Amazon HQ2: Where politicians stand on Long Island City hub

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer speaks during a rally on Wednesday amid growing backlash to Amazon's planned HQ2 in Long Island City.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer speaks during a rally on Wednesday amid growing backlash to Amazon’s planned HQ2 in Long Island City. Photo Credit: Jimmy Van Bramer

Amazon’s decision to bring half of its planned HQ2 to Long Island City has New York politicians at odds.

The online retail giant plans to open a massive new campus along the Queens waterfront, bringing an additional 25,000 high-paying jobs to the city along with an estimated $10 billion in tax revenue for New York over the next 20 years.

While some politicians — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, among them — have welcomed Amazon with open arms, critics have decried the massive tax breaks and other incentives that were offered to the billion-dollar company.

Other politicians have called on Amazon to pay for fixes to mass transit and raised concerns over the likelihood of rapid gentrification and displacement in Long Island City.

Read on for a look at what New York politicians are saying about Amazon HQ2.

Cuomo: "With an average salary of $150,000 per year for the tens of thousands of new jobs Amazon is creating in Queens, economic opportunity and investment will flourish for the entire region. Amazon understands that New York has everything the company needs to continue its growth. The State’s more than $100 billion infrastructure program — the most ambitious in our history — combined with our education initiatives like K-12 tech education and the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship program, will help ensure long-term success and an unrivaled talent pool for Amazon."

De Blasio: "This is a giant step on our path to building an economy in New York City that leaves no one behind. We are thrilled that Amazon has selected New York City for its second headquarters. New Yorkers will get tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs, and Amazon will get the best talent anywhere in the world.

“We’re going to use this opportunity to open up good careers in tech to thousands of people looking for their foothold in the new economy, including those in City colleges and public housing. The City and State are working closely together to make sure Amazon’s expansion is planned smartly, and to ensure this fast-growing neighborhood has the transportation, schools and infrastructure it needs.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson: “Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world, but you can’t put a price on community input, which has been missing throughout this entire process. I find that lack of engagement and the fact that the negotiations excluded the City Council — which is elected by New Yorkers to guide land use projects with communities in mind — extremely troubling.

“I also don’t understand why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money for its expansion plans at a time when New York desperately needs money for affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and education. I will always advocate for economic development and jobs in New York, but when the process is done behind closed doors, with zero community input and nearly $2 billion in subsidies to a global behemoth, I am going to be skeptical.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, joint statement: “Corporate responsibility should take precedence over corporate welfare. . .We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones. It is incumbent on us to stand up on behalf of the people we represent and that’s what we intend to do.”

Katz: “Long Island City — New York’s emerging tech hub — is ‘primed’ for Amazon. Amazon is a timely fit for the borough, given the Tech Plan we commissioned years ago funded by Gov. Cuomo to create the city’s leading tech ecosystem, coupled with Mayor de Blasio’s $180 million in new investments for infrastructure improvements unveiled several weeks ago for schools, transportation and open space.”

City Councilman Peter Koo: "We always welcome new tech job opportunities in Queens, but we must make sure that Amazon’s HQ2 will also support local residents and our mom-and-pop shops while also investing in our infrastructure. The opportunity is here, and we will watch closely to make sure this development has the best interests of Queens and its current residents in mind."

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “While I’m glad that Amazon recognizes that Queens is a great place to do business, I’m concerned about the lack of community input and the incentives that Amazon received in order to convince them to bring these jobs to New York. One of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke: "Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector. As the most diverse large city in America, I am hopeful that this investment will help promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity within the technology sector. I am also encouraged that this decision is accompanied by investments in NYCHA and public infrastructure. More work needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers reap the benefits of our economy and I am hopeful that this is the first critical step towards that goal."

Rep. Adriano Espaillat: "Welcome to New York City, Amazon. We have the best and brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready and willing to work and invest in our community and help our economy continue to grow. . . I look forward to the governor and mayor working with local and state elected officials to make this an inclusive and community-focused effort to ensure a successful future and lasting public-private partnership that will impact residents today and generations to come."

Assemb. Danny O’Donnell: “We’ve seen the devastation tech companies have had on the communities they settle into. This time, they’re coming to one of the most overdeveloped, and under-resourced places in the city. The upzoning and overdevelopment in Long Island City has seen luxury towers pop up next to the largest public housing complex in the United States. The luxury towers lay mostly vacant, snatched up by real estate speculators, while the Queensbridge Houses are falling apart, neglected by our City and State.

“Our transit system in the area relies on the 7 train that is already overburdened and will soon be servicing another mega-development, Hudson Yards. We deserve transparency, we deserve community benefits, and we deserve to keep our money because Amazon would be lucky to come here, not the other way around.”

State Sen.-elect Alessandra Biaggi: "We need to be clear on what’s good and what’s not in the proposed Amazon deal. 25,000 well-paying high tech jobs can and should be a good thing, helping to build New York’s leading role in the future economy. But Amazon is coming here because we have a core of skilled workers. Government’s job should not be trying to bribe individual companies with subsidies, but making the investments only government can make to ensure New York is the place where companies and skilled workers want and need to be.

“That means ensuring we have the best education for all our children, both so our residents are the skilled workers companies need and so skilled workers are confident their children can follow in their footsteps. It means creating more affordable housing so workers at all levels can actually live here. And it means investing in a working and extensive mass transit system, without which the metropolitan area simply can’t operate. Those investments will pay off in lots of companies coming to and growing in New York."

Assemb. Catherine Nolan: "Long Island City has been the beating heart of New York City since the modern city began at the turn of the last century. With this announcement, our community is again poised to be the most successful mixed-use neighborhood in New York. Talented residents new and long standing; skilled artists, artisans and activists, inventors and idealists, all call LIC home.”

City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who is drafting legislation to combat the Amazon HQ2 deal with Van Bramer and Councilman Brad Lander: “Last year, I signed onto a letter encouraging Amazon to consider New York City as a site for its new headquarters. This was intended to be the beginning of a conversation- I thought that it would have been irresponsible not to at least explore the possibility of adding thousands of new jobs. What I could not have thought was that the next response in that conversation would be a secret back room deal, reached to undermine and cut out all of the stakeholders in this issue. . . It is clear that Amazon intends to move forward in its plan without adequate dialogue and compromise. The governor, and the mayor alongside him, have been willing to circumvent that conversation for expediency and at the expense of community involvement, lured by promises Amazon made when offered extravagant incentives and disregarding the basic responsibilities of the process.”

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