NYC Lawmakers Seek Answers On Amazon Deal

December 12, 2018 - 3:44 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The City Council held its first hearing Wednesday on the Amazon deal.

Protesters frequently interrupted the hearing, during which the council's economic development committee took a look at the plan to bring a new Amazon headquarters to Long Island City.

“Amazon’s workers are under attack,” protesters screamed before being ejected.

Additionally, City Council members lined up to take pokes at the $3 billion in incentives Amazon is getting, what it's doing for the community and the city's agreement to ditch its normal land use review.

Economic Development Corporation president James Patchett also got a grilling from speaker Corey Johnson.

In a heated session, Johnson repeatedly interrupted Patchett: “You didn't answer the question: What's the threshold when local land use review should be overrided (sic)? How does a city determine what that threshold is? When do we decide that we avoid ULURP and we go outside of public review?”

Patchett responded: “In this case we're trying to create 25,000 jobs and do the best deal we could.”

“What if we were going to create 8,000 jobs? Is 25,000 jobs the threshold,” Johnson demanded.

The council speakers said the hearing provides a new look at the Amazon deal — a process he describes as "cloaked in secrecy" that delivered nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives to a firm whose stock is valued at more than $800 billion.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson says the hearing provides a new look at the Amazon deal -- a process he describes as "cloaked in secrecy" that delivered nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives to a firm whose stock is valued at more than $800 billion.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer calls the deal "bad for Long Island City, bad for Queens and bad for New York City.''

Brian Huseman, a vice president for public policy at Amazon, says the company will provide "well-paying jobs to New York City residents.''

At a protest outside City Hall before the hearing, Sharon Bleach who works at Amazon's Staten Island fulfimment center said she was hired to work four days at 10 hours per shift.

"We were told that we would only have to work one mandatory overtime day however this is considered with them peak season so mandatory six days a week. It's hard on people especially if you have family because when you go home you're dead. There's no time. All you want to do is sleep," she said.

Bleach notes there are safety issues and they're being pushed to work harder.

"We're told to speed and increase and increase and increase constantly. My adrenaline is going while I'm at work but when I go home my hands are in so much pain I can't do anything. It's really bad, we need Jeff to come down," she said.

Bleach wants Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, to come down and take a look at what the workers are going through.

Two more hearings are scheduled to look into the billions of dollars in subsidies promised to Amazon, as well as the deal’s impact on housing, transportation and infrastructure.