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Nolan’s Support of Amazon Deal Surprises Civic Leaders, Irks Local Electeds

Assemblymember Nolan at the Governor’s Amazon announcement Tuesday

Nov. 15, 2018 By Christian Murray

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, perhaps most known in recent years for her staunch opposition to large-scale developments within her district, raised eyebrows earlier this week when she came out in support of Amazon’s plan to build a campus spanning millions of square feet in Long Island City.

The longtime assemblymember sat alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio during the official deal announcement on Tuesday to tout the benefits of Amazon’s plans 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.”

But Nolan’s enthusiasm for the deal, local leaders and politicians say, stands in stark contrast to her history of ripping into sprawling developments one after another, particularly in Long Island City, which she has represented since the 1980s.

She has been quick to point out, for instance, how the neighborhood’s infrastructure is stretched due to over-development, citing the lacks of school seats, transportation issues and the dearth of green space in the area. News after news of tall buildings have even led her to demand a a “moratorium” on new building construction just this past summer.

She has even denounced the city’s prior plans to develop a 1.75 million square foot project on 44th Drive, the same site where Amazon will be placing part of its headquarters.

Many thought she would have slammed the Amazon deal, too, which is set to bring offices spanning up to 8 million square feet and even catering up to 40,000 employees around Anable Basin.

Amazon headquarter location in Long Island City

“We were surprised by Cathy Nolan’s statement, especially given her call for a building moratorium and how she has always expressed the need for infrastructure,” said Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association.

Ernie Brooks, a member of the LIC Coalition, which has led the fight against overdevelopment in the area, said his group was disappointed by her announcement. “We thought she would have been more aligned with our position,” he said.

Nolan told coalition members on Wednesday, according to Brooks, that the deal was a fait accompli—sure to go through no matter her stance.

She told the group that it was better for her to be in support the plan, as it would put her in a better position to guide it.

The assemblymember also seems to be focused on the employment opportunities the project will bring, citing the benefits of the high-paying jobs tied to Amazon’s project during the meeting with coalition members, Brooks said.

The Skyline Tower, which prompted Nolan to demand a moratorium on new buildings in Long Island City. (Hill West)

Her push for Amazon, while mostly a commercial project, still stands in sharp contrast to the bulk of scathing statements she has made against residential and other mixed-use developments in Long Island City.

Her July letter to de Blasio calling for a freeze on any and all new development in Long Island City, regardless of type, for instance, made her the only elected official in the district to call for such a measure.

“I ask for a moratorium on any new building permits for new construction in Long Island City until the city can present a plan for properly increasing the infrastructure,” she wrote in a letter to de Blasio.

The letter was prompted by news reports pertaining to the 67-story, 802-unit condo project in the works at 23-14 44th Drive.

Nolan’s letters to the administration do not stop there. In 2015, when the MTA sold air rights to the Queens Plaza Park Development company–paving the way for a 70-story building next to the clock tower–she panned the deal and called on City Planning to “solve these issues of density and scale” in the neighborhood.

“I am concerned that as the Long Island City community continues to grow, the demand for basic transportation needs, health facilities and classroom seats are not keeping up with demand,” she wrote at the time.

In 2017, when the city announced plans to develop a large mixed-use building over the LIRR tracks at 11-24 Jackson Ave., Nolan opposed it.

“This project has a high probably to be outsized and not right for Long Island City. I oppose such overdevelopment,” she said at the time. “Considering the size of the site and its proximity to other large scale development in Long Island City, there must be a better plan to increase basic services before such large scale development is considered.”

And just in March of this year, she stood with members of the LIC Coalition to denounce the Economic Development Corporation’s joint plan with TF Cornerstone to develop the 44th Drive site that Amazon is slated to go on. The plan at the time included about 1,000 apartments, a public school, and manufacturing and commercial space.

On Wednesday, at the ‘No to Amazon’ rally that took place near the proposed Amazon site, Nolan was notably absent.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer led the rally, with other electeds such as Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Council Member Costa Constantinides, State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember-elect Catalina Cruz in support.

While the electeds in attendance have different stances on Amazon’s overall presence in Long Island City, they all bashed the billions in tax-payer subsidies the company is set to receive as part of the deal, in light of the neighborhood’s critical infrastructure needs, along with the hush-hush proceedings conducted by the city and state.

State Senator Michael Gianaris at the No to Amazon rally on Nov. 15. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Some of the elected officials have been taking less-than-subtle swipes at Nolan for her stance.

“The list of elected officials who are standing in strong opposition to this multi-billion dollar give away and the secretive process grows everyday,” Van Bramer, who has led the opposition with State Sen. Mike Gianaris, said. “People should take note of the elected officials who are supporting this.”

Meanwhile, Gianaris at a Tuesday Hunters Point Civic Association meeting, told plan naysayers: “Make sure everyone who represents you supports you and comes out strongly on your side. There is a tug of war going on. You have got me, you have got Jimmy, but there are some that are not there…even locally.”

But in a statement released after this article was published, Nolan defended her stance, and said Amazon’s plans are inherently different from other projects in that it’s a commercial, mixed-use development rather than a residential one.

“It provides not just union construction jobs but permanent ongoing jobs,” her statement reads, followed by: “This plan calls for union construction, including union service workers in the buildings going forward.  If that is lost I think that is a negative outcome.”

She said the city and state’s effort to bring about a mixed-use development is a good public policy goal, as it calls for a comprehensive plan rather than “piecemeal” approaches to development, as seen in other large-scale, residential projects.

Nolan added that Amazon won’t be building at Anable Basin for a number of years, which will give time for area infrastructure to improve, especially as the state’s plan is set to include provisions for such changes.

At the same time, however, the assemblymember still says the most ideal situation would have been for the city to pause development in Long Island City like she called for, especially high-rise residential towers.

“I asked for a moratorium so that the city could produce a more comprehensive plan,” she said.

Nolan is not completely alone in supporting the plan. Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the LIC Partnership and LaGuardia Community College support the deal.

Update 11:34 a.m. 11/16 – Statements from Nolan included in article.

DiBlasio Letter July 16 2018 by on Scribd

email the author: [email protected]

34 Comments

BlackGuyInKewGardens

You “25000 jobs” folks, grind my gear; majority of the positions are accounted for, like what fantasy world are you people living in…

(what a flattering picture of Nolan <3)

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brooklynmc

I think there would be less opposition to this if they would just build where other commercial properties are rather than in a residential area. On top of that, do they really need a heliport? There is one already on 34th street. They could ferry people. Like I said, this is a residential area. How many helicopters are going to be landing? Those things stink and are super noisy.

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Skip Seglipse

Misleading. The letter specifically says “new york city” without any reference to neighborhood. I think most sane people would have assumed Manhattan would be the location of choice. The governor’s office presented the LIC location without any consultation with local representatives.

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Political Crap

FALSE!!! Van Bramer, Gianaris & the rest of the politicians signed the letter on October 16, 2017. There were many articles published before that date naming LIC as one of the best options for Amazon in NYC.

Sept, 27, 2017 “Queens Borough President Melinda Katz pushes for Amazon to come to LIC, says neighborhood is city’s “best chance” for the bid”
https://licpost.com/queens-borough-president-melinda-katz-pushes-for-amazon-to-come-to-lic-says-neighborhood-is-citys-best-chance-for-the-bid

Oct 6th, 2017 “As deadline nears, New York City’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters heats up”
https://www.6sqft.com/as-deadline-nears-new-york-citys-bid-for-amazons-second-headquarters-heats-up/

September 29, 2017 “Katz proposes Long Island City for Amazon’s new headquarters”
https://www.timesledger.com/stories/2017/39/amazon_2017_09_29_q.html

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LetThereBeLight

EXACTLY!!! Flip-flopping. Using this Amazon deal as a way to give the perception that they really care about the people. Nolan has the right idea. Get in and be instrumental for the people. I’ve met with JVB Gianaris and Nolan, of all 3…she’s the most IF NOT THE ONLY SINCERE ONE! No BS!!

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Elaine Hernandez

Cathy Nolan has always thought of what is best for the people in her district. Unlike others who talk a good story but vote for what benefits them.

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Gardens Watcher

Nolan is not done (just got re-elected) and is hardly useless for her district. She’s a powerful Assembly member who understands and responds to the needs of the community and is not constantly chasing photo ops.

She will continue to speak her mind and stand up for Queens regardless of whatever mudballs the other elected guys in the district sling her way.

Kinda surprised at their not-so-subtle digs against Nolan. And they’re Democrats too, right? Or have they boarded the Democratic Socialist’s train?

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Dill BeDlasio

Whatever! As part of the deal, the company has agreed to give an empty Prime box to each displaced local resident from the area who cannot afford to relocate if they sign up for a Prime membership. The boxes are designed to be weatherproof and stack-able under the Queensboro bridge.

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Dean

Astoria resident, born and raised. I know there are many pros and cons with Amazon but 25,000 new jobs is 25,000 new jobs. I am 100% in favor

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Dean

The difference is that in 2008 Seattle had a population of 600,000 when Amazon came in and hired 50,000. New York City has a population of 8.6million and Amazon will hire 25,000 staff over the next 10 years.

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Gardens Watcher

The comparison of NYC to Seattle is bogus. NYC already has gentrification, high rents, overcrowded mass transit and a much larger homeless population than Seattle. Amazon may have changed Seattle, a much smaller city, but it will not create these issues for NYC, and LIC in particular.

It may just provoke the state and city to seriously address these long-time issues here and finally fix them.

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Skip Seglipse

Who are the dumb commenters who think these 25,000 “new” jobs are actually being created? They’re not.

They’re going to create 25,000 “openings” for people with skills who already have jobs in NYC at Google, Finance, Media/Publishing, etc. They will move people from Seattle to come work here and find candidates with H1B visas for those they cant’ fill locally (which will be the majority of them).

None of these jobs actually help the local community. They’re simply creating 25,000 spots for new people to come to a city that is already suffering from a major housing crunch.

People’s lack of common sense is alarming.

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Dean

Skip, the 25,000 new Amazon jobs plus new construction jobs and additional service jobs will OBVIOUSLY go to those that qualify. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. However, it’s unfortunate that you think few from LIC, Astoria, Sunnyside, Greenpoint and other nearby neighborhoods will qualify for those jobs. I beg to differ.
As far as the “major housing crunch”, LIC built 16,000 new apartments since 2010 (a lot still vacant) plus has another 12,000 currently in development.
I guess making dumb comments without facts makes you feel smart.

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Gardens Watcher

You have no idea what Amazon’s hiring strategy is, but Amazon is not talking about closing their Seattle HQ. So while a small number may end up being Seattle transplants, or poached from other NYC tech companies, that’s no where near the 25K Jobs they have planned for LIC.

Of course this will help the local community. More businesses that will provide goods and services means other new jobs will be created here.

Look at the change in Downtown Manhattan and in Jersey City, both which I submit benefitted greatly from the impact of the financial services industry. Now we have the opportunity to make Queens a tech center and NYC less dependent on Wall Street. That’s a good thing. Where’s your common sense?

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Rob_LIC

Exactly. And the jobs will be high level jobs that average $150,000 a year. They won’t be hiring Queensbridge residents and they WILL be hiring outside NYC. I predict few Queens residents will be working at Amazon HQ2 except in low paying support jobs.

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JT

NO to 25,000 JOBS!
YES to Homeless Shelters!
NO to 25,000 JOBS!
YES to neighborhood prisons!
NO to 25,000 JOBS!
Yes to allowing over 15,000 apartments built in LIC!
Van Bramer and Gianaris – where is the your logic??????

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Anonymous

It’s called job security. The politicians need the people to stay dependent on them. Progress will leave them unemployed.

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LetThereBeLight

JVB and Gianaris!! Boo-hooing cause they were not part of the deal!! Where were they when all these shelters popped up!! Why aren’t they outraged over that? JVB said the Mayor can do whatever he wants!

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Joe B

blah blah blah
Same olde Sh%#te just another day and another politician doing what they do best and ye all act surprised

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Beast Slayer

She’s disgusting. She’s always been against allowing local restaurants in LiC to use their backyard seating area because she’s friend with adulter and local “artis” William Garrett, a community board member who can’t be termed out quickly enough. Garrett and his wife Beth actually hosed down patrons at at Lounge 47 and enlisted the help of Cathy Nolan I’m getting a local favorite shit down. NOW she’s suddenly pro-business? Frick off Cathy. It’s because don’t know a state assembly exists that has allowed to remain a career politician in your seat for 37,000 years. Maybe I’ll run against the beast in 2 years.

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Zul

I worked for lounge 47 and I was there when my customers were hosed down at 5 in the afternoon, just disgusting.

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MRLIC

I thought she was on the PEOPLE’S Side. I guess we were wrong. Another CRAZY AMAZON LOVING POLITICIAN. Cathy when you run again for election you won’t get my vote. VOTE HER OUT and do your civic duty.

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H

Nobody ever runs against her, we desperately need a new candidate. She does absolutely the bare minimum and she is not a true representation of the community.

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Primary Time!

So who’s going to run against her? We need a fresh, young face. Someone who won’t sell out. 2020 folks!

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