Queens Courier Year in Review: The top stories from February 2019

QNS file photo

Field of seventeen candidates ran for public advocate in February special election

One of the most wide-open races in New York City history was decided in February, as voters went to the polls for the special election to choose the next public advocate. Seventeen candidates qualified for the ballot in the nonpartisan contest to fill the seat vacated by State Attorney General Letitia James, who resigned on Dec. 31, 2018.

The public advocate serves as the city’s ombudsman, an official designated to be a link between city government and the people it represents. The public advocate is recognized as a non-voting member of the City Council, but has the authority to create and introduce legislation.

Moreover, the public advocate is the first in the line of mayoral succession, meaning that the public advocate would become mayor should Bill de Blasio vacate the office.

Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams was the eventual winner, while Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich finished in second place.

Amazon bails on borough walking away from HQ2 plan for Long Island City

Amazon breaks up with Long Island City on Valentine’s Day. (Photo vis Shutterstock)

Amazon, the world’s largest retail company, decided to back out of its billion-dollar plans for Long Island City in February. The plans to develop a new campus on the Anable Basin waterfront in Long Island City and bring at least 25,000 jobs to the community were scuttled on Feb. 14.

“While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City,” Amazon said in a statement.

The Valentine’s Day breakup deprives the city of an estimated $27 billion in economic revenue that the Amazon project in Long Island City was projected to generate over the next 25 years. Amazon had touted that the average annual salary for each job would be $150,000.

Amazon reached the deal with the city and state in November 2018 in exchange for receive up to $3 billion in tax incentives. Local elected officials opposed the plan, citing the reported tax breaks and Amazon’s corporate history — and a need to use public funding for infrastructure improvements and housing.

Modern Spaces co-founder and CEO Eric Benaim, who launched an online petition imploring Amazon to stay in the deal, said that Amazon’s loss would have troubling repercussions.

“I’m devastated for the 25,000 families who lost an opportunity here,” he said. “25,000 families won’t be able to afford groceries, 15,000 of these families from Queensbridge. 25,000 jobs we lost. I’m devastated not just for Long Island City and Queens but New York City.”

LIC business owner travels to Seattle in hopes of rescuing Amazon deal

John Brown Smokehouse owner Josh Bowen paid his own way to Seattle to meet an Amazon executive in an attempt to rescue the HQ2 campus deal in LIC. (Photo courtesy Josh Bowen)

A Long Island City businessman, upset 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 blamed them for Amazon’s departure, met for two hours 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. 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.”

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

“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,” he said.

Queens woman wins Publisher Clearing House sweepstakes

Jamaica woman wins Publisher Clearing House sweepstakes. (Photo Courtesy Publishers Clearing House)

A Jamaica woman was the big winner of a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes in February, but it took awhile for the Prize Patrol to track her down and deliver the news. Crystal Crawford, 47, will be receiving $5,000 a week “forever” but when the Publishers Clearing House team knocked on her door, her son Jaquawn was the only one home.

He said he knew his mom had entered the sweepstakes for years but didn’t think it was actually real. Jaquawn led the team a few blocks away to where his mother was working, at E. Sholom Inc. – Early Intervention Child Care, and her reaction was priceless.

Crawford was on the phone and began shrieking when she realized what was happening.

“Oh my god, are you serious?” Crawford asked with tears streaming down her cheeks.

The Prize Patrol explained she had won for “two forevers” and after her son Jaquawn snuck through the crowd for a warm embrace, the team from Publishers Clearing House gave her a check for $50,000 that she could “take straight to the bank” as a starter.

Crawford said she was thrilled to have the money and would send her son to college and go on a much-needed vacation to celebrate her birthday.

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