Another Queens lawmaker opposes Amazon HQ2 deal — but power brokers resolve to get it done

Courtesy of Governor’s office

A third western Queens lawmaker is amplifying her opposition to the state and city’s deal that will bring Amazon to Long Island City.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas announced her support of the report “What’s Wrong with Amazon” issued Wednesday by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and community groups after reading how the e-commerce retailer treats its workers.

“Amazon has so much wealth and power, it could treat its workers well and still maintain a healthy bottom line, but instead of fairly and humanely creating good conditions for its warehouse workers, it chooses to create a living hell,” Simotas said in a statement. “In Queens, we are working people and we are people who care about our neighbors, so a company like Amazon, oozing greed, pigging out on public money and feeding on worker exploitation, is not welcome here.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represent the neighborhood, are refusing the state’s invitation to join a community advisory committee which will play a role in planning for Amazon’s HQ2 campus around Anable Basin while having no veto power.

“This community advisory council is a thinly veiled attempt to present the Amazon development as a fait accompli and move the discussion towards how to accommodate their entrance to the community,” they said in a statement. “As we made abundantly clear, we oppose the deal to bring Amazon to Long Island City and continue to fight against it. We will not participate in the Community Advisory Council, whose purpose is to give local validation to a project we are working to stop in its tracks.”

Amazon has committed to creating 25,000 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $150,000 in the next ten years while investing $2.5 billion to build the 4 million square feet of office space in partnerships with TF Cornerstone and Plaxall with the possibility of expanding the space to 8 million square feet and 40,000 jobs.

Amazon will receive benefits of up to $1.7 billion from New York State and $1.3 billion from New York City.

Van Bramer once again declared his opposition to the deal at a Court Square rally Monday.

“The people of Queens deserve better and we demand better and we will march forever until we get what we deserve,” he said.

Gianaris, who was named deputy majority leader of the state Senate on Monday, announced he would introduce legislation to prevent state agencies and the government from entering non-disclosure agreements at the insistence of private corporations engaging in economic development talks.

“This deal will be bad for western Queens,” Gianaris and Van Bramer said in an online petition at Move.org. “Amazon has a long history of being anti-union, underpaying its workers, and preying on local small businesses. We cannot allow long-time residents of Long Island City and the surrounding neighborhoods of Woodside, Astoria, and Sunnyside to be driven out by rising rents and congested transit. The community should not be excluded from this process.”

More than 1,200 people had signed the petition by Wednesday morning, Nov. 28.

During an appearance on CNBC on Nov. 27, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen pushed back.

“This deal is not going to get stopped,” she said. “I can guarantee you five years from now all New Yorkers will be thanking us for having brought them.”

And in a radio interview with WNYC the same day, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Amazon coming to New York is an unparalleled economic boom for the economy.

“It diversifies the economy, it provides high paying jobs, a diversity of jobs,” he said. “But you also need to make sure the impact of the development helps and doesn’t hurt the economy.”

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