henry. Amazon ftw, I think it’s way more than an “ego thing” though. Never seen him go on the attack publicly against Nolan.

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Tough Questions and Details

Where are the details about us taxpayers ‘handing over’ public lands to Amazon? Its sickening. Cuomo and DeBlasio should have to explain how they have the power to just give our land to a corporation and bypass all regulations. Why has no-one brought this up? This should not be included in this in any way, shape or form. Let them strike a deal with Plaxall, Citibank et al and leave ‘our’ land out of it.

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Welcome, Amazon!

I’m thrilled that Amazon will build its world class headquarters only a few blocks from my condo! Thank you Cuomo and de Blasio! 30,000 new, high paying jobs for New Yorkers. How in the world can anyone oppose this?! If NYC passes on Amazon, another US city will snap it in a split second. Pittsburgh will offer Amazon the Ohio River, and the Sasquahena, too. Houston will offer the Astros and half of all its oil revenue; Denver, the Rockies; Honolulu, Waikiki Beach!

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Henry

They are for New Yorkers who meet the criteria for the job and interview well. I am sure some of the new hires will come from outside of the city. That said, one thing that the local politicians can do is to get Amazon to commit to giving locals a first refusal for a given job slot. The politicians won’t do that because they lack insight to how to make this work for New Yorkers.

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MRLIC

Where will you put these people BRAINIAC. RENTS WILL GO UP! WAKE UP from your slumber unless you don’t care. You might be a 1% er.

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Gary

LIC has a TON of vacancies plus there are currently 12,000 more apartments being developed that will hit the market by 2020. Amazon will hire 25,000 workers over 10 years time and not all at once. Hey MRLIC who cares about facts? Keep spreading your BS……

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A Woodsider

My property taxes are constantly going up! My income does not! My property taxes above $10,000 is no longer tax deductible. Cuomo and crew, want salary increases. AMAZON demands and GETS tax breaks! SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE!!

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A Local

Amazon does not have a record of enhancing neighborhoods where it does business, but rather of using established ones to attract employees who displace the previous residents.
Subsidizing Amazon favors shareholders, not taxpayers who it is unlikely will be made whole for that loss.

Where will the children of the 25k go to school? Will Amazon build a ‘zoned’ school in the company town? What medical care will employees require? Is Amazon providing that? Is it building anything for the community or to integrate their employees into the community?

The glass canyon constructed in the last few years was accomplished by builders who conferred no benefits on the area, which has none of the services and conveniences and institutions of a neighborhood. How would Amazoncompanytown be different?

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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

So Jimmy Van Bramer affirmed to the LIC Post that there was nothing “AMAZON” could do to receive his blessing. End of Story. Oh Really Jimmy? Not until you get something out of it. Mark my words, you will see him flip flop as soon as the money is exchanged and his slimy hands receive the Jeff Bezos campaign contribution for his run of Queens Borough President….

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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

I simply don’t understand Jimmy Van Bramer’s opposition to progress? Get a real Job Jimmy. I hope that he sells his Sunnyside home and make that move to Key West and run that Key Lime shop he always dreamt of – get outta here JVB!!! Your washed up, the jig is up!

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Maria

It’s called job security! Van Bramer, Gianaris and the rest of the USELESS politicians need to keep the people dependent on them. Progress will leave them unemployed.

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Mad hipster

I am a democrat, but I want new democrats to be in power in NY. More Ocasio-Cortez, less JVB and Cuomo. Let’s move on. Bezos is no less than a slave master, he has respect for nobody, clients, emplyees or citizens. He made billions, he wants more, nothing else matters, we will pay for that.

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Bill de Blowsio

The people who are disliking your comment are uninformed that Bernie had to fight for Amazon workers with the STOP Bezos Act.

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MRLIC

I agree with you about Bezos, Cuomo etc. Maybe a Republican Governor would be a nice change. Ocasio-Cortezz is a SOCIALIST-COMMUNIST. NO THANKS. NO progressives, NO Working Families Party idiots that want Illegals to Drive and Vote.

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Alma de Cubano

I will bet serious money that Jeff Bezos and the Amazon PAC will be making large “donations” to the campaign war-chests of our Governor Corrupt Cuomo, and his alleged enemy, Bill DeBlasi-liar-o. Of course, in NYS and the US, this is how capitalism works.

And you suckers get to buy books at a discount, so your local bookstore is bankrupted.

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Joe

I’ll take the problems with modern, high paying jobs any day over being left behind. 25,000 JOBS IS GOOD NEWS FOR NYC

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Ben

Here is the data for Amazon pay:
https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Amazon.com_Inc/Salary

Keep in mind, the LIC location is not a warehouse location the average pay in that location should be way higher than Amazon national average.

Wall St Journal also has been compiling the jobs Amazon has been secretly trying to fill in for the LIC location, mostly is the AI, cloud, various computer engineering types of jobs. Google that and you will find the article. Those are high paying jobs, I believe.

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Nick

20 years ago LIC was full of stripjoints, topless hookers and junkies but the local politicians NEVER held a rally or complained. Today Amazon wants to bring 25,000 jobs to LIC and politicians are “concerned” and “angry” . Gotta love these USELESS politicians!

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Jerry

Nick the politicians want to keep people dependent on them. Progress will leave them unemployed.

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MRLIC

You don’t know what you are talking about. LIC was not the way you describe it 20 years ago. It was better then than now by miles.

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Nick

Anybody that’s been to LIC before 2000 knows I’m telling the truth. LIC used to be the armpit of northwest Queens.

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Anonymous

Truth. I was a young teen living in LIC 20 years ago. It was not as bad as you make it out to be. It was more of a community then and less pretentious.

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Henry

It is pretty much the way I remember LIC. Prostitutes prevailed on Queens Blvd at Queens Plaza. I guess you went to bed at 8 o’clock if you were not aware of this.

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MRLIC

Anyone who can’t see this is a BAD DEAL for LIC/NYC you need NEW GLASSES. Not enough Transit/Corporate Welfare/ Money should be used for New Yorkers who are struggling without HEAT or PACKED into TRAINS or waiting on cold windy PLATFORMS. Homeless New Yorkers etc.. etc…To build the richest man in the world a helipad is ridiculous. Amazon is not promising to hire from the community. Rents will go up and small businesses will suffer. Rents are already too high! It figures Governor (Corruption ) Cuomo and Mayor DumBlasio are all for this. Neither takes Public Transportation, Jeff Bezos either. Keep voting the same LOSERS into office and Nothing will change as you see DUMB NEW YORKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!Just DUMB. Everyone wants things to get better, not if you DON’T vote for CHANGE. You the citizen had the POWER to throw thee LOSERS out of Gov.and Mayor and FAILED to do so. SHAME!All Cuomo ran on was Anti-Trump and DeBlasio too. Each had NO PLATFORM just hatred for TRUMP. It got them re-elected and you were FOOLED !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Gary

Enough of your idiotic comments and fearmongering. 25,000 high wage JOBS is a GOOD thing. Some locals will be hired and other locals will benefit from the construction jobs and additional service jobs. The majority of that “Corporate Welfare” you claim is actually made up of Performance-Baced tax incentives which means Amazon has to first occupy space, hire and later get tax credits. In fact, Amazon will pay a lot of taxes (income/property/sales) that could help our community with infrastructure but unfortunately our incompetent politicians still won’t fix anything and idiots like you will still blame the job creators.

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MRLIC

You have the IDIOTIC comments. Amazon is not required to hire anyone from the area, the taxpayers will pay for the Helipad in 15 year installments Cuomo said. I believe the price tag on the Helipad is $505 million. Amazon may not pay much ta at all and definitely won’t pay for new transit improvement as a new line etc… You must work from home but many will be packed into trains and buses while you belch how GOOD a deal this is. Rents will go up and gentrify more areas and small businesses will go under even more than now. LIC is void of shopping. It is a night time GHOST TOWN.

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Man of Sunnyside

Amazon partnered with CUNY to train new CUNY graduates and give them the tools to compete for those jobs. Nice try

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Bill de Blowsio

You already know the drill. Hypocrisy at it’s finest. What is going to happen to the people who live in low income housing (Queensbridge)? Yet, we’re so concerned about illegal immigrants and open borders but we’re willing to price out these people? I love when people support a cause only when it fits their narrative.

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Name

“Amazon is not promising to hire from the community.”
– Why should they? They should hire who’s best! This project won’t be fully complete for ten years. You want one of those high paying jobs? You have TEN years to level-up your skills! Don’t have any money for school? Use the library computer – it costs $0 to learn how to code!

“Rents will go up and small businesses will suffer.”
– Great news to anyone who’s smart enough to own property–sorry you didn’t the message people have been saying for centuries! And small business can only prosper when 25,000 people start working in the area.

@MRLIC: if you’re so smart, run for office!

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MRLIC

If I ran for office I would lose in a DUMB-O-CRATIC city and state. Most DUMB-O-CRATS want Illegals voting,driving and getting benefits on the taxpayers dime. I don’t. Most DUMB-O-CRATS want OPEN BORDERS, I don’t. If I could stop the corruption NYC/LIC NY state would have a chance. People keep voting the same people in office and expect things to change. All these Pols are in with the Developers. In fact DumBlasio said he was the anti King BLOOMBERG. He is just like him gentrifying neighborhoods and rezoning everything for LUXURY Development. All this has to stop. DumBlasio’s affordable housing is not “AFFORDABLE” and the public knows it. Yet he gets in to continue it. Gov. (Corruption ) Cuomo got a new Tappan ee Bridge named for his father but it is not paid for. Now that the election is over he will announce a way to pay for it. I believe I read he will double the tolls. MTA is rolling out a possible $3 a ride fare in 2019 for their terrible service. MTA makes $6.2 billion in fares per year and it’ not enough, they say the are BROKE. Where is the money going? I have given up on NYC/LIC NY state. When my wife retires , we are gone.

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Brainwash

I agree with you 100%. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if there’s a Republican or Democrat in office. It’s the same shit. The only color they see is GREEN. The day we get rid of a 2 party system, is the day CHANGE will be made and CORRUPTION will be gone.

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Henry

Sorry, this is a total BS assessment of what happens with the Democratic party. You didn’t run for office because you likely do not have the credentials to run. If you think that you are a viable candidate then maybe you should become involved with the community rather than whining about the political situation.

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JAMES EDSTROM

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. This sounds like the exact deal Plaxell wanted, isn’t it? No matter what, Plaxell got their way, they cut a deal with Amazon it seems….

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Death Bezos

“Pursuit, the Long Island City-based nonprofit that trains low-income New Yorkers for tech jobs” None of these low-income New Yorkers will get a job at Amazon

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John O'Reilly

What explains Councilmember Van Bramer’s change from enthusiastic supporter of Amazon’s locating in New York a year ago to being dead against Amazon now? Is it the same blatant political calculation to get elected to another office behind Mr. Van Bramer’s abrupt shift from being an enthusiastic, photo op every other day, supporter of Joe Crowley to being Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s BFF?

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