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Van Bramer, Gianaris Rebuke Amazon’s Reported LIC Plans as Pressure Grows Against HQ2

Existing Anable Basin waterfront, where Amazon is reportedly negotiating moving into. (Plaxall)

Nov. 12, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

Long Island City residents and elected officials are pushing back on Amazon’s purported plans to move into the area, with two local politicians denouncing reported efforts by the state to possibly bypass city public review procedures for HQ2 headquarters and grant the e-commerce giant millions in subsidies in a bid to close in on a deal.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris released a scathing statement yesterday on Amazon and the state’s reported moves, noting that both have “serious reservations” about the Amazon to Long Island City deal.

“If public reports about this deal prove true, we cannot support a giveaway of this magnitude, a process that circumvents community review…or the inevitable stress on the infrastructure of a community already stretched to its limits,” reads the joint statement.

While Amazon and the state have not formally announced definitive plans to lock in part of HQ2 to the area, with involved parties repeatedly declining to comment on the matter, new information has come to light on where the company is looking to move into, and what the state is doing to facilitate the move.

Amazon, according to Crain’s, is in negotiations to settle into the area near and surrounding the Anable Basin—just north of the Pepsi Cola sign at Gantry Plaza State Park—which is largely owned largely by Plaxall, a plastic manufacturer, with some city-owned lots in the mix.

Rendering of the Anable Basin under Plaxall’s proposed rezoning.

Plaxall announced plans last year to rezone 15 acres of land there and bring about eight-mixed use buildings with 5,000 units over the course of 15 years. While the project had yet to even begin its public review process, the plan as envisioned also called for roughly 1.7 million square feet of manufacturing, industrial, office, and retail space at the sites—at most—with Plaxall noting that construction could begin as soon as 2020.

The city-properties, meanwhile, also had development plans pegged to them, with the Economic Development Corporation touting its “Long Island City Innovation Center” project there since last year. The plan, which also requires a rezoning, currently calls for roughly 600,000 square feet of commercial and light industrial space and around 1,000 apartments.

The city’s proposed project for 44th Drive (colored buildings north of Anable Basin), also known as the Long Island City Innovation Center. (NYC EDC)

Outside of the Long Island City waterfront, Amazon is also reportedly in talks to move into One Court Square, where Citigroup is vacating the building in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon’s potential move into the waterfront properties would typically be contingent on a city rezoning, which includes a City Council vote.

The state, however, is reportedly set on executing a controversial “General Project Plan” or GPP, that would bypass this procedure. The action has been used in several large scale projects, like Queens West and Atlantic Yards, and is open to non-binding feedback from the city.

Van Bramer would essentially be cut out of the process should the state take this route. However, he said the issue is more about the community not being able to get a say.

“It’s a direct assault on community engagement and consultation on a project that would change the face of Queens,” he wrote in a separate statement.

On top of using a GPP in lieu of the city’s land-use review process, the state had offered potentially hundreds of millions in subsidies to Amazon to build in Long Island City, according to the New York Times.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” the Van Bramer-Gianaris statement reads.

Both politicians said they were not elected to “serve as Amazon drones.”

“It is incumbent upon us to stand up on behalf of the people we represent and that is what we intend to do,” the statement reads.

The joint statement in part is a reversal from Van Bramer’s initial standing on the project. The council member said in October 2017, when the city put forward Long Island City as one possible area Amazon could locate their headquarters to, that he supports any plan that can bring more jobs to the district.

But Van Bramer said yesterday that he regrets his previous position.

“It must be said that a billion dollar subsidy, and this rigged process were never contemplated by many of us when we gave early quotes on the bid,” he said.

The bombshell report last week on Amazon’s likely move to Long Island City, apart from concerns about its hush-hush proceedings, has bewildered residents and electeds in and near the area who have spent years voicing concerns about the area lacking the infrastructure it needs and overcrowding.

Despite the promise of Amazon’s thousands of jobs and economic activity, residents are unable to look away from the neighborhood’s massive growth over the last decade, where features like schools, open space, and transportation have failed to keep up.

Amazon is expected to make a final announcement at the end of the year, although some reports say it could be in coming weeks.

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58 Comments

Anonymous

I’m a long time resident of LIC and am thrilled that Amazon loves our neighborhood as much as we do. The future is bright! Or it could be if our local politicians would get out of the way.

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Barney

Van Bramer & Gianaris = Useless… Did they fix the 7 train ? NO, did the stop the bike lanes ? NO, did they stop the homeless invasion ? NO. Now they want to stop Amazon from creating jobs in our area, lots of jobs ? Makes me laugh.

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MRLIC

Barney-AMAZON is not a good fit for LIC/NYC. Amazon;s deal calls for ) LOCAL neighborhood hiring-BAD. We have to pay the RICHEST COMPANY in the world Corporate Welfare to come here. We need so much more in NYC. 2.8 Billion could help Transit (MTA) significantly with a watchdog to make sure money is spent wisely. why can all these LOSER Politicians in NYC find money for Corporate Welfare but not for Transit and NYC Housing Authority . NYCHA was neglected through 12 years of King Bloomberg and now almost 6 years of Bill DumBlasio. Scary that DumBlasio and Gov. Corruption Cuomo have eyes on the Oval Office in 2020. In DumBlasio’s case maybe Governor of NYC. SAD !!!!!!!!!!

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Anonymous staffer

JVB Byrnes his chance to have a seat at the table when he endorsed Nixon instead of Cuomo for governor. Cuomo is a vindictive SOB and he will lock JVB out of the process just to stick it to him.

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Gardens Watcher

Great point, but JVB knew that the day he endorsed Nixon. And where is she now to have his back? And Who cares!

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MRLIC

LK — Yes you can because Amaon is not PROGRESS. Wake UP_Corporate Welfare is what it is!!!!!!!!! CORPORATE WELFARE.

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LICfly

Sounds like 2 guys didn’t get an invite to the party.. too little too late boys! They can’t seem to get a handle on the 7 train issues for years so why complain now? Chances are greater for Jeff Bezos to fix the 7 train when he sees the impact on his employees. This is a net positive for the community and the city. Jeff Bezos can sponsor a lot of programs for the community with the snap of his finger without having to lobby for budget and looking for photo ops. 25k high paying jobs don’t just happen.. instead of complaining, spend the time and money now at coding bootcamp and make yourself qualified to earn!

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MRLIC

LICfly -No rule in the deal for any local neighborhood hiring, did you not read or hear that? Amazon will pick most likely their own people from other states. Don’t TRUST A GIANT SOULLESS CORPORATION.

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Anon

It only benefits the local community who have computer science or engineering degrees, otherwise, wait to get priced out in 3…2…1…

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Anon

No one is saying education is bad. If you’re going to comment as Fake MrLIC, at least make the comments good.

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Anon

Point is most of the people praising all of the alleged jobs, probably aren’t even qualified to mop the floor at HQ2. Meaning, no real benefit to the local community. Also, they could have chosen anywhere else to go in NYC, but they chose an overburdened LIC and got 1.5 billion to do so? It’s not about the potential jobs.

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Jerry

The 25,000 Amazon jobs will easily produce five to ten thousand service jobs for local hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. I guess common sense is not that common anymore.

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Jerry

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. COMMON SENSE!!!

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Aidan

Seattle here-I’m sorry, but your numbers are crazy. 600,000 people is barely more than Des Moines, IA, which is tiny (it is the smallest place I’ve ever lived, an experiment that lasted 3 weeks). Seattle had a multimillion population like other tier l cities around the country (NY is one of a handful in the international megacity category above tier 1). The pressure in housing and on traffic has expanded throughout the county and up and down the Puget Sound. The city borders are actually kind of narrow and constricted because of the waterways–to get an idea of the population, you have to look at the metro area numbers, more so than most cities. The census takes Seattle with all of the other towns around it. For example, if I walk a couple of miles south, I hit a border, and what is technically a municipality of its own for all of around 4 square miles, about 1.5 miles wide and 2.5 miles long. It has no governing structure of its own, though it clearly once had, decades ago. Seattle has a ton of these and they have to be counted in the population m. The real city population was about 3.5 million people before Amazon arrived, and it is maybe a few hundred thousand more added to that total. The fact that you see one of the worst epidemics of homelessness is largely to blame on just that influx-and keep in mind that Amazon offers both some private transit, and built a bunch of housing right around the campus. Microsoft is here, as are a bunch of tech companies, but none have had the destructive power of Amazon. You need only look at Amazon’s routine model of desire, acquire, retire to see what they will do, because it is all they have ever done. They see something good, either buy it, host it, or copy it and undercut it to oblivion, and then shut down or dissolve any remnants of the old thing. You can see the examples across the retail spectrum. If you wonder what that looks like when the algorithm encounters a city, you can look at Seattle: yes, the economy is booming, but as many people are hurt as helped, with massive numbers who have had to abandon their home for cheaper cities in less-desired locales, not just moving to the suburbs, but in some cases out of state. That population growth is a net, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. Those who can’t afford to move (when I last did it for work, it cost us $6,000 and that was driving a rental coast-to-coast with one night’s sleep in a motel and cheapest everything) often end up either homeless or in permanently insecure housing. Expensive property also draws foreign investors into parking money into empty units, which is another pressure on housing. Traffic is insane, and the insufficient projects to ease it are never fast enough. The bus by my house I take most frequently is set to expand its schedule by tightening intervals (currently 6 minutes at peak, set to go to every 3 at peak), but that project will only be completed in 2020, and that seems like an easy project. It’s all weedsy stuff, but it is real, and it is a disaster. It will be worse in LIC. My mom’s family is from those parts and nearby, and it breaks my heart a little to think about it. I have been looking for a way to do what I can. I had hoped Amazon would choose a hungry city that could truly be transformed by Amazon, but I didn’t imagine they would take such a harmful step, all while knowing what it has done elsewhere.

MRLIC

And so much overcrowding on Transit and Roads and everything else. No one will benefit. Amazon will contract their service jobs out for cleaning and other needs etc… Again, no guarantees in the deal for local neighborhood hiring. When CitiCorp came here in the late 80’s they said the same BS. The deal did not even call for no local hiring. What did we get in LIC?Not much and the office boom that was predicted never happened. CitiCorp will be out soon and replaced for a while at 1 court sq. One Big lying Corporation replaces another.

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MRLIC

JVB is anti-development? But I’m supposed to hate him!

This news is as troubling to me as when I learned Trump was a billionaire real estate developer, only after voting for him!

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JVB is addicted to drama

Looks like too little too late. Amazon just announced it plans to move to LIC. JVB is prone to drama: “It’s a direct assault on community engagement and consultation on a project that would change the face of Queens”. An assault! Wow. This man should be on Broadway, not in politics.

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Gardens Watcher

Just wrong? What the hell is wrong with Jimmy, AOC and Gianaris?

I do not work for Amazon, the Governor or the Mayor, but 25,000 jobs do not fall from the sky people, and this is what economic stimulus looks like. LIC just beat out a lot of the other large cities in the running today. And you’re unhappy? That you weren’t in the room?

This is the most promising news for good job growth and other new business potential in western Queens in my lifetime, and NOW they have a problem with over development of LIC and infrastructure issues?

The problems and neglect with the 7 train have been going on for decades. So fix it already NYC and Albany, and develop alternate transportation options!

You got the bike lanes in Sunnyside now despite strong CB2 objections. So much for community input. Have your public meetings that will give you cover and allow people once again to complain about the trains if that helps guys.

But this is a good thing for Queens, NYC and NYS. Congrats!

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Robert Bruccoleri

I hate Amazon, I hate Jeff besos because he is the one who destroyed Toy r Us, Lord and Taylor, and many bisinesses. Amazon is not welcomed in long island city! New York we are overcrowded! The structure of our community does not hold this type of busines!

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rikki

NO SEARS destroyed america….SEARS had a catalog and massive distribution system in place for what 100 years before Amazon, and gave up on it.

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Amazon Prime

Happy to see Amazon coming to LIC. This will solidify our place as a key player not only in NYC but globally as well.

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A miss on Cuomo

The Dems voted in Amazon Cuomo and he’s giving the company $2B. All Dem politician’s sell out their people to big companies! The taxes will fall on the people, Dems included.

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Bill De Blowsio

Let’s see how many of them actually make $100k+/yr. I’ll wait before I make judgement.

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Gardens Watcher

Sorry Donald. Cuomo trumped you this time. He actually made a deal that will create thousands of jobs.

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SMF

And then again… .they MIGHT not….
Care for a friendly wager that Amazon gets whatever it wants?
One American dollar?

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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

Leave it to Jimmy Van Bramer to oppose jobs and improvements, progress. More Homeless shelters, Neighborhood prisons, more low lives in Sunnyside, LIC neighborhood, but jobs NO! What a freaking MORON – can’t wait until he’s out so I can volunteer and support anyone whose runs against him, if he runs, for Queens Borough President, if he doesn’t get arrested first for corruption.

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Joe

I’ll take the problems with modern, high paying jobs any day over being left behind. This is good news for NYC!

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MRLIC

JVB and Giannaris need to stop this and all Future LUXURY DEVELOPMENT,LET THEM FOCUS ON REAL AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

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Jack

“…bypass city public review procedures.” What does the “public” part mean?
We just live here.
When Queens West was proposed, the “public” was steamrolled by the developers and their city and state partners.
And what does “serious reservations” mean? I guess it means he hasn’t committed himself yet? Duh, but I have to hope he’s not fielding promises to build his own political war-chest.
Meanwhile…”Don’t stop believing/Hold on to that feeling…”

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Political Crap!

Van Bramer & Gianaris policies!!!
Yes to homeless shelters & prisons!
No to 25,000 jobs and self -dependence!
WTF?????

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Wake Up!

These politicians don’t want progress. They want to keep voters down and dependent on them. It’s called job security.

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Political Crap!

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. We Got This!!!

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WTF

WTF? Amazon wants to come and hire 25,000 people making $100,000 salaries and they don’t want them??? These politicians are completely useless.

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Sunnyside Resident

Many people are afraid that they will get priced out of western Queens. They are not going to be able to pay rent, do grocery unless they have a good job making lot’s of money. It feels like LIC is changing into Upper East Side and who can afford to live there.

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MS

My biggest infrastructure issue living here is the 7 train going INTO the city in the morning. Amazons workers would either be coming the other way or getting off somewhere before the city. I wouldn’t have a problem in that regard.

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I can't wait for AMAZON LIC HQ!

I’m a member of the LIC community and I LOVE, LOVE THAT AMAZON IS MOVING IN. Stop hijacking our opinion! I do not feel that this is an attack or an assault on me and my family. I’m for the LIC Amazon HQ 1 million percent!

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