Cuomo, biz leaders push for Amazon HQ2 to return
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 05, 2019 | 2482 views | 0 0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Elected officials and business leaders who supported the arrival of Amazon are making a concerted effort to bring HQ2 back to Long Island City.

On Friday, a group of 78 business groups, unions, public housing leaders and some elected officials signed onto an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The full-page ad was printed in last Friday’s edition of The New York Times.

In the letter to Bezos, the pro-Amazon coalition wrote that New Yorkers don’t want to give up on 25,000 jobs and $28 billion in tax revenues.

“A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed,” the letter read.

The group acknowledged that the public debate after the HQ2 announcement was “rough and not very welcoming.” But they said Governor Andrew Cuomo will “take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval,” while Mayor Bill de Blasio will work with the governor to manage the community development process.

“We are a dynamic new center of the country’s most inclusive tech economy,” the letter concluded. “We all hope you reconsider and join us in building the exciting future of New York.”

Later that day, Cuomo spoke on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” where he confirmed private conversations with Amazon executives. He did not say if he had a personal conversation with Bezos, which was reported earlier.

The governor said on the radio that Amazon has given no indication they are changing their mind.

“I have no reason to believe that Amazon is reconsidering,” he said. “Would I like them to? Certainly.”

Cuomo said he also wanted to send a message that the outrage following Amazon’s arrival was “an oddity,” and that it would not happen to other businesses who want to come to New York.

“That was a small vocal minority. That was local petty politics that governed the day, we don’t operate that way,” he said. “This was a mistake, it was a blunder.

“New York is open for business,” Cuomo added. “We’re the commerce capital of the country.”

When asked about the opposition from community groups, including the Queens-based immigrants rights advocacy organization Make the Road, Cuomo said he didn’t know who they are, despite past events where he praised the group.

Two weeks ago, after Amazon announced it was cancelling HQ2, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins withdrew the nomination of State Senator Michael Gianaris, an Amazon opponent, from the Public Authorities Control Board, which had veto power of the project.

She instead nominated Queens State Senator Leroy Comrie to the role.

But on Friday, Cuomo said that move did not indicate a change of heart from the legislators.

“At this point, they are irrelevant because there are other ways the state can get it done,” he said. “The state approval process, I will personally guarantee and manage that.”

The governor concluded by saying that he will do everything to get Amazon to reverse their decision.

“You punch until you hear the bell, the bell hasn’t sounded,” he said. “Until somebody rings a bell, I’m going to keep pushing.”

That evening, a coalition of 78 anti-Amazon organizations released their own letter, signed by groups like Make the Road, Chhaya CDC and New York Communities for Change and the Working Families Party.

In the letter, the group wrote that Cuomo’s plea and the letter in the New York Times “does not accurately reflect the desires” of working-class immigrant communities of color.

“Amazon left the first time around because of fierce vocal opposition, and that opposition still remains,” they wrote. “We defeated them recently and we will do it again.”

Other than the union construction and building services jobs that were already in place from a previous plan on the site, they wrote, Amazon made “little commitments to local hiring.”

They also took issue with the effect Amazon would have had on accelerating displacement, the lack of school funding, the growing homelessness crisis, deplorable living conditions in NYCHA and the crumbling public transit system.

The coalition wrote that rather than continuing failed economic development policies that give money to corporations, the government should invest in creating union jobs and affordable housing and modernizing public infrastructure.

“We will continue to hold Amazon accountable and defend our communities from their monopolistic practices, their tax avoidance and their collaboration with ICE,” the letter reads. “We will continue to stand in solidarity with Amazon workers facing brutal working conditions and union-busting bosses.”
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