anti-Amazon Long Island City

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Queens Leaders, Residents Protest New Amazon HQ

November 14, 2018 - 10:54 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Long Island City leaders and residents on Wednesday protested plans for a new Amazon headquarters in the neighborhood, one day after the online retail giant and New York officials announced the deal.

The protest was set to take place Thursday at 44th Street and Vernon Boulevard, where Amazon’s new headquarters is planned.

It’s unclear how much critics can do now that the deal has been sealed, but they say they want their voices heard, and speaker after speaker made it clear: Amazon is not welcome there.

“We are here to say to Amazon: take that welcome mat that was rolled out for you yesterday, put it back in the package it came in and send it back to Seattle where it belongs,” said state Sen. Michael Ginaris.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed the deal at a press conference Tuesday, saying it would bring 25,000 jobs and boost the city’s tech force.

In a statement, Cuomo said, “we have attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history,"

But elected leaders who represent the area call it corporate welfare for the richest man in the world, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer released a statement, saying in part: “Our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care. It is unfathomable that we would sign a $3 billion check to Amazon in the face of these challenges.”

Protesters echoed their claims, saying Amazon will continue to gut New York’s small businesses, drive up rent and take billions of dollars that should be invested in mass transit, schools and infrastructure.

Bramer joined the protest Wednesday, saying Bezos was given whatever he wanted because of the governor’s desire to have Amazon’s headquarters based in New York City.

“He knew where the safe was open, he knew where the money was, he knew the governor said, 'take whatever you want,' and he took whatever he wanted,” Van Bramer said.

Gianaris and Bramer say Amazon “duped New York into offering unprecedented amounts of tax dollars to one of the wealthiest companies on Earth.”

Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will represent neighboring Sunnyside and Astoria, said there has been “outrage” from the community.

Chris Holbrook, who works as a painter in the area, wonders what types of jobs are being created.

“As much as you talk about a tale of two cities, I think de Blasio is still part of the other city,” Holbrook said.

Like many people, Holbrook doesn’t think the neighborhood, especially the subway, can handle the 25,000 people Amazon wants to bring in.

“This amount of space would have been practical when there were horses and buggies, now you’re just stuffing more and more cars into it. You stuff too many parts into something, it’s going to be a constant breakdown,” he said.

Ann Welles of Brooklyn, who also works in Long Island City, is not sure of the benefit to the average New Yorker.

“A lot of the high-tech jobs that they’re going to bring into the city are probably going to be people who are recruited from overseas, so it’s maybe not going to bring in as much of the high-paying jobs that we think it is,” Welles said.

Opponents said they will continue to increase their protests in the hope that Amazon will rescind its decision to build in Long Island City.