Rare Amazon Booster in Advocate Field Laments Loss of ‘Game Changer’

“This could have been a game changer if done the right way,” Michael Blake, a candidate for public advocate told the Eagle in an interview about the Amazon deal.  Eagle  photo by Victoria Merlino.

“This could have been a game changer if done the right way,” Michael Blake, a candidate for public advocate told the Eagle in an interview about the Amazon deal. Eagle photo by Victoria Merlino.

By Victoria Merlino

Amazon was a popular punching bag among many of the Democrats running for public advocate, but Bronx Assembymember Michael Blake stood apart, backing the plan as his opponents assailed it.

Hours after Amazon announced it was pulling out of the deal, Blake spoke with the Eagle about his disappointment over Amazon’s abrupt departure.

“This could have been a game changer if done the right way,” Blake said.

He was an early proponent of the deal and, along with dozens of local leaders, signed a 2017 letter inviting Amazon to build its corporate campus in New York. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and State Sen. Michael Gianaris also signed the letter..

Blake said Amazon should still be accountable for the programs and projects it pledged to fund after announcing the deal in November 2018.

“There are others in the race who have said that this is a great day for Amazon walking away. And this is not a great day for communities of color and low-income communities and women that have been waiting for decades for opportunities and jobs,” Blake said. “This is not a great day for people that felt that this made us a technology hub. This is not a great day for those in NYCHA that need those opportunities. But this is a day to assess, ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Other public advocate candidates, such as Flushing Assemblymember Ron Kim — who has even named his platform “No Amazon” — rejoiced in the victory.

Ozone Park Councilmember Eric Ulrich, however, railed against the rejection, warning that the local opposition to Amazon might deter future companies from coming to New York City.

“The Amazon deal was a mess. $3 billion in subsidies for a trillion dollar company, pushed through by 2 men who think community engagement is a joke. This is why you bring local residents and stakeholders to the table *before* claiming victory,” said former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a tweet.

Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams was another vocal opponent of the Amazon deal.

“We should take pride that true people power forced powerful men to buckle — including those who didn't understand that they represent the people, but are not the people,” Williams said in a statement.