AOC defends controversial stance on Amazon HQ2 at Corona town hall

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

During her first town hall event in Queens, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took questions about local and national issues from constituents for up to two hours.

But one of the most controversial topics in recent memory for New Yorkers was the loss of 25,000 to 40,000 projected jobs from the establishment of Amazon HQ2 in Long Island City — a deal that many supporters blamed politicians such as Ocasio-Cortez for allowing to fall apart.

The freshman representative was just one of the three most outspoken opponents who cast a skeptical eye at the retail giant’s proposal to build in Anable Basin and the possibility of receiving $3 billion in tax incentives.

“We can create those jobs without marginalizing people,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Are those the jobs that they’re giving the folks in NYCHA, are those jobs going to our community? Or are we just importing already wealthy people to displace us … It’s not about, ‘Are we making 25,000 jobs’; it’s about ‘Are we creating 25,000 jobs that guarantee healthcare, that have dignified work where you’re not working 80 to 100 hours a week just to get by?'”

State leaders who helped broker the deal with Amazon expressed dismay in the fallout of the deal, namely Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who told QNS in February that misinformation about the deal may have caused it to go bad.

“The loss of revenue to the state, the loss to the suppliers, loss to the local businesses that would benefit from an infusion of workers walking into little bakeries and delicatessens,” Hochul said during the February interview. “And even Queensbridge, there were a lot of people that were anxiously awaiting what opportunities Amazon could bring to them and giving them the opportunity to get real job training in skills that are highly marketable.”

Although Hochul did not point any fingers, she claimed opposition leaders were not factual in their message that the $3 billion in tax cuts were predicated on the creation of jobs.

At the April 27 town hall, however, Ocasio-Cortez clarified her belief that Amazon was not entitled to any tax write-off, especially when the income taxes gain by the state would come mostly from the workers making headquarters run.

The congresswoman also projected the belief that the state Urban Development Corporation and city Economic Development Corporation were offering to build Amazon’s helipads. Although no money from the government was part of this facet of the deal, the two agencies would be helping to place the off-site helipads.

“People like to say that all $3 billion was a tax break; it wasn’t,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “There was also a very large immediate capital investment that was happening in this deal. We were building Amazon’s helipads for them. So I was asking, ‘If we’ve got the money to buy helipads, then why don’t we have hot water on a consistent basis in public housing?'”

Although placement of the helipads was to be coordinated with the FAA, a spokeswoman from the city agency claimed this was also misinformation that any capital investment in this facet of the project was part of the deal.

After approval from the FAA and other agencies, the EDC spokeswoman said Amazon would be required to build an pay for its own helipads.

Ocasio-Cortez looked to her Green New Deal, which has not made many strides at the federal level, as a job creator that could be a replacement to the potential jobs Amazon reneged on bringing.

The congresswoman said the NYC Green New Deal — which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier in the week — could generate 25,000 jobs after being passed by the City Council earlier this month and aims for a 40 percent decrease in emissions by 2030.

Also discussed at the town hall at Corona’s Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities was education at the national level where Ocasio-Cortez voiced support for tuition-free education and student loan forgiveness.

More from Around New York