Feb. 12, 2019 Staff Report
A lineup of public advocate candidates will be in Long Island City tonight at a forum geared towards Amazon’s plans to build part of its second headquarters in the neighborhood.
The forum will be held at the New York Irish Center at 7 p.m., and is organized by a cohort of Western Queens groups that will take turns asking the eight confirmed candidates in attendance all things HQ2.
The five event sponsors—LIC Coalition, PrimedOutNYC, Sunnyside Woodside Action Group, Hunters Point Civic Association and Hearts Across Queens—have organized to varying degrees around Amazon’s planned campus buildout and the city and state deal that brought the company to Long Island City.
While the contenders will have a chance to expand on their platforms, the organizers emphasize that the focus will largely be on Amazon’s project at Anable Basin. The groups, for example, will ask candidates to describe an “Amazon action plan” during their first 90 days in office.
Candidates to appear at the Long Island City forum include Council Members Raphael Espinal Jr. and Jumaane Williams; former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Assembly Members Ron Kim and Daniel J O’Donnell, Nomiki Konst; Dawn Smalls; Ify Ike and Ben Yee.
The majority of the candidates at tonight’s forum also spoke to their approaches on Amazon in NY1’s special election debate last week. Mark-Viverito and Williams, who signed a letter in 2017 urging Amazon to come to New York City, have since reversed course, like many.
Mark-Viverito said she doesn’t feel Amazon should be in New York City, but that the deal on the table should be scrapped and started anew. When asked why she signed the letter after stating the company shouldn’t be in New York, Mark-Viverito said it was under the guise of local public review.
Williams, meanwhile, said the letter was signed to begin a conversation on the planned headquarters, and did not imagine that the process would unfold as it did. “This deal should be squashed,” he said.
Konst, a former reporter, said the criticisms now heard against Amazon by many who signed the letter have been known for some time, and doubted that a career politician could serve as public advocate.
Espinal Jr., who did not sign the letter, said anyone who signed the letter should not be the public advocate. “I did not sign that letter because I did my homework,” he said.
The forum will be held at the New York Irish Center, located at 10-40 Jackson Ave., at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event will also be live-streamed on the Facebook pages of the Hunters Point Civic Association and Hearts Across Queens.