On Monday, the members of nearly two dozen organizations stormed Amazon’s bookstore in Herald Square in the afternoon, briefly taking over the shop.
Later that evening in heavy rainfall, dozens of protesters gathered at Court Square Park chanting that Amazon “has got to go.”
Groups that participated in the anti-Amazon demonstrations on Cyber Monday included Make the Road New York, Alliance for a Greater New York, New York Communities for Change and several labor unions.
Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road, said Amazon “dumping” a corporate hub in Long Island City would exacerbate the “already brutal gentrification” in the area.’
“The deal is particularly disgusting, that we would be paying $3 billion for Amazon to come strain our infrastructure, strain our already crumbling transit system, jam pack our already overcrowded schools and push us out of our own neighborhoods,” she said. “That makes it particularly offensive.”
Much of the organization’s work in recent years has centered on strengthening rent and housing protections, as well as dealing with school overcrowding.
But Axt said adding 25,000 people to the region, most of whom she believes will come from outside the city, will not help the situation.
Ernie Brooks, a longtime resident and member of the LIC Coalition, said his group was already fighting the development plans by Plaxall and TF Cornerstone when Amazon’s decision was announced.
Brooks lives on 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard, a mere 60 feet from a site that’s part of Amazon’s plan for the campus.
“I am in the belly of the beast,” he said.
He said if Amazon does come to the neighborhood, he would want the e-commerce company to pay the billions required to fix the sewage infrastructure, add to the overburdened transportation network, and create new schools.
His demands also include setting up “serious” training programs for the people who should be employed by the company, such as those living in nearby public housing developments.
“The worst thing about what’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years is the divide,” he said, “the segregation between the wealthy part of Long Island City and the less economically advantaged.”
Brooks noted that New York City has always prided itself on keeping out big box stores like Walmart because they “destroy mom-and-pop businesses.”
“Isn’t Amazon the ultimate big box? It just eats everything else,” he said. “In terms of a model for the future of a vibrant city, it’s not what we want.”
While critical of the corporation and opposed to the current deal, Brooks said he would “never say no” to Amazon coming to western Queens. However, he remains skeptical.
“They have not proven themselves particularly good citizens,” he said.
Astoria resident Dannelly Rodriguez, meanwhile, is “categorically” opposed to Amazon’s presence in New York City. The CUNY Law School student said the company operates “against working-class interests,” and would fundamentally change the city if they create H2Q.
“If we allow Amazon to come here, we won’t recognize New York City in 20 years,” he said. “I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to walk down the block and see my friends. They’re going to have to move somewhere else.
“It’s unfair to incentivize Jeff Bezos to come here with $3 billion,” Rodriguez added, “and ignore our infrastructure, ignore our quality of living issues.”
Axt said the anti-Amazon groups will continue to look at all options to stop them from expanding, including litigation, legislation and more street protests. Opponents are already talking to neighbors and explaining how HQ2 may affect them, she said.
There will also be continued pressure on both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Axt added that local elected officials, including State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, have taken real stances against the deal.
“I don’t think they’re doing that for posturing,” she said. “I think they intend to fight this until the end.”