Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled a refined position on Amazon as she opened her new district office in Jackson Heights on Monday.
The progressive sensation was singled out for blame last week by Governor Andrew Cuomo who told a radio audience her initial reaction to the deal for Amazon to build its HQ2 campus in Long Island City and create 25,000 jobs in return for nearly $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives swayed the positions of state Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
After the deal was announced last November, the then-incoming Congresswoman took to Twitter saying, “Amazon is a billion dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
But as she opened her new office in Jackson Heights on March 4, she gave the credit for scuttling the deal to grassroots activists who are rooted in the neighborhood — namely Make the Road New York, DRUM and Queens Neighborhoods United for ultimately forcing the e-commerce giant to bolt the borough.
“We didn’t defeat the richest man in the world with three tweets; that’s not what happened,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s not a personal animus towards Amazon. I believe in community self determination. You have all these folks in Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and all the way out to Jackson Heights that would be impacted by all this and they were not consulted.”
She also said she understood why Cuomo had been reaching out to Amazon executives in recent weeks trying to get them to return reconsider walking away from the deal.
“I understand his position. I understand why he would want to bring them back to the negotiating table,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We need to make sure we’re not imposing things on communities but that communities have the ability to determine for themselves what they’d like to bring in. I think that’s critically important.”
Ocasio-Cortez said much of her office staff was comprised of people from the Jackson Heights community and she explained why she took space in the rebuilt Bruson Building located at 74-09 37th Ave. instead of former Congressman Joe Crowley’s old office suite. She said the landlord doubled the rent to $15,000 a month, but rent the third-floor offices at the Bruson Building is $5,400 a month.
“Many New Yorkers have been priced out and we’re not immune to that, so what we decided to do was since the district and the community has not had a new community space for this Congressional seat for a very long time, we decided to scope it out and renovate a new one from scratch.”
And she chose space in the Bruson Building which was destroyed by a five-alarm fire in 2014 and rebuilt by the Bruson Trust to recreate an anchor in the Jackson Heights community.
“We designed this space with constituents in mind,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We wanted to feel open for people to come in any time; that was part of the design. We wanted it to be open, warm and welcoming, and for it to feel like a safe place.”