March 1, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, among the central voices against the now-scrapped Amazon project, alleges he was threatened by a local restaurant owner who has been on a personal crusade to bring the e-commerce giant back to Queens.
The council member tweeted an image earlier today of a text sent to him by Josh Bowen, the owner of John Brown Smokehouse on 44th Drive, in which he tells Van Bramer to call John Schoettler, vice president of real estate for Amazon, and “apologize” for the fallen deal.
“Call now and I can stop the growing forces that will end councilman VanJobkillers career,” reads part of the text sent to Van Bramer just before 1 p.m. today.
Bowen, who had recently traveled to Seattle to meet with Amazon executives in hopes of convincing them to reconsider their Feb. 14 decision to drop Long Island City campus plans, confirmed through his restaurant’s Twitter account that he sent the message.
The long text frames Van Bramer’s political career as on the ropes in light of the failed Amazon project.
“You can be at the back of the parade or in front of the firing squad,” Bowen wrote. “If they come back, y’all may get elected dog catcher. If they don’t, you’re in the history books.”
Bowen added that he would be appearing on Fox News tonight, and that he can either “leave you out of it and focus on Amazon coming back or I can add another sound bite on to the funeral pyre of Jimmys [sic] career.”
He told the council member to “make the f—ing call. And let me know by four.”
“You were used by activists. I’m trying to keep you, and western queens, from the history books,” reads the end of the text.
Van Bramer said the text is “several threats rolled into one.”
“Demanding an elected official make a call to Amazon by a certain time – or else. This is disgusting,” he said, adding, “I don’t respond to threats.”
He later tweeted, in response to calls for the text to be sent to the NYPD, that the text had been reported. His office said the message was reported to the 108th Precinct and City Council security.
Bowen, by way of the John Brown Smokehouse twitter account, defended his text.
“Yep, I told my councilman to call on behalf of the majority of his constituents and you get the Jimmy Van Bramer scumbag treatment,” he said. “No surprise here.”
He also disputed Van Bramer’s assertions of being threatened.
“It’s obviously not a threat of violence but why stop twisting s–t around now. Tried to reach out and get them to listen to their community and get this,” he said.
Bowen’s text was admonished by many, who took to calling it “unhinged,” “terrifying,” and “violent.” Several of the responses were retweeted by the council member.
“This is grotesque,” said Make the Road New York, a prominent grassroots groups that organized against the Amazon deal. “We stand in solidarity with you, Jimmy Van Bramer, and all other elected officials and community partners who are standing strong against the Amazon #HQ2Scam.”
Bowen’s text comes as efforts are mounting by New York leaders and even Governor Cuomo to get Amazon to reconsider its canceled campus plans.
Cuomo, in an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show today, said he would guarantee that the project receive its needed approvals if Amazon were to return. Politicians that railed against the project, like State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Van Bramer, would be “irrelevant” if Amazon decided to come back, he said.
“At this point they are irrelevant,” he said. “There are other ways that the state can get it done, and I told Amazon that. The state approval process I will personally guarantee.”
Van Bramer responded to Cuomo’s comments in a tweet earlier today.
“As long as I am alive I am relevant. As long as I have a voice I will raise it,” he said.