Less than 48 hours after voicing her support for the deal that will bring Amazon’s HQ2 headquarters to Long Island City, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan sought to further clarify her position.
Nolan was the only representative from western Queens to join Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Tuesday news conference to announce the “largest economic development project in New York State history,” according to the Governor’s office.
Nolan called the establishment of the HQ2 campus “the fulfillment of many things that we’ve been working on.”
But on Wednesday morning more than a hundred of her constituents joined state Senator Michael Gianaris and Jimmy Van Bramer, and several more elected officials and labor union members in Long Island City to rally against the subsidies the company will receive as part of its deal with the state and city to establish its headquarters around Anable Basin during the next decade.
“Just this morning several residents contacted us to say there is no heat at Queensbridge,” Van Bramer said. “But somehow, those who consider themselves progressive Democrats have seen for to throw $3 billion at the richest man in the world.”
The crowd erupted in boos. Nolan, who has battled against large-scale development in western Queens for years, got the message and released the next morning what was titled in an email as “an additional statement.”
“I still believe the most ideal situation would have been for the city to pause LIC development, particularly the type of high rise very dense residential towers that keep being approved all over western Queens,” Nolan said. “I have always tried to support whatever ULURP decision out community boards and various City Council members decide, so a more general moratorium seemed like the best way to express my concerns. I asked for a moratorium so that the city could produce a more comprehensive plan.”
In addition to the subsidies, Van Bramer and Gianaris were outraged that he Cuomo administration planned bypass the City Council and the public review process by creating a general project plan like it did at Atlantic Yards and the World Trade Center.
“The list of elected officials who are standing in strong opposition to this multibillion-dollar giveaway and the secretive process grows every day,” Van Bramer said. “People should take note of the elected officials who are supporting this.”
Both Van Bramer and Gianaris have come under fire for having signed a letter last year pitching New York City to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.
“Everything has changed since then,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “A $3 billion subsidy and tax relief package to the wealthiest man in the world that bypasses meaningful and binding review were never discussed and had I known I would have ever signed on.”
Nolan was also a signatory: “I signed, as did all my colleagues, the Amazon support letter last year because commercial mixed-use development is different than only residential. It provides not just union construction jobs but permanent ongoing jobs.”
In her statement, Nolan explained how the city ignored the original plans to “reinvigorate the LIC economy that go back many years” by developing mixed-use buildings, instead allowing tall residential towers to be built in the community.
“The governor’s and mayor’s effort to return to a more mixed-use development was, in my opinion, a good policy goal,” she said. “If it does not happen, massive development will still occur in Long Island City and western Queens, it will just not be a comprehensive plan, but more of the piecemeal high-rise non-union construction we keep seeing and the city keeps approving.”
Nolan finished her statement with a message to the voters of her 37th Assembly District who have re-elected her since her first term in 1984.
“I realize many of our constituents are against this plan and want to respond to their concerns,” Nolan said. “I will keep meeting and listening to as many voices as possible so as to ensure the best possible outcome for all of us who live, work and love the communities of Sunnyside, Long Island City, Queensbridge and all of western Queens.”
On Saturday, the assemblywoman further noted that she has “no criticism of my colleagues who have chosen, I assume, a different strategy, since they also signed last year’s letter of support.”
“I would also assume their comments were not a political threat directed at me, but even if they were, I remain in support of this project for Long Island City,” Nolan added. “I believe the governor and the mayor will do everything possible to listen and make this work and I intend to work closely with them to make sure of it.”
This story was updated on Nov. 17 at 10:35 a.m.