Angry New Yorkers took to the streets to protest Amazon on Cyber Monday, with only one item on their wishlist this year: Don’t ruin the Big Apple.
Members of several unions and community activists rallied at Herald Square and then marched to the tech giant’s bookstore on West 34th Street to decry its plan to build a massive headquarters in Queens.
"G-T-F-O, Amazon has got to go," the crowd chanted, as they carried boxes with Amazon’s trademark smile turned into a frown.
The crowd of about 100 people included representatives from Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. They charged Amazon’s presence in Long Island City will further gentrify the area, limit affordable housing options and increase the wealth gap.
They also slammed the city and state for offering a lucrative tax break package to the online titan.
"There are so many inequalities . . . Amazon will bring more of that to our city," Jason Walker from Vocal New York told the crowd. "We demand a city we can afford."
Employees inside the Amazon store initially allowed the protesters to make speeches before two police officers asked the crowd to leave.
"We’re outraged New York City gave away $3 billion dollars to the richest man in the world," said Angeles Solis, an organizer with Make the Road New York, referring to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. "This is a growing coalition of workers, and we’re sending a message that Amazon doesn’t belong here . . . When the labor community comes together, it can bring change."
Nearly two weeks ago, the Seattle-based tech giant announced that it cut a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to bring HQ2 to Long Island City, and develop a $2.5 billion, 4 million-square-foot campus in western Queens. The move would generate 25,000 new jobs and the state gave over $2.8 billion in tax benefits as part of the deal.
“For thousands of New Yorkers trying to find a foothold in the 21st century economy, this new headquarters represents an open door," said Jane Meyer, a City Hall spokeswoman. "This is about helping kids from CUNY land jobs in tech and engineering, and people in NYCHA raise their incomes and support their families. We look forward to working with people across Queens to make that a reality.”
Representatives from Amazon didn’t return messages for comment. The governor’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, two Queens lawmakers who represent Long Island City, have also led opposition to the deal, saying the community was left out of the negotiations. Gianaris has said he is planning to introduce legislation that would bar firms from demanding a nonpublic disclosure agreement, such as Amazon did during its bidding process.
The protesters held a smaller demonstration later in the afternoon in Long Island City at Court Square. The rain drenched a banner that read "No to Amazon."
"There is no amount of taxes that Amazon can make to offset the costs from the displacement they will cause," said Sasha Wijeyeratne, an organizer with CAAAV, which works with low-income Asian-American communities. "This will impact Queens first . . . Queens residents should have a voice about what happens in their borough."