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Long Island City community leader laments loss of Amazon due to misinformation

Courtesy of Rob Basch

When weekend service on the 7 train was suspended recently, Rob Basch rode a Citi Bike across the Queensboro Bridge on his way home to Long Island City. As he cruised down Vernon Boulevard toward 44th Road, the president of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy began to get angry.

“I just saw how desolate this area of the neighborhood is with nobody around and I thought, ‘This is what it’s going to be like here without the Amazon HQ2 campus for at least the next three to five years,’” Basch said. “No complex full of workers, no 600-seat school, no $27 billion in tax revenue to fix our infrastructure, especially the 7 train.”

Basch had spent a lot of time and energy supporting Amazon’s planned move to his neighborhood serving as a co-chair of the Neighborhood Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Community Advisory Committee.

“We had a meeting the very morning Amazon announced they were walking away from the project,” Basch said. “It took everyone by surprise including their own executives.”

Basch said he was disappointed by the decision, but also by the way the rollout was handled by the state and the city back in November.

“The announcement got off to a bad start and generated many misconceptions which unfortunately were never corrected,” Basch said. “Had the facts been more prominently communicated, the outcome could have been different. Instead, the negative comment won the day.”

Basch blamed the neighborhood’s representatives for promoting the biggest misconception, that “we are giving 3 billion dollars to the richest man in the world when our mass transit is failing, NYCHA is in disrepair and we need these funds for numerous city services.”

He said that money was based on jobs being created and calculated in lieu of taxes paid out over 10-plus years and that the majority of those tax incentives were already passed as law and the city and state need them to remain competitive with other municipalities.

“As a resident of LIC I’m anxious to see it we will now be getting the $3 billion to spend on our infrastructure, mass transit, schools, parks, public housing and their needed upgrades that is not going to Amazon,” Basch said. “I will not be holding my breath.”

Basch knew through his work with the community panel that real jobs for residents would be available and that Amazon executives were listening to community leaders, business leaders and anyone else that wanted to speak with them.

“They were truly interested in making LIC a better place to live and some of the Amazon employees I dealt with were also looking forward to moving their families to LIC,” Basch said. “These employees were not looking to make a quick deal and then move on.”

Basch said the empty commercial space around the Anable Basin where the HQ2 campus was to be built will stay desolate for years and the lack of jobs and revenue that would have been generated by Amazon beginning this year will not happen.

There is no indication yet from either Plaxall or TF Cornerstone that they will resume plans to develop the land into massive mixed-use developments they abandoned in order to partner with Amazon in building the HQ2 campus. A Plaxall spokesman declined to comment while a TF Cornerstone referred question to the New York City Economic Development Corporation which said it was too soon to tell what would happen in the area and all possibilities would be reassessed in the weeks and months ahead.

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