Queens leaders and Cuomo band together to try and revive Amazon deal for Long Island City
Two weeks after Amazon broke off its deal for a Long Island City campus, there’s an effort afoot from civic leaders, business owners and even the governor himself to woo the world’s largest retail giant back.
Governor Andrew Cuomo stated on Thursday that he made calls to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and other officials with the company hoping to convince them to restore the plan, which would create at least 25,000 jobs and is projected to pump $27 billion into the local economy over 25 years.
Amazon, which reached the deal with the city and state last November following a nationwide competition, met stiff opposition from local elected officials and community groups for reasons including the $3 billion in tax credits the company was to receive, its labor practices and concerns about an increased cost of living. But several public opinion polls taken before Feb. 14 indicated that more New Yorkers supported the project.
Nonetheless, on Valentine’s Day, Amazon announced it was withdrawing from the HQ2 plan in Long Island City. Cuomo, however, remains determined to somehow win the company back.
The New York Times reported on Feb. 28 that Cuomo told Amazon officials that he would provide a renewed support for the project, should the plans be resurrected. He did not mention any alternative locations to Long Island City. But Amazon brass “gave no indication” that it would reverse course again.
Meanwhile, several Queens businesspeople and civic leaders have signed on to an open letter to Bezos that ran in the March 1 New York Times. The full-page ad offers a renewed commitment to making the Amazon HQ2 plan become a reality.
“A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed,” the letter states. “We understand that becoming home to the world’s industry leader in e-commerce, logistics and web service would be a tremendous boost for our state’s technology industry, which is our fastest growing generator of new jobs. As representatives of a wide range of government, business, labor and community interests, we urge you to reconsider, so that we can move forward together.”
Among the signers of the letter was John Bowen, owner of John Brown Steakhouse in Long Island City, who heavily criticized City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Senator Michael Gianaris for his opposition to the Amazon project. Bowen flew out to Amazon headquarters in Seattle and met with company officials in the hope of rescuing the deal.
“Someone has to represent Queens, Mike and Jimmy abdicated their duties,” Bowen told QNS. “We we were supposed to meet on the 15 and I insisted I deserved my meeting.”
Van Bramer and Gianaris, who had signed a 2017 letter urging Amazon to come to New York but opposed the Amazon deal after it was announced last November, did not sign the open letter in The New York Times. But Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, both of whom represent the Long Island City area, signed the letter.
Among the other Queens signers include Rob Basch, president of the Hunters Point Conservancy; Eric Benaim, CEO of Modern Spaces; Seth Borenstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation; Gianna Cerbone, president of the Queens Council on the Arts; Mark Christie, president of the Hunters Point Community Development Corporation; Donna Drimer, president of Matted LIC; Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; Christopher Hanway, executive director of the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement; Robin Hayes, president and CEO of JetBlue; Jukay Hsu, founder and CEO of Pursuit; Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the LIC Partnership; Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College; Anne Cotton Morris, president of the Woodside Houses Tenants Association; Frank Raffaele, founder of Coffeed; Kris Schrey, president of Long Island City Parents Group; April Simpson, president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association; Alan Suna, CEO of Silvercup Studios; Bishop Mitchell Taylor, co-founder of Urban Upbound; Dennis Walcott, president and CEO of Queens Library; and Carol Wilkins, president of the Ravenswood Houses Tenants Association.