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Residents, Activists Demand CB2 Reject Amazon With ‘No Negotiations, No Concessions’

Community Board 2’s Dec. 6 meeting, where attendees urged the board to reject Amazon plans to build offices in Long Island City. (WNET)

Dec. 7, 2018  By Nathaly Pesantez

Queens residents and activists turned out in full force to Community Board 2’s monthly meeting yesterday to demand that the board say no to Amazon’s headquarter plans and back down from even considering negotiations with the tech giant.

The packed meeting hall saw more than two hours of testimony from about 75 people, largely made up of anti-gentrification activists and some CUNY professors, who listed the ways Amazon’s 4 million square foot campus in Long Island City would adversely impact the borough.

Many said the new headquarters would increase housing costs, further strain area infrastructure and accelerate gentrification, among other fears. They also slammed the secretive city and state proceedings over the deal and the resulting incentives package of $3 billion to the world’s wealthiest company.

Several speakers also said Amazon has a history of employing anti-union tactics, and brought up the company’s efforts to sell facial-recognition technology to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as reasons for further rejecting the corporation’s plans.

Last night’s meeting marked the first since Amazon’s headquarters announcement, and follows deliberations held by the board’s Land Use Committee last month over how to proceed with the bombshell campus announcement.

While attendees urged the board to immediately take a “no” stance on the project and rebuff talks with Amazon, the board’s leadership recounted the conclusion reached at last month’s committee meeting—that it has yet to take a position, but will take a seat at the negotiating table.

Anable Basin today, where Amazon will build its headquarters. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

The board also plans to hold a town hall over the Amazon plan in January.

The majority of speakers during the evening were members of Queens Neighborhoods United, the Jackson Heights-based organization that has recently fought against rezoning plans in Elmhurst, and developers locating a Target store in the area.

“As the city continues to give tax abatements and any other sort of facilitation to real estate interests who put our waterfronts at risk, spike up our rents and leech up our public infrastructure, I ask you Community Board 2—is this our city, or is it the real estate industry’s city?” said Jorge Cabanillas, a Jackson Heights resident and QNU member.

Another QNU member, Jay Koo, began a “CB2 no HQ2” chant after urging the board to firmly say “no” to Amazon with “no negotiations, no concessions”—a sign-off used by many during the meeting.

Several professors from LaGuardia Community College said the corporation’s presence will harm the thousands of students at the school rather than provide a benefit for them—departing from the warm welcome the CUNY board of trustees gave to Amazon.

Arianna Martinez, a professor of urban studies at the CUNY school, said Amazon will only lead to the city’s housing market getting worse, the disappearance of small business, and the decimation of the immigrant communities that make up Queens.

“These young people, these students are the future of our city and the ones most threatened by the proposed Amazon headquarters,” she said, referring to the large immigrant and working-class demographic of the school’s student body.

Toward the end of the night, when most of the speakers had emptied out of the hall, Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of Community Board 2, reiterated that the board had not taken a position yet because it has yet to see Amazon’s plans.

“We really don’t have much information other than what’s been out there in the public,” she said.

The board, she added, has agreed to meet both Amazon and the Empire State Development Corporation for separate discussions on the deal, and expects to do so before the end of the year—seemingly in contrast to attendee demands for no sit-downs.

The board chair, furthermore, has already spoken to representatives from the two parties to highlight general concerns expressed many a time by the board, including impacts on infrastructure and resiliency, cost of living, and displaced businesses and residents.

She noted that the board will be part of the community advisory council formed as part of the state-run process Amazon is moving through, which both Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris have rejected taking a seat on.

The board will also join on the advisory group created for the Long Island City infrastructure fund, another component of the Amazon deal.

Meetings for both groups have yet to be scheduled.

The state, which has started on a 14-month planning process for Amazon’s campus, expects the company to hand in working plans for the development in coming months. The planning process, they say, includes opportunities for public input.

Both city and state anticipate Amazon will begin moving into its Anable Basin headquarters in 2022 at the earliest.

The company, for the time being, will operate out of One Court Square beginning in 2019.

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50 Comments

chas

The community board has no power against the city and state. They are just a board that gives input and suggestions that are rarely taken into account. Over the years there have been plenty of real estate projects that the CB2 didn’t want but happened anyway. The mayor likes real estate and corporate money . Complaining is a waste of time. This project with amazon is completely going through. Face facts and life.
Not saying I like it ,but its how NYC goverment works.
Happy Holidays

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Common sense

Understandably that’s how government works. But don’t we all have a right to express our concern about something that we don’t agree with? I myself don’t oppose Amazon coming to LIC but I also think that issues that these groups are addressing should be taken into account and should influence the process as it might benefit the community. Just because something is so doesn’t mean it should be left to its own course. Everyone can and and should be a part (no matter how small) of the process if we are to continue to live in a democratic society.

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Jenny

Two types of people protesting Amazon jobs – old people who already made it and don’t want to be bothered and young people who don’t work.

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Anonymous

I’m neither, but still protesting because city should be focused on investing to make proper infrastructure investments in the area first. As it is today, roads, public safety, schools, public spaces/facilities, transportation, sewers, are all lacking or need of vast improvement. Until there is a plan to address these in a timely manner (no, we can’t wait another 4 years for another school or another 7 years for a library or 2 years for a traffic light), then there will always be a contingent of people in the area that will not support Amazon (see, young middle-high income late 20s and early 30s with children – there are a lot of us)

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Common sense

$180 is a drop in a bucket when it comes to infrastructure and government spending. This money might only be enough for fixes of the current system but not enoug for expansion to address overcapacity.

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Chas

LIC Library is over it’s budget and is still not open . All to ego and waste. Could have built more afforable housing there and would have been completed. By the time it’s finished no one will go there. Noting like a January day on Center Blvd.

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Jack Sunnyside

24 year old from Sunnyside and I look forward to the Amazon job creation even with all the challenges that lie ahead. Young people need good JOBS!

25,000 high wage Amazon jobs paying average $150,000 salaries.
https://youtu.be/ssOvBpBcnvs

3,000 UNION SEIU jobs (security & maintenance) for Amazon LIC.
https://therealdeal.com/2018/11/23/32bj-is-very-happy-that-amazon-is-coming-to-queens/amp/

1,300 UNION construction jobs annually through 2034 for Amazon development.
https://www.crainsnewyork.com/op-ed/amazons-second-headquarters-will-uplift-citys-working-families

Plus additional tech jobs that work with Amazon and additional local service jobs (restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, etc.)

Facts with links. Enough of the BS.

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clay

These are delusional hippie like antics. There os no stopping the amazon train. This deal was done at a level designed to sidestep community obstruction. Whining and carrying signs doesnt do anything but give people with too much time on their hands something to do. It’s a done deal -accept it. Things change and thats all there is to it.

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Common sense

Why not instead of giving 3 billion in tax indentives allocate first 3 billion of NYS taxes collected from Amazon headquarters strictly to infrastructure projects around the area? This could de dine by creating a special trust for that and only that purpose. This would benefit both the company and the neighboring residents.

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BrainUser

Why can’t you and all of the other people bemoaning the $3B worth of tax breaks understand that this is an incentive based on taxes that our city would otherwise not be getting AT ALL? It would still be a good fiscal plan at almost any number considering the state of disrepair that the proposed site currently lies. Wake up
#commonsense

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BrainUser

Surely they would if their proposals and prospects for the future aligned with a community moving forward and beyond dilapidated and/or empty buildings.

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MRLIC

I’m tired of politicians that just cater to the rich! That’s why I voted for Trump, he’d never do that!

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Joseph Astoria

The pros outweigh the cons cause we need good jobs.
FACTS – here are the jobs that will be created!!!!
25,000 Amazon jobs!
3,000 SEIU UNION jobs for maintenance and security at Amazon.
1,500 UNION construction jobs for Amazon development!
Plus all the additional tech and local service jobs.

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Common sense

Who needs those jobs exactly? Do we have unemployment crisis or something? These sentences only look nice as blanket statements.

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Joseph Astoria

Young people do. Good jobs are hard to come by even in NYC. I remember not too long ago when our unemployment rate was at 10% and I don’t think it will stay at the current low forever. Stop being shortsighted.

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anonymous

Some people in the neighborhood won’t stop until every tower is torn down, every business must close at 7pm without a liquor licsense, and the general blight of the 1970’s is back in full force.

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Phil AQ

Pre 2000 LIC was the absolute worst neighborhood in nort West Queens. It was full of warehouses, dingy stripjoints, topless hookers and junkies. Today we are lucky enough to attract high paying Amazon jobs plus thousands of union jobs and there are idiots out there protesting. You can’t make this sh*t up!!!

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Rory Maspeth

I remember!!! Even during the grimy 80’s and 90’s, Astoria, Sunnyside and Maspeth were always safe middle class neighborhoods but Long Island City was the armpit of Queens. 😷

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LIC resident FOR HQ2!

This headline is misleading. It puts forth a false impression that most LIC residents are against Amazon moving into LIC. SO NOT THE CASE!

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Jose Sanchez

you are right not all the residents are again amazon in queens some of the residents that are again don’t know the impact that this is bringing to queens there are ignorant about the future this will bring thousand of jobs to us if they don’t want amazon let amazon move to the Bronx they need the jobs

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Concerned LIC resident

You must be in real estate development, I can see the dollar signs in your eyes. Most of my neighbors are outraged that our mayor and governor sold our community to a greedy corporation headed by an even greedier man.

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JOBS

There are 2.4 million people living in Queens and over 200,000 in just LIC, Astoria & Sunnyside combined. It’s pretty silly to assume that none of these people would qualify for the 25,000 Amazon jobs or 5,000 union trade jobs. In fact, these jobs will roll out over the next 10 years which means there are kids attending Queens high schools today that will probably work for Amazon/union jobs 5 to 10 years from now.

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Young LIC

Concerned LIC resident it’s time for you to move out to a retirement home in Long Island. We want the 25,000 Amazon jobs, 5,000 union jobs plus all other jobs that will come along.

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Amazon Meh

Thousands of housing units have and are going up in LIC. Instead of everyone communing to and from Manhattan during rush hour, why not have a local business to generate a reverse commute?

It will also increase lunchtime spending in LIC and create more jobs in the community. Once Amazon comes here, it will be a “local” business.

I can understand the fear of rising rents, but the time to have stopped that was before allowing all these skyscrapers to go up. I don’t get the strain in resources argument. The buildings are already there. People are going to live there. Stop allowing new towers to go up.

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MRLIC

I agree AMAZON MEH that that the towers should STOP. I don’t agree with thing so much. It seems you have “GIVEN UP” and conceded to these GLASS MONSTERS . Never Give UP. Also why the Back ROOM DEAL. The GOV. and Mayor are CROOKS and are selfish. The Public be damned !!!!!!

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C

Reverse commute? You’re assuming that amazon employees will live in manhattan, then? Amazon will not be paying enough $ to their employees for them to be able to afford manhattan, much less long island city itself. They’ll be moving further out along the 7 into sunnyside, up the n/w into astoria and elsewhere. They’ll be commuting the same direction at the same time as everyone else in Queens. There is no reverse commute.

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C Rebuttal

I buy the reverse commute argument. There are plenty of 20 somethings working in finance, market, tech jobs already who make far less than $150K and live in Manhattan. It’s very doable. Also, keep in mind that $150K is average, so there will be a bunch of kids making $80K and a bunch making $200K+, both extremes can afford Manhattan life. I know many finance analysts that make $75K and work in Manhattan. Maybe these folks decide they don’t have to live in Manhattan and want to live in LIC or Astoria instead – that’s what will cause rents and property values to rise, not just the fact that there simply is inventory (simple supply / demand)… What I don’t agree with is the original poster’s argument about infrastructure – it’s clearly lacking to support the populat now, let alone the post-Amazon population. Well known fact that schools are over-crowded / seats unavailable (see kindergarten situation where they wanted to bus 4 and 5 year olds to Woodside last year) – this has been and will continue to be a problem for several years, sewer system is at capacity, public transportation is already over-crowded (have you been on 7 train during rush hour?), dangerous intersections with stop signs need traffic lights now with the amount of increased traffic, list goes on and on. These issues need to be addressed before the community can handle 25,000 more workers/residents.

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Amazon Meh

People in Hunters Point and Vernon Jackson will commute to Annabel Basin – reverse commute. But mostly, people living in Court Square high rises will walk, bike or take a bus / electric scooter to Annabel Basin. That doesn’t strain subway resources.

If Amazon didn’t move here, almost ALL the people living in those high rises would be commuting to Manhattan during rush hour. Amazon will keep a good portion of those people off the rush hour subways to Manhattan.

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C Rebuttal

Agree with you on all that… What I’m saying is infrastructure in the area is strained as it is. Maybe reverse commuters don’t affect 7 train as much, fine – but as it is today, city needs to be spending $ on improving public transportation, not giving it away to Amazon. They also need to spend $ on building more schools (you have to enter a lottery to get your kid into the local public school because there aren’t enough seats here), public spaces, sewer system, road improvements, public safety improvements, etc… These are all issues that exist today already in a Pre-Amazon world. The influx of people moving here will place more strain the infrastructure. We have to hope that Amazon and private industry will be good social citizens and usher in the right private investments to improve infrastructure (For example, Amazon emloyees won’t want to live in a town where they can’t send their kid to the local public school, so maybe Amazon does something about it?) I don’t think we can hope that public money will be used efficiently or expediently enough to fix all these issues before the influx of Amazon folks over the next few years.

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Common sense

It’s a utopian dream that most LIC residents will start working for Amazon all of a sudden…

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MRLIC

Can’t the City Council sue that they were bypassed on this BAD DEAL? They have done it before.

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Confused

What’s been going on with CB2 lately? Against biking and bike lane, pro-Amazon? The ghosts of Joe Crowley and the IDC types seem to live on with CB2 chair and her leadership. I’m glad the younger members at least have begun to speak up more and more, asking deeper thoughtful questions. What’s with letting the anti bike lane folks carry on making up numbers about a decrease in revenue due to bike lanes? Why does Ms. Smith never ask for proof? Bias against bikes?

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MRLIC

The Younger people you speak of are Socialist/Communist PROGRESSIVES (Actually Regressives) such as DumBlasio and A> Ocasio Cortez. All DumB-o-crats and ALL LOSERS.The USA is not and will never be Socialist/Communist. maybe the Sanctuary City Of NY will and State. The rest of the country NEVER.

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LIC resident FOR HQ2!

Thank God Governor Cuomo will make the HQ2 development a State one, as with Hudson Yards, Queens West, and many other developments.

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Anonymous

Historically the city has not received proportionate funding for schools. Will that change? Will state participate proportionately in the city’s added waste disposal & other infrastructure costs, or only in the tax income generated by the city?

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Merman

The only good thing I see coming from Amazon HQ2 setting up in LIC is that maybe then Sandwich King can open.

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Anonymous

Sandwich king is finally about to open. Old violations on the property and the standard con-ed gas line turn on issue were the culprit

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