NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Council on Wednesday held the first of three planned hearings to discuss Amazon’s decision to build part of its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.
Some city and state officials want to look into how the deal was made – behind closed doors and without public input.
SEE IT: Protesters Interrupt City Council Hearing On Amazon Oversight
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the agreement was reached without going through the City Council’s land review process. He also says New Yorkers are rightfully concerned about gentrification, displacement and how taxpayer dollars are being used.
Johnson said he felt Wednesday’s hearing was all about transparency, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
Web Extra: Read The Complete Amazon Agreement (.pdf)
Things got heated just as the hearing began, with protesters against Amazon bring one of its new headquarters to New York City filling the balcony of the City Council chambers.
Johnson urged the crowd to be fair.
“We want to be able to have this conversation which is the first opportunity to have this conversation. So we can’t have interruptions like this. If it happens again, and you are being kind of unfair to others here, we will clear the entire balcony. We don’t want to do that,” Johnson said.
While asking for calm, Johnson is also leading the charge to grill Amazon executives about why they chose Long Island City and, more importantly, why the council and the people of New York City were left out of the decision process to bring the tech giant to Queens.
“Do you think it’s a benefit to Amazon, a public benefit? Are we offering them a public benefit to avoid local oversight and avoid the process?” Johnson asked James Patchett of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
“I think what we are fundamentally focused on was getting the jobs here,” Patchett said.
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the deal giving Amazon nearly $3 billion in various tax breaks in exchange for more than 25,000 jobs and $27.5 billion in new state and city revenue.
However, the deal was made without going through the city council’s land use review process.
“The council and the people of the city and state were excluded from knowing any of the details of this deal, and we must now reclaim our rightfully oversight responsibilities,” said council member Jimmy van Bramer. “This is a bad deal. It’s a bad deal for Long Island City, it’s bad for Queens, and it’s bad for New York City. The mayor and governor caved to the richest man on Earth, and then handed the bill to every New Yorker. It’s wrong.”
Amazon executives vow to be good neighbors, committed to connect with the community. They say the company won’t benefit unless it keeps its promises.
“Amazon won’t receive any incentives until we create jobs and occupy buildings here. To be clear, if we do not create jobs in the city, we will not receive the listed incentives.”
If you cannot attend Wednesday’s meeting, you’re invited to submit your questions or comments on social media using the hashtag #AmazonAnswersNYC.