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Nolan’s Support of Amazon Deal Surprises Civic Leaders, Irks Local Electeds

Assemblymember Nolan at the Governor’s Amazon announcement Tuesday

Nov. 15, 2018 By Christian Murray

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, perhaps most known in recent years for her staunch opposition to large-scale developments within her district, raised eyebrows earlier this week when she came out in support of Amazon’s plan to build a campus spanning millions of square feet in Long Island City.

The longtime assemblymember sat alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio during the official deal announcement on Tuesday to tout the benefits of Amazon’s plans in her district.

“Long Island City has been the beating heart of New York City since the modern city began at the turn of the last century,” she said. “With this announcement, our community is again poised to be the most successful mixed-use neighborhood in New York.”

But Nolan’s enthusiasm for the deal, local leaders and politicians say, stands in stark contrast to her history of ripping into sprawling developments one after another, particularly in Long Island City, which she has represented since the 1980s.

She has been quick to point out, for instance, how the neighborhood’s infrastructure is stretched due to over-development, citing the lacks of school seats, transportation issues and the dearth of green space in the area. News after news of tall buildings have even led her to demand a a “moratorium” on new building construction just this past summer.

She has even denounced the city’s prior plans to develop a 1.75 million square foot project on 44th Drive, the same site where Amazon will be placing part of its headquarters.

Many thought she would have slammed the Amazon deal, too, which is set to bring offices spanning up to 8 million square feet and even catering up to 40,000 employees around Anable Basin.

Amazon headquarter location in Long Island City

“We were surprised by Cathy Nolan’s statement, especially given her call for a building moratorium and how she has always expressed the need for infrastructure,” said Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association.

Ernie Brooks, a member of the LIC Coalition, which has led the fight against overdevelopment in the area, said his group was disappointed by her announcement. “We thought she would have been more aligned with our position,” he said.

Nolan told coalition members on Wednesday, according to Brooks, that the deal was a fait accompli—sure to go through no matter her stance.

She told the group that it was better for her to be in support the plan, as it would put her in a better position to guide it.

The assemblymember also seems to be focused on the employment opportunities the project will bring, citing the benefits of the high-paying jobs tied to Amazon’s project during the meeting with coalition members, Brooks said.

The Skyline Tower, which prompted Nolan to demand a moratorium on new buildings in Long Island City. (Hill West)

Her push for Amazon, while mostly a commercial project, still stands in sharp contrast to the bulk of scathing statements she has made against residential and other mixed-use developments in Long Island City.

Her July letter to de Blasio calling for a freeze on any and all new development in Long Island City, regardless of type, for instance, made her the only elected official in the district to call for such a measure.

“I ask for a moratorium on any new building permits for new construction in Long Island City until the city can present a plan for properly increasing the infrastructure,” she wrote in a letter to de Blasio.

The letter was prompted by news reports pertaining to the 67-story, 802-unit condo project in the works at 23-14 44th Drive.

Nolan’s letters to the administration do not stop there. In 2015, when the MTA sold air rights to the Queens Plaza Park Development company–paving the way for a 70-story building next to the clock tower–she panned the deal and called on City Planning to “solve these issues of density and scale” in the neighborhood.

“I am concerned that as the Long Island City community continues to grow, the demand for basic transportation needs, health facilities and classroom seats are not keeping up with demand,” she wrote at the time.

In 2017, when the city announced plans to develop a large mixed-use building over the LIRR tracks at 11-24 Jackson Ave., Nolan opposed it.

“This project has a high probably to be outsized and not right for Long Island City. I oppose such overdevelopment,” she said at the time. “Considering the size of the site and its proximity to other large scale development in Long Island City, there must be a better plan to increase basic services before such large scale development is considered.”

And just in March of this year, she stood with members of the LIC Coalition to denounce the Economic Development Corporation’s joint plan with TF Cornerstone to develop the 44th Drive site that Amazon is slated to go on. The plan at the time included about 1,000 apartments, a public school, and manufacturing and commercial space.

On Wednesday, at the ‘No to Amazon’ rally that took place near the proposed Amazon site, Nolan was notably absent.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer led the rally, with other electeds such as Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Council Member Costa Constantinides, State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember-elect Catalina Cruz in support.

While the electeds in attendance have different stances on Amazon’s overall presence in Long Island City, they all bashed the billions in tax-payer subsidies the company is set to receive as part of the deal, in light of the neighborhood’s critical infrastructure needs, along with the hush-hush proceedings conducted by the city and state.

State Senator Michael Gianaris at the No to Amazon rally on Nov. 15. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Some of the elected officials have been taking less-than-subtle swipes at Nolan for her stance.

“The list of elected officials who are standing in strong opposition to this multi-billion dollar give away and the secretive process grows everyday,” Van Bramer, who has led the opposition with State Sen. Mike Gianaris, said. “People should take note of the elected officials who are supporting this.”

Meanwhile, Gianaris at a Tuesday Hunters Point Civic Association meeting, told plan naysayers: “Make sure everyone who represents you supports you and comes out strongly on your side. There is a tug of war going on. You have got me, you have got Jimmy, but there are some that are not there…even locally.”

But in a statement released after this article was published, Nolan defended her stance, and said Amazon’s plans are inherently different from other projects in that it’s a commercial, mixed-use development rather than a residential one.

“It provides not just union construction jobs but permanent ongoing jobs,” her statement reads, followed by: “This plan calls for union construction, including union service workers in the buildings going forward.  If that is lost I think that is a negative outcome.”

She said the city and state’s effort to bring about a mixed-use development is a good public policy goal, as it calls for a comprehensive plan rather than “piecemeal” approaches to development, as seen in other large-scale, residential projects.

Nolan added that Amazon won’t be building at Anable Basin for a number of years, which will give time for area infrastructure to improve, especially as the state’s plan is set to include provisions for such changes.

At the same time, however, the assemblymember still says the most ideal situation would have been for the city to pause development in Long Island City like she called for, especially high-rise residential towers.

“I asked for a moratorium so that the city could produce a more comprehensive plan,” she said.

Nolan is not completely alone in supporting the plan. Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the LIC Partnership and LaGuardia Community College support the deal.

Update 11:34 a.m. 11/16 – Statements from Nolan included in article.

DiBlasio Letter July 16 2018 by on Scribd

email the author: [email protected]

27 Comments

Click for Comments 
George Kelly

This Guy George Kelly seems insane,doesn’t he.Well no he isn’t, he makes DAMN good sense,although a little rough around the corners.Ill bet he was a Cop or Fireman at one time,pretty known dude in Sunnyside.You go George,you are Sly as a fox good job getting us all responding.The other George Kelly here.

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George Kelly

We bought two condos off Skillman 5 years ago..Wow 702,000.00 each ,now,without AMAZON.
WE don’t want AMAZON for value SAKE nope. All for our Families,NEVER would sell and give up my SUNNYSIDE. SOME OF US BOUGHT,NOT FOR MONEY SAKE,BUT TO REMAIN HERE..SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND NOW FOR CONDO,HOLY SHIT,DISGRACEFUL, WE MADE A LOT, BUT WE W ONT SELL.NAH..NOT TO THESE IDIOTS..ILL DONATE MY INHERITANCE TO THE CHURCH OR WOUNDED WARRIORS PROGRAM..AMAZON GO TO HELL..AND WEST C0AST LIBS TOO…4 generations here,we ain’t making a buck off our Neighbors.PRICES ARE NUTS..

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Smith B Clueless

What solutions for the overwhelming majority of people that wont be able to afford the rents that will soon sky rocket? you’d be singing a different tune if you were renting. Do yourself a favor and do some research on what Amazon has done to Seattle. Soon Sunnyside will have just 2 classes. rich/poor. bye bye to the middle class

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George Kelly

All these political LYING hacks,i.e.,Nolan et al,all banned Walmart from opening up any stores in the five boros.What a scam,now all the hipsters and nimby types LOVE Amazon,but when you add up all the cardboard boxes,delivery TRUCKS and Congestion to boot,it’s all the same B.S
You all want CONVIENCE but You all want to save the Trees also.Well,what a dichotomy to say the least.Amazon saved you time,BUT you all get massive card board box deliveries..Well,now lets ban Straws,so stupid.They sold out My Neighborhood in the name of jobs and development by 2028?This is HILARIOUS,West Coast LIBs run this Great City and You all DESERVE the best..BRING BACK KOCH,I SAY,AND THE OLD DAYS OF THE GRITTY AND TOUGH NEW YORK..PLEASE, THIS CITY IS FULL OF CONFUSED ASS KISSRES AFRAID TO VOICE THEIR TRUE OPINIONS.GET SOME BALLS ,ASS KISSERS.PLEASE.P.S.I DON’T EAT SUSHI,I LIKE THE OCEANS ..IDIOTS

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Change is good

Cathy Nolan was for a moratorium on any new buildings in LIC two weeks ago. This week she praises the Amazon deal is the darling of REBNY and billionaires. What a liar. What a phony. Someone must run against her finally. What a disgrace.

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Ben

Amazon , Google and Facebook need to be broken up and regulated like utilities. Too much power in their hands right now.

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A.Bundy

too much power in what way? in what way are they costing you money? what monopoly are they holding? do you even know what google does besides a search engine and free email? lol, yeah, clueless. and in what way should amazon be broken up? why not break apart costco and sams club? they also sell everything. you complain about these companies, yet you dont complain about the most corrupt monopoly that affects everyone daily and destroying this city, the horrid MTA.

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gadg

They like office towers because they raise property values, they don’t like residential towers because they lower rents and property values.

Should be primaried in the next election.

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A Woodsider

DO NOT like all the tax breaks given to AMAZON on taxpayers backs!! Amazon DOES NOT NEED TAX BREAKS! My property taxes go up, up, up! Can only deduct $10,000. My income is not going up, up, up! Can only raise the rent on my tenant! Cuomo and crew want a pay increase? Let Amazon pay for Cuomo and crews’s pay increase!

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Juana Juana

Why on earth do we have to build Bezos a helicopter landing pad? This really is corporate welfare; 25,000 ‘jobs” is not a lot when you realize how much the taxpayers are giving back. And yet, Jimmy Van B. and his friends do not want a Walmart in Queens! And Amazon is very self-contained; they will not be going “out” to have lunch; they have their own dining rooms.

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Sunnysider

Lol. So the moratorium was BS? I wonder what plum job Nolan will get in the Amazon Cuomo gubernatorial administration.

As the only elected official in the area for the 2001 & 2004 rezonings, she is the only one actually here to blame for what LIC currently looks like.

She is insane and her time is done.

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LIC Neighbor Concerned

Nolan finally on the right track distancing herself from the Ocasio Corteses, from Jimmy Van Bramer and others. Throw your support behind working families, charter schools, job creation and progress and you will survive to be elected another day. What is happening in LIC is unstoppable, next the Sunnyside yards, expansion of LaGuardia Airport to Riker’s Island and other mega projects coming to a neighborhood near you.

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Done deal

Why even bother opposing this? It was done before they even announced it. There is simply no stopping a project like this one. JVB probably cut a backroom deal with them, where he supports it in secret and then gets to pretend in public that he’s outraged.

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Juana Juana

Nolan has a job for life since the sheep will continue to vote for her. She is a Democrat, after all.

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Jay

Those of us who remember when the LIC waterfront was filled with abandoned cars, illegal dumping, and prostitutes are grateful that our families can enjoy a spectacular park. It is truly miraculous that we’ve won this competition that will generate such massive revenue to fund city services. It is refreshing to see Nolan stand up for her beliefs instead of blatantly pandering to become borough president. By the way, Hudson Yards is getting far more in NY government aid than Amazon and no one’s complaining except construction unions that aren’t getting 100% of the work. Those who oppose Amazon coming to LIC should please come up with a better plan to create 25,000 jobs that pay an average of $150K.

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Suncoast

Where will these new workers live? How will they get to Amazon? On 7 train? Or the E, M, or G trains. Do you travel on public transportation? Are you a landlord that will make a bazillion dollars from the increased rents?

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A.Bundy

you should have bought a junky apt or three and fixed them up. my retirement plans might come earlier…like 30 years earlier if amazons presence increases property values exponentially. and if it’s a sellers market, i dont even have to worry about fixing them. let the winning bidder pay for it.

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David B. Smith

While our subway needs an upgrade (as always,) your implication that it’s incapable of getting Amazon workers to LIC is pretty lame. In addition, there are many places to live in and around LIC that didn’t exist ten years ago, and there are more to come.

As a homeowner, a long-time resident of Sunnyside, and a frequent visitor to LIC, I am thrilled that Amazon is coming. Let’s not pretend that I am in the minority, either. Yes, there will be some negatives but I’m confident that there are also solutions.

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El loco

Cathy finally did something good. Van Bramer is a phony just playing politics. I never even heard of Gianaris. If handled right Amazon coming here could be great. But with incompetents like Van Bramer and Gianaris it will probably be screwed up. They just want their hands in the pot.

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Suncoast

Gianaris is the state senator for Sunnyside. How could Amazon coming here be “great?” Why do you say that? Are you a renter?

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