Amazon LIC will get guidance from residents, Queens officials

A community advisory committee will weigh in on ways to integrate Amazon into Long Island City. 
A community advisory committee will weigh in on ways to integrate Amazon into Long Island City.  Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled Tuesday a committee comprised of Queens residents, business owners and other leaders designed to ease Amazon’s transition into Long Island City. 

The community advisory committee will begin meeting in January and weigh in on several aspects of the tech giant’s multibillion-dollar arrival, including the construction of its campus, related infrastructure upgrades and workforce development plans, the executives said. The committee’s 45 members pull from academic, civic and organized labor circles, tapping Elizabeth Lusskin, head of the Long Island City Partnership, the local community board chairwoman, Denise Keehan-Smith, and Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Tenant Association. 

"The Community Advisory Committee will bring thoughtful insight and feedback from stakeholders into the Amazon development process," Keehan-Smith said in a statement. "I look forward to helping the Long Island City community and economy succeed and thrive alongside our partners in the nonprofit sector."

A state official said all elected officials representing western Queens were invited to join the committee as ex-officio members and to help appoint others to the body, but State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer declined to participate. Both have criticized the mayor and governor for not including the community in negotiations with Amazon. 

"I did not have input into any decisions related to the Amazon Community Advisory Council, including recommendations for membership, because I refuse to participate in a process meant to accommodate Amazon’s arrival in our community, which I do not accept as a done deal," Gianaris said in a statement. 

Van Bramer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also expressed concerns about how transparent the arrangement has been, as well as the nearly $3 billion in tax benefits Amazon is eligible to receive. Johnson has scheduled an oversight hearing on the matter for Wednesday.

Under the agreement, Amazon will invest about $2.5 billion in a new, 4 million-square-foot office outpost in the Queens neighborhood, where it would employ at least 25,000 full-time staff within a decade. Amazon has said that it will pay the staff an average annual salary of more than $150,000.

Plans for the community advisory committee were announced alongside Amazon’s move in mid-November. 

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