By Bill Parry
Just days after Amazon launched a new charm offensive with full page ads in the New York City tabloids and as mailers were delivered to the residents of western Queens wishing their new neighbors a Happy New Year, state Sen. Michael Gianaris met with two members of Seattle’s City Council who warned of the e-commerce giants negative effects on their home city.
With dozens of state lawmakers and members of the New York City Council in attendance at a briefing at the headquarters of the Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution Workers Union on Jan. 7, Seattle City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda told the elected officials that the time to fight the Amazon deal that will bring an HQ2 campus to Long Island City for nearly $3 billion in tax incentives is now.
“The gears were already in motion but most of us were oblivious to what was happening,” she said. “In Seattle you see the majority of the population that was living who were low-income working families have been pushed out.”
Mosquedo warned that now is the time to pass legislation now to address affordable housing and transit problems before Amazon begins building its campus.
The Seattle City Councilwoman added that, “Seattle is the nation’s biggest company town.”
Several of the elected officials didn’t need convincing, like Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who have been staunchly opposed to the deal since in was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in November.
“Amazon’s HQ2 debacle is not a done deal no matter how much they want to make you believe it is,” Gianaris said. “I was pleased to meet with Council Members Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda to learn more about the problems Seattle has faced by hosting Amazon there.”
Gianaris has already introduced legislation to ban insider trading in real estate and non-disclosure agreements in economic development deals.
“We can do alot to try and keep things like this from happening again,” Gianaris said. “The problem we have with passing a law to stop the Amazon deal is that, as you all know, for a law to get passed, the Governor has to sign the law. And it’s unlikely, given his position on this issue, that the Governor is going to sign anything that will stop the Amazon deal particularly.”
Still, the deal will need the approval of the state’s Public Authorities Control Board whose members are chosen by the governor.
“Rest assured,” Gianaris said. “If they are bypassing approvals that are needed, we are certainly going to go to court.”
Meanwhile, Amazon is unfazed by the growing opposition from city and state lawmakers.
“Amazon is engaging in a long-term listening and engagement process to better understand the community’s needs. We are committed to being a great neighbor — and to ensuring our new headquarters is a win for all New Yorkers,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “Amazon makes substantial positive contributions to the economy, the communities where we operate, and to the lives and careers of our employees. We have created more than 250,000 full-time, full benefit jobs across the U.S. that now have a minimum $15 an hour pay and we have invested more than $160 billion in the U.S. economy since 2011.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr