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State Sen. Gianaris, Amazon HQ2 Critic, Named to State Board That Could Block Project

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

Feb. 5, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez

State Sen. Mike Gianaris, an outspoken critic of Amazon’s plans to build a sprawling campus in Long Island City, has been recommended to serve on a state board that will review and could possibly block the tech giant’s project, according to a New York Times report.

Gianaris, who serves as Senate Deputy Leader and represents the area where Amazon is looking to bring its second “headquarters” to, was selected to sit on the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, a body that reviews financing for projects run by, as the name suggests, state authorities, and which has been described as an avenue for opponents of the HQ2 plan to gain leverage.

The five-member PACB will review certain aspects of Empire State Development’s HQ2 deal once the project, now in its months-long planning process run by the state, reaches it some time in 2020.

Gianaris was recommended to the board by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a Feb. 4 letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo and obtained by the New York Times.

In a statement, Gianaris said he appreciated Stewart-Cousins’ “faith” in him for the role, and was honored to have his name submitted.

“New York needs responsible fiscal stewardship now more than ever, and ensuring our economic development dollars are well spent is a responsibility I take very seriously,” he said.

The Times said Gianaris would be one of three voting members on the board, and that any voting member has the power to stop plans brought before it.

The state senator, however, must have his appointment approved by Cuomo, who also appoints other PACB members based on recommendations from the majority and minority leaders in the legislature.

But the pick has already created a rift between the legislature and Cuomo’s office, which responded unfavorably to the recommendation, telling the Times that the selection “puts the self-interest of a flip-flopping opponent of the Amazon project above the state’s economic growth.”

“Every Democratic Senator will now be called on to defend their opposition to the greatest economic growth potential this state has seen in over 50 years,” said Dani Lever, a spokesperson for the governor in a statement to the paper.

The governor’s office, however, did not say if it would reject Gianaris’ appointment, with Cuomo noting today that what he does reject is “the triumph of politics over government.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that the Senate is playing politics here,” he said during his appearance on The Brian Lehrer show, later adding, “I understand the political temperature is high, but I also believe that we should act responsibly and governmentally.”

He reiterated his support for a plan that is estimated to bring almost $30 billion in revenue to the state, along with 25,000 jobs.

Gianaris, who was among dozens of politicians to sign letters urging Amazon to consider New York for its new offices, began to publicly denounce the corporation’s deal with the city and state even before the official HQ2 announcement in November.

The state senator has criticized the billions in state and city incentives going toward the project, along with the circumvention of city land use reviews and the negotiations kept under wraps leading up to the deal. He has also questioned the government’s investment in this project in light of infrastructure needs and other concerns in Long Island City and beyond.

Gianaris has recently introduced legislation to ban non-disclosure agreements in economic development negotiations, as was required in the Amazon deal, and another to ban insider real estate trading after reports said Amazon employees began buying properties in the area before the HQ2 announcement was made.

In a November anti-Amazon rally after the official headquarters announcement, the state senator indicated that the plan is bad news for Long Island City, and called for it to be scrapped.

“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.

But Gianaris, who often used the “Scamazon” hashtag when referring to the deal on social media, has also laid out what the company should be focusing on if it wants to have a space in Long Island City—indicating that he not opposed to Amazon’s presence in the area outright.

“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 at the rally, noting that he is not against jobs and employment for the community.

He later added: “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.”

Despite telling the Times that it was “hard” to say what he would do on the board regarding the deal if approved, since he “doesn’t know” what he would be asked to opine on, Gianaris noted that the deal on the table simply can’t be worked with.

“I am against the deal that has been proposed and don’t believe that it can form the foundation of a negotiation,” he said.

Gianaris’ appointment was received favorably by many groups and politicians who have, too, voiced their opposition to the HQ2 deal.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the state senator is “the right person” for the appointment, while Comptroller Scott Stringer said Gianaris is a “thoughtful, independent legislator.”

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has rejected Amazon’s plans and participated in several rallies against the project, said Gianaris “will provide a public and transparent analysis of the proposed deal, which has been solely lacking in a process that has been shrouded in secrecy.”

A coalition of community groups, including Make the Road NY, ALIGN, and CAAV Organizing Asian Communities, said Gianaris’ appointment is a step forward in ensuring that the opposition’s voices to the “corrupt” Amazon deal are heard.

“We call on Governor Cuomo to respect the appointment of the elected Democratic Senate majority,” the groups said in a statement released today.

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26 Comments

Saul alinsky

Ah yes our socialist twerps and council people that spend more time on the grinder apps on there cellphones rather than help us .Hey!! Jobs were suppose to come here!! Why keep a community away from needed jobs and get off public assistance?? Why keep a neighbor hood that is in desperate need of economic assistance?? Thank your for paving the way of Ny’s exodus into other states. Thanks !!

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State Sen. Mike Gianaris, & Jimmy Van Bramer- STAND YOUR GRANDS!!

Don’t allow them to to squash Your Voice which is our voice …the voice of ppl that you represent ..working class of long island city !! not the ppl that they just looking for instant profit cause the Amazon will jack up the everything in our area!!! As resident of LIC i THANK State Sen. Mike Gianaris, & Jimmy Van Bramer FOR STANDING UP and being voice of our community and not becoming puppet for amazon project!!!

https://nypost.com/2019/02/08/amazon-officials-reconsidering-hq2-in-nyc-due-to-local-opposition-report/?utm_source=maropost&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news_alert&utm_content=20190208&tpcc=nypbreaking&mpweb=755-7614148-719800622

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I would love to see how possibly Union Teamsters can support Amazon moving to LiC??

..When all of those folks will be getting jobs there & they wont be able to be part of Union! As the Amazon dude said last week on the Amazon hearing “They preferring to have direct relation w employees” what that means in simple words ..we can s$%& you at any time we feel like it and you cant do nothing about it.
Thats a great set up for Amazon ..but Not For New Yorkers working class!!! I APPLAUD to State Sen. Mike Gianaris, & Jimmy Van Bramer for standing up for simple folks– Be PROUD for what you do & stand your grands on next session in Feb! oh Btw Regards the new Poll done by amazon that they have “strong local support on moving into LIC” — i wonder if all of those folks that they were part of that poll received $50,$100 Amazon gift card or 1 year free Amazon Prime for being part of this nonsense poll
FYI…if any person is supporting this ‘moving gift to LIC’ lets be honest here ..you are owner of some kind of property in lic or surrounding areas ,,and you seeing this as
” i just hit jock pot without playing lotto” —i truly hope that Amazon will find diffrent playground ..and leave LIC alone

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Anon

And there’s talk of that stupid BQX streetcar again. Tell me this wasn’t some kind of conspiracy to gain support for this idiotic project entirely backed by real estate developers?

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LIC Direct

Gianaris is a Moron! The city and state need Amazon more than ever now that Coumo announced that NY State has lost $2.3 Billion in revenue because of the trump tax plan and flight of families out of New York to non tax states such as Texas and Florida. Keep it up and hope that Amazon does not chuck the deal altogether and decide to move their new operations across the river to Newark, NJ still within the confines of the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State area.

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Telly

Gianaris Policies:
– YES to homeless shelters
– YES to neighborhood prisons
– NO to 25,000 jobs
I am baffled by this guy.

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Aaron

I personally appreciate the fight Gianaris is putting up against Amazon. They were shady in their city “competition” to get data on every major American city and the best incentives they have to offer, only to turn to two of the largest cities on the East Coast. Then they take that data from cities that really could have used their presence much more than NYC and are using it to leverage themselves in a scheme to get as much as they can get. They were underhanded and crooked in the whole process, they deserve to have to fight now.

LIC would grow with or without Amazon. We’ve had explosive growth in the area in the past 10 years, as evidenced by the massive construction projects happening literally everywhere at Queensboro Plaza. So no, I don’t think Amazon should be rewarded for taking advantage of all the smaller cities in America by getting better incentives to come to the largest.

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LIC Progressive

I am sick of this #conservativeprogressives nonsense. I get that we need affordable housing, jobs, schools, and infrastructural improvements. That’s what amazon will bring to the neighborhood! They’re going to pay for it!

We should name and shame these hypocritical, self-involved elected representatives who are acting in their own self-interest at the expense of the constituents who elected them, despite calling themselves progressives.

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40 Years in the Hood

I admit to being a long time supporter of JVB because despite the shortcomings that every politician has, he at least delivered on some of the quality of life issues. I have also applauded his message of inclusiveness. However, his totally ill-advised opposition to Amazon is for me a deal breaker, especially as he has resorted to sloganeering rather than an honest examination of the pros and cons. JVB, if by any chance you’re listening, stop grandstanding and mischaracterizing – or this donator/voter will become an adversary. And, reading the other posts here, it’s obvious I am certain not to be the only one.

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Anonymous

The $3 billion that everyone keeps mentioning is from future tax revenue that doesn’t exist without Amazon. And it’s performance based. In other words, there isn’t $3 billion sitting around that could be used for something else. Why doesn’t anhone, including elected officials, understand this?

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Common sense

Why doesn’t every business in the area get similar tax break? Why do other business have to pay full tax on their income?

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They all do but they dont tell ya

good question- why don’t you ask the new york times, cnn, the movie industry et al. they all get tax brakes. Why those pair of idiots, van bramer and gianaris decided to set their cross hairs on amazon is beyond me.

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jose

you are Absolut right but this people doesn’t understand especially the politician
I wonder why amazon move the HQ2 to places like the Bronx BQX they need the
jobs and forget the queens they don’t want the jobs someone else want it queens will never going to progress we this type of people

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Alarmed from Queens

Most people in Queens and LIC in favor of Amazon coming. This is a an attempt by Gianaris to bolster his own status. He saw a bandwagon driven by AOC and jumped on it. Of course he knew there would be subsidies or if he didn’t then what sort of idiot signs a letter of support and doesn’t know what they are signing. If he loses this historic job creator for New York then he can say good bye to politics. The city that stagnates dies.

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LIC resident FOR HQ2!

I sincerely hope Governor Cuomo will veto Gianaris’ nomination. He’ll be a fool if he doesn’t. Please, Mr. Gianaris, find something else to pander to the new, Democratic Socialist wave, like chaining wealthy New Yorkers so they won’t escape from our out of control taxes, and leave HQ2 alone.

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Democrats want people to struggle

why do democrats hate high paying jobs?
They boo trumps great economy and low unemployment and push their socialist agenda so we can be like Venezuala.
They really do hate America, I truly believe that

Welcome Amazon

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Frank Murray

Amazon has done just fine without a New York presence and will continue to do so whether they are in NYC or not. In addition there are many cities that have offered more incentives than NY and would gladly accommodate 25,000 jobs.

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Susan

Dear Gianaris,
I agree with most of the LIC residents in thinking that Amazon will bring many challenges to our neighborhood but overall the pros (25,000 jobs) outweigh the cons.
Mr. Gianaris can you please do something about the trains, crumbling NYCHA and homeless shelters? All of the issues that existed long before Amazon.

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Dan

Amazon has pledged to remedy all kinds of infrastructural problems in LIC. Even if only a small fraction of the projected ~$25B in tax revenue from the amazon deal over the next decade flows to LIC, it would be a windfall. Yes, amazon has negotiated a 10% discount on taxes it owes (the $3B “subsidy” you’ve read about). But without all the improvements amazon will bring, and without all the tax revenues amazon will bring, LIC’s share of that $25B windfall will be $0. Gianaris, whom I voted for, is shamefully putting his own interests in front of those of the community members he represents. Amazon brought a spotlight to the neighborhood, and he loves the attention he’s getting, I guess. Or maybe he has a secret alternative plan to raise $25B in revenues (without raising taxes) and provide 25K jobs to the community(?) Would love to know what it is.

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Michael

Amazon needs New York more than New York needs Amazon. No need for $3 billion in payola to get them here.

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Dan

The city/state isn’t handing a $3B bag of cash to amazon, it’s offering a tax rebate in exchange for revenue. So (per the subsidies they’ll receive) they will only pay 90% of what the law says they should pay. If they do not come to the neighborhood, the city/state will receive 0% of all that revenue, instead of 90%. And none of the jobs.

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Common sense

So they should be simply given a discount on their taxes because they are big? Small business owners are out of luck and have to pay the full tax? Is this the democracy we want?

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NoCommonSense

Common Sense it’s obvious that you have no clue what you’re talking about. STOP BEING A HEADLINE READER & do some actual research!!! All new businesses, Big & Small can apply for tax breaks.

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