Queens St. Senator Michael Gianaris, a vocal opponent who has said the deal should die, was nominated by Senate Democrats to head a state board that has the power to kill the project.
Web Extra: Read The Complete Amazon Agreement (.pdf)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo lured Amazon to Long Island City with $3 billion in tax breaks. He has furiously defended the tax breaks as justified to lure Amazon’s 25,000 jobs. Cuomo believes that translates into $30 billion in revenue from Amazon in exchange for $3 billion in incentives.
“The State Senate is trying to stop Amazon from coming to Queens. Amazon is the largest economic development program that the state has ever won. It was a national competition where states all across the nation were vying for Amazon. There’s not business that brings 25,000 jobs anymore, they don’t exist,” Cuomo said Friday. “If Amazon does not come to New York, it’s because of the political opposition. Because it is so ironic for Amazon after they spent one year with everyone seducing them and everyone courting them… we win and then there’s political opposition.”
Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer initially signed a letter urging Amazon to come to New York, but flipped his position.
“What the mayor and governor did here was negotiate in secret a really bad deal for New York,” Van Bramer said.
At issue for Van Bramer and those who oppose the deal is the $2.8 billion incentive package offered to Amazon to come to Long Island City.
“This deal also bypassed the City Council and community review process. None of those things were acceptable,” Van Bramer said.
City Council Speaker and Acting Public Advocate Corey Johnson released a statement Friday.
“It is the Council’s job to ask questions, and to make sure that a nearly $4 billion deal involving public land is in the best interests of the New Yorkers who elected us. No company is entitled to public land and subsidies without tough public scrutiny. The Council is looking forward to our next hearing with Amazon,” Johnson said.
Back in December, protesters shouted out at the first public oversight hearing where Amazon executives were grilled.
“Amazon won’t receive any incentives until we create jobs and occupy buildings here,” Amazon’s Brian Huseman said at that hearing.
Cuomo called State Senate opposition to the deal “governmental malpractice.”
“And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York state to explain it to them. It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy… you’re not there to play politics, you’re there to do what’s right for the people of the state of New York, and what they did here was wrong,” Cuomo said.
Gianaris, who represents Long Island City where Amazon wants to build a new campus, wants the deal nixed.
Watch: St. Sen. Michael Gianiris On Amazon Deal
“Some people say that money only goes if jobs are created, but that’s not entirely true. Half a billion dollars of that is a cash grant to them outright. You’re telling me we couldn’t use $500 million to help the subway system right now?” Gianaris said in an interview on CBSN New York.
“I definitely think this deal should be stopped,” he said. “The deal that was constructed is so bad I do not believe it can form the basis of a negotiation.”
According to the Washington Post, Amazon executives have been discussing reassessing the deal and look into possible alternatives.
“The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” one person familiar with Amazon’s discussions told the Post.
“We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors – small business owners, educators, and community leaders. Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be,” an Amazon spokeswoman said Friday.
“New York needs a strong middle-class workforce with good-paying jobs, and that’s what Amazon will deliver. It’s time to stop the showboating and put the interests of our city ahead of politics and personal agendas,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater NY.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has also been a vocal supporter of the deal.
“The mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers,” de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said Friday.
“If the Amazon deal falls apart, they will have nobody to blame but themselves. A major problem is the way the deal was put together shrouded in secrecy and ignoring what New Yorkers want and need. They arrogantly continue to refuse to meet with key stakeholders to address their concerns, despite requests from New York’s top elected officials to do so,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.