Amazon makes Long Island City HQ2 deal official — but Queens lawmakers seethe over ‘cynical game’

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Amazon officially announced it would split the location of its second headquarter between Long Island City and Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday morning, ending a yearlong search among more than 230 municipal areas across North America.

The e-commerce giant will invest $5 billion between the two and create more than 25,000 jobs at each location. Amazon and Plaxall, the family-owned plastic company that has been headquartered in Long Island City for more than 70 years, will partner together to develop an HQ2 campus on a nearly 14-acre piece of land surrounding Anable Basin.

Plaxall, which had its own plans to develop 14.7 acres of land into a mixed-use district surrounding the inlet, said it was proud to partner with Amazon and its vision for Anable Basin.

“We have seen firsthand in Seattle how the company has worked to integrate its campus and employees into the surrounding community, and we know Amazon intends to execute a similar vision here,” the company said in a statement. “It is therefore meaningful for us, as a family, to be able to work closely with Amazon on a plan for Anable Basin that honors the character of LIC and stays true to the same vision of innovation and productivity that drew our grandfather, Louis Pfohl, here seven decades ago.”

Amazon said it will receive performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion based on the company creating 25,000 jobs in Long Island City. These incentives include a refundable tax credit through New York State’s Excelsior Program of up to $1.2 billion calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, in addition to other incentives provided by the city.

“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”

In its announcement on Nov. 13, Amazon said its Long Island City headquarters would occupy 4 million square feet of “energy-efficient office space,” with an opportunity to expand to a total of 8 million square feet if needed.

In a map released by Amazon, a locator points to the area where Plaxall’s property begins near Vernon Boulevard and 46th Avenue.

Map courtesy of Amazon.com
Map courtesy of Amazon.com

“When I took office, I said I would build a new New York state — one that is fiscally responsible and fosters a business climate that is attractive to growing companies and the industries of tomorrow,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “We’ve delivered on those promises and more, and today, with Amazon committing to expand its headquarters in Long Island City, New York can proudly say that we have attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history. 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.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was thrilled with Amazon’s decision.

“New Yorkers will get tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs, and Amazon will get the best talents anywhere in the world,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to use this opportunity to open up good careers in tech to thousands of people looking for a 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 in planned smartly, and to ensure this fast growing neighborhood has the transportation, schools and infrastructure it needs.”

However, two of the elected officials that represent Long Island City, one of the nation’s fastest growing neighborhoods, are they opposed to the Amazon deal.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Senator Michael Gianaris announced they would hold a rally on Nov. 14 in Long Island City to “say no to the richest company in the world,” according to the protest announcement.

“New Yorkers have real unmet needs from their government. Our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care. It is unfathomable that we would sign a $3 billion check to Amazon in the face of these challenges,” Gianaris and Van Bramer said in a joint statement Tuesday following Amazon’s announcement.

Gianaris and Van Bramer are outraged by reports that the Cuomo administration would create a general project plan like it did at Atlantic Yards and the World Trade Center that would allow the state to go forward on the project without going through the city’s public approval process.

The joint statement followed one that they issued last week after reports of the deal surfaced.

“We are witness to a cynical game in which Amazon duped New York into offering unprecedented amounts of tax dollars to one of the wealthiest companies on Earth for a promise of jobs that would represent less than 3 percent of the jobs typically created in our city over a 10-year period,” Gianaris and Van Bramer said in their joint Nov. 6 statement. “Too much is at stake to accept this without a fight. We will continue to stand up against what can only be described as a bad deal for New York and for Long Island City.”

“If public reports about this deal prove true, we cannot support a giveaway of this magnitude, a process that circumvents community review through the use of a GPP or the inevitable stress on the infrastructure of a community already stretched to its limits,” Van Bramer and Gianaris said in a joint statement Sunday.

The Van Bramer-Gianaris rally is scheduled for Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Gordan Triangle on the corner of 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard.

”We were elected to serve as Amazon drones,” they said. “It is incumbent upon us to stand up on behalf of the people we represent and that is what we intend to do.”

This story was updated on Nov. 13 at 12:45 p.m.