Long Island City businessman travels to Seattle in hopes of rescuing Amazon deal

Courtesy of Josh Bowen

A Long Island City businessman, still fuming that Amazon abandoned its plan to build an HQ2 campus in his neighborhood and create at least 25,000 jobs due to a “lack of collaborative relationships with state and local officials,” flew to Seattle on a mission.

John Brown Smokehouse owner Josh Bowen, a former supporter of state Senator Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who now blames them for Amazon’s departure, met for 2 hours Monday with a top executive at the e-commerce giant’s headquarters trying to rescue the deal.

“Someone has to represent Queens, Mike and Jimmy abdicated their duties,” Bowen said. “We we were supposed to meet on the 15 and I insisted I deserved my meeting.”

An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the meeting took place.

“I gave it my best shot. I gave him the whole song and dance and I could tell, this guy really wanted to be in Long Island City but they were seriously grossed out by the actions of our elected officials,” Bowen said. “If Mike and Jimmy had just talked to these guys it would have been a whole different story. They didn’t know about our politics and how the anti-IDC movement and the blue wave during the midterm election created a new political class here in Queens.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said much the same thing Monday during an interview on WNYC radio blaming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary upset of Joe Crowley for changing the political calculus.

“The state said we’ll put forth the application only if the local politicians and community supports it, Cuomo said. “Senator Gianaris signed the letter of support. Van Bramer signed the letter of support. We win.”

That letter was signed in 2017 at the start of a competition between 234 cities before the state and city offered nearly $3 billion in tax incentives. Then came the “political shift” following Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory.

“Then they oppose the very application that they supported,” Cuomo said. “They signed the darn application, we win. The same people who sign it say ‘oops the politics changed, I changed my opinion.’ You can’t do business that way and this was transformative for New York City.”

Van Bramer has apologized for signing the application.

“The Governor is mistaken and trying to assign blame for his bad deal collapsing when Amazon chose to run and leave,” Van Bramer said. “It is not truthful to blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gianaris, or me for killing the deal. The truth is, Amazon killed the deal. No one forced them to leave. We asked tough questions and raised thorny issues that they didn’t want to discuss. That is our job. The Governor should take responsibility for his own failure.”

QNS reached out to Gianaris and is awaiting his response, but he told the New York Post “this was a deal the governor negotiated in secret, kept it hidden from everyone, and then once he reached a bad deal expected everyone to accept it without asking questions. That’s not how it works.”

Bowen said the elected officials based their arguments on lies such as the $3 billion in subsidies should go towards housing or transportation when it was tax relief if Amazon created the promised jobs.

“And then there was the one about how anti-union Amazon is. They made deals for all-union construction jobs and all-union service industry jobs,” Bowen said. “It’s a headquarters and yeah those employees are non-union because they’re so well paid they don’t need unions.”

After a tour of the Seattle headquarters, Bowen grew more angry.

“The opposition has portrayed Amazon as some evil corporation but I found them to be exemplary, way more progressive than our elected leaders,” Bowen said. “And now that I’ve seen their facility with their workspace atriums with live trees I want to cry knowing this could have all been in Long Island City. All I know is they wanted to make Queens a powerhouse for the ages and that’s why I went because I want the same thing for my daughter.”

Bowen could have been on a beach in the Caribbean or working on opening his second restaurant, the Mothership Meat Company in Dutch Kills.

“This trip wasn’t convenient for me it’s just something I needed to do.” Bowen said. “And when all was said and done and I asked if they would reconsider he looked me in the eye and said never say never.”