By Bill Parry
The New York City Council is planning to hold hearings looking into the state and city deal to bring Amazon to Long Island City.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced Friday that the first oversight hearing will be held Dec. 12 by the Economic Development Committee, chaired by City Councilman Paul Vallone, to review how the deal was reached.
A second hearing will be scheduled in January by the Finance Committee, chaired by City Councilman Daniel Dromm, to examine the $3 billion incentive package that was prepared by the state and city to lure the e-commerce giant to the Long Island City waterfront, and whether it was a good deal for the city and the state.
A third hearing will likely be scheduled for February to examine how Amazon’s HQ2 campus surrounding the Anable Basin at the end of 44th Road will impact Long Island City and western Queens.
“I wish we didn’t have to have these hearings, but there are a lot of unanswered questions and I believe the public has the right to no more,” Johnson said. “The process by which this deal came about troubled me from the start, and I have serious concerns about the subsidies. I am looking forward to getting answers.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood, joined Brooklyn colleagues Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander also announced they will co-sponsor and introduce legislation that would prevent city officials from signing non-disclosure agreements with corporations doing business with the city, similar to those used in the Amazon deal.
“The council must do all that it can to prevent the secretive process that led to the bad Amazon deal from ever happening again,” Van Bramer said. “Transparency should be the minimum requirement when you’re talking about shelling out billions in taxpayer money. We’re not giving up the fight against Amazon’s new headquarters, but this piece of legislation will serve as an essential tool to ensuring future deals go through a democratic, transparent process.”
Williams said it was outrageous that the deal was done in total secrecy by the governor and mayor.
“Our government should be taking steps to act as a check on rampant corporate expansion, to ensure that any new development is designed with the greatest possible benefit to New Yorkers in need and to prevent any unintended consequences. The governor and mayor failed us, but we won’t stop fighting until this deal is stopped.”
The City Council is angered that it was circumvented through the negotiating process and that it will not have veto power over the rezoning of the area around Anable Basin. The Cuomo administration is planning to create a general project plan like it did at Atlantic Yards and One World trade to avoid the length city ULURP process.
“Like so many New Yorkers, we’re outraged that the Amazon deal was done behind closed doors, with zero community buy in,” Lander said. “It was unacceptable for the mayor and governor to yield to Amazon’s demands and throw away the city’s land use process, but with this bill, that type of backroom deal will no longer be an option.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr