The state Senate introduced a potential game-changer to the state and city’s deal with Amazon to build its HQ2 campus in Long Island City.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recommended state Senator Michael Gianaris as a member of the state Public Authorities Control Board, which could potentially veto the Amazon project.
Gianaris, the deputy majority leader of the Senate, has been a leading opponent of the Amazon deal due to the incentive package worth nearly $3 billion in taxpayer funds.
“New York needs responsible fiscal stewardship now more than ever and ensuring our economic development dollars are well spent is a responsibility I take very seriously,” Gianaris said Monday. “I appreciate Leader Stewart-Cousin’s faith in me and am honored she submitted my name to serve on the PACB.”
Cuomo, who has the power to reject Gianaris, would not say whether he would do so during a radio appearance on WNYC Tuesday. He did remark, “It’s unfortunate the Senate is playing politics.”
Cuomo has defended the deal since November, calling it an “unparalleled economic boom for the economy” with its 25,000 good-paying jobs over 10 years, with a plan to grow to 40,000 over 15 years projected to deliver over $186 billion in economic impact to New York over the next 25 years.
During an oversight hearing at the City Council last week, Amazon Vice President for Public Policy Brian Huseman gave the first indication that the e-commerce giant was unhappy with the growing opposition in western Queens.
“We were invited to come to New York, and we want to invest in a community that wants us,” Huseman said, adding later that Amazon wants to “be part of the growth of a community where our employees and our company are wanted.”
During his radio interview with Brian Lehrer, Cuomo was blunt.
“It would be a dramatic blow, not just the economy but also the reputation on New York City if Amazon doesn’t come because of criticism,” he said. “If they’re going somewhere else, the people will follow.”
The situation was compounded for the governor Monday when he and Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli announced that state income tax revenue fell by $2.3 billion since he introduced his budget last month.
“That’s a $2.3 billion drop in revenues,” Cuomo said. “That’s as serious as a heart attack. This is worse than we anticipated.”
The lost state income tax revenue and the Gianaris recommendation to the PACB just hours later drew a harsh statement from Dani Lever, Cuomo’s director of communications, who referred to Gianaris signing a letter last year that was included in New York’s entry into the Amazon headquarters sweepstakes.
“This recommendation puts the self interest of a flip-flopping opponent of the Amazon project above the state’s economic growth and is a clear sign that the Senate Democrats oppose the 25,000 to 40,000 new technology jobs that would diversify our state’s economy — a move that is especially shortsighted given that today the state announced an economic slowdown,” Lever said. “Every Democratic Senator will now be called on to defend their opposition to the greatest economic growth potential this state has seen in 50 years.”