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Amazon HQ2 deal protested by Queens politicians

"Why is Amazon entitled to $3 billion, $3 billion tax dollars?" State Sen. Michael Gianaris asked.

Elected officials, advocates and residents on Wednesday protested against Amazon's plan to build its second headquarters in Long Island City. (Credit: Newsday / Yeong-Ung Yang)

Calling the plan to build one of Amazon’s new headquarters in Long Island City “a bad deal,” elected officials and advocates on Wednesday protested New York's agreement with the company.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris said he and his policy team are exploring any legal opportunities to challenge the deal. 

“The state and the city should both be embarrassed to be standing behind this deal,” State Sen. Michael Gianaris said at the rally, at Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive in Long Island City. “They got taken, plain and simple.”

Amazon has promised to create 25,000 new jobs at the Long Island City headquarters, but Gianaris and others have said that's not worth the $2.8 billion in incentives it is expected to receive from the state and city over 10 years.

“Why is Amazon entitled to $3 billion, $3 billion tax dollars? Why can Google bring 20,000 jobs here without any public subsidy?” Gianaris asked the crowd, which held signs and mock Amazon boxes with frowning faces.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio “conspired secretly to cut a deal with Jeff Bezos” by not allowing the City Council, which has authority on land use decisions, to have a role in the negotiations.

“They said we’re going to fix the process so you don’t have to worry about those pesky City Council members and those pesky community members who might have some problems with the deal,” the councilman said. “Talk about three men in a room.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he too was frustrated that local elected officials and the community were shut out of the negotiations.  Johnson said later in the day at City Hall that he will meet with Council attorneys to analyze the deal and figure out what next steps the Council should take.

At a news conference announcing the deal Tuesday, Cuomo said the state would recoup nine times the amount it has agreed to provide Amazon through tax revenue. 

Cuomo, de Blasio and business executives also have said the deal will solidify the city’s prominence in the tech industry and enrich the local economy. 

But many aren't convinced. 

“Let’s not play stupid. This deal was coming, but now they want to make it seem like it was so good for our community,” said Catalina Cruz, who was elected to the State Assembly last week. “Amazon is not welcome here today, is not welcome here tomorrow, is not welcome here ever.”

Several other speakers at the rally were concerned about the impact the new headquarters will have on affordable housing in the neighborhood. 

“Today is a great day to be a real estate broker in Long Island City,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change. “Today is a horrible day to be a tenant waiting to make rent in Long Island City.”

Other politicians at the rally included Council members Antonio Reynoso, Brad Lander and Costa Constantinides; State Senators-elect Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos; and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Make The Road New York and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union were among the activist groups.

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