By Jonathan Sperling
“We need money for education, not for banks and corporations!”
That was one of the many chants espoused by demonstrators in Long Island City on Wednesday as they blasted Amazon Inc.’s proposed LIC headquarters, along with the nearly $3 billion in tax credits and subsidies granted to the corporation by the state and city.
Local elected officials, including Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and State Sen, Michael Gianaris, joined community groups at LIC’s Gordon Triangle, between Vernon Boulevard and 10th Street, to denounce the e-commerce giant’s newest headquarters as “outrageous.”
“It may be cold outside, but I am steaming mad that the governor and the mayor have decided to throw Jeff Bezos almost three billion dollars in subsidies and tax breaks and throw in a helipad so he doesn’t have to take the damn 7 train, when we are several blocks from the Queensbridge Houses,” said Van Bramer, whose district includes, Astoria, LIC, Sunnyside and Woodside, Queens neighborhoods that are all expected to be impacted by Amazon’s new HQ.
Though rumors of Amazon’s venture in LIC have been bubbling for some time now, the corporation first announced the new HQ on Tuesday, citing the LIC area’s status as a “mixed-use community” as well as having “some of the best transit access in New York City” in an official statement.
Both Gianaris and Van Bramer initially embraced the behemoth’s arrival and signed a letter of overture to the company a year ago but have backed off that support
In its official announcement of the new headquarters, Amazon promised that more than 25,000 jobs would eventually come to LIC, along with the generation of more than $10 billion in tax revenue over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon’s promised job creation and investment.
However, among the crowd of attendees were local residents, as well as representatives from New York Communities For Change, Make the Road New York, The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and other labor and community organizations, many of whom believe that Amazon’s venture will not benefit Queens’ working class.
“When I first heard that Amazon’s Headquarters 2 was coming to Queens, I was speechless, because I knew that the promise of those new jobs and development will not be for people like me and my community,” said Enrique Peña, a CUNY Queens College student who moved to Queens from Peru three years ago. “I’m in college studying political science, but you don’t have to do that to know that the gap between rich and poor in New York City is increasing, because it is there.”
Concerns over the increased wealth gap that will result from the HQ — the average employee will earn $150,000 a year, Amazon said — were echoed by 18th District State Senate-elect Julia Salazar, who represents parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn neighborhoods that she said will be affected by the project.
“It is absolutely outrageous that we are slated to give billions of taxpayer money to a union-busting, predatory corporation that will have a negative impact on our communities,” Salazar said. “We know that it doesn’t need to be this way and that there are much better any more urgent uses for our resources.”
Despite the initial excitement espoused by Amazon on the day it announced the LIC move, the corporation has remained tight-lipped on responding to the opposition.
A source familiar with the development of the new HQ confirmed with the Eagle on Wednesday that Amazon plans to make it’s home at 44th Drive between the East River and Vernon Boulevard. The area encompasses most of the Long Island City Innovation Center proposal, the Department of Education building and some of the Plaxall development, near Anable Basin.
Margaret Waterman, an Amazon spokesperson, told the Eagle in an email on Wednesday that Amazon’s new campus, “will be around Anable Basin” but did not offer any further details.
Questions pertaining to the headquarters’ effect on the Queens community, including a response to local officials’ concerns, went unanswered and were met with a referral to an Amazon blog post.
“The point is simple. The infrastructure of Long Island City is already being stretched to its limits. This is a community that’s bursting at the seams,” said Gianaris. “Good people that have made Long Island City so great that Jeff Bezos wants to come here are being priced out of their own homes, so we’re here to put a stop to that.”