By David Brand
Two Seattle councilmembers made a cross-country trip Monday to warn Queens leaders about the potential impact of the Amazon corporate campus amid a public relations push by the online retail giant and data repository.
Lisa Herbold and colleague Teresa Mosqueda met with several local leaders, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and State Sen. Michael Gianaris at the headquarters of the Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution Workers Union (RWDSU). Mosqueda and Herbold described the potential impact on housing costs. Seattle property values and rents have soared while homelessness has surged due, in part, to the presence of thousands of Amazon workers in the city.
Herbold urged leaders to begin taking steps to shore up affordable housing ahead of the massive development.
“I hope they can learn from Seattle’s experiences and create a set of new expectations for corporate responsibility that can benefit the working poor who work for Amazon and other people priced out of housing in high cost cities everywhere," Herbold told Bloomberg in an emailed statement before the meeting.
Community Board 2 Member Jeremy Rosenberg said the visit from the Seattle councilmembers “underscores that concerns about Amazon are not theoretical.”
“Representatives of areas already affected spoke to lived experiences and data highlighting that these concerns are real,” Rosenberg said.
In recent weeks, Amazon has initiated a public relations campaign in the community, mailing flyers to residents of Western Queens and stating that “Amazon is investing in Long Island City.”
The campaign has met resistance on social media, with many residents, including Van Bramer, criticizing the Amazon deal.
“My friends at @amazon mailed me New Years greetings. How thoughtful. Spending this money just shows our voices in opposition have been heard. So happy new year #NoAmazonNYC! This fight is just getting started,” Van Bramer tweeted.
In November, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Amazon would build its so-called “HQ2” in Long Island City with roughly $3 million in state and city tax incentives. The state will shepherd the deal, which enables the project to skirt the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Policy (ULURP).
That lack of transparency does not sit well with many city lawmakers, including State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who said the state senate and city council will continue to push back against the deal.
“Amazon’s HQ2 debacle is not a done deal no matter how much they want you to believe it is,” Gianairs said in a statement. “I was pleased to meet with Council Members Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda to learn about the problems Seattle has faced by hosting Amazon there.”