Dec. 7, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Queens residents and activists turned out in full force to Community Board 2’s monthly meeting yesterday to demand that the board say no to Amazon’s headquarter plans and back down from even considering negotiations with the tech giant.
The packed meeting hall saw more than two hours of testimony from about 75 people, largely made up of anti-gentrification activists and some CUNY professors, who listed the ways Amazon’s 4 million square foot campus in Long Island City would adversely impact the borough.
Many said the new headquarters would increase housing costs, further strain area infrastructure and accelerate gentrification, among other fears. They also slammed the secretive city and state proceedings over the deal and the resulting incentives package of $3 billion to the world’s wealthiest company.
Several speakers also said Amazon has a history of employing anti-union tactics, and brought up the company’s efforts to sell facial-recognition technology to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as reasons for further rejecting the corporation’s plans.
Last night’s meeting marked the first since Amazon’s headquarters announcement, and follows deliberations held by the board’s Land Use Committee last month over how to proceed with the bombshell campus announcement.
While attendees urged the board to immediately take a “no” stance on the project and rebuff talks with Amazon, the board’s leadership recounted the conclusion reached at last month’s committee meeting—that it has yet to take a position, but will take a seat at the negotiating table.
The board also plans to hold a town hall over the Amazon plan in January.
The majority of speakers during the evening were members of Queens Neighborhoods United, the Jackson Heights-based organization that has recently fought against rezoning plans in Elmhurst, and developers locating a Target store in the area.
“As the city continues to give tax abatements and any other sort of facilitation to real estate interests who put our waterfronts at risk, spike up our rents and leech up our public infrastructure, I ask you Community Board 2—is this our city, or is it the real estate industry’s city?” said Jorge Cabanillas, a Jackson Heights resident and QNU member.
Another QNU member, Jay Koo, began a “CB2 no HQ2” chant after urging the board to firmly say “no” to Amazon with “no negotiations, no concessions”—a sign-off used by many during the meeting.
Several professors from LaGuardia Community College said the corporation’s presence will harm the thousands of students at the school rather than provide a benefit for them—departing from the warm welcome the CUNY board of trustees gave to Amazon.
Arianna Martinez, a professor of urban studies at the CUNY school, said Amazon will only lead to the city’s housing market getting worse, the disappearance of small business, and the decimation of the immigrant communities that make up Queens.
“These young people, these students are the future of our city and the ones most threatened by the proposed Amazon headquarters,” she said, referring to the large immigrant and working-class demographic of the school’s student body.
Toward the end of the night, when most of the speakers had emptied out of the hall, Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of Community Board 2, reiterated that the board had not taken a position yet because it has yet to see Amazon’s plans.
“We really don’t have much information other than what’s been out there in the public,” she said.
The board, she added, has agreed to meet both Amazon and the Empire State Development Corporation for separate discussions on the deal, and expects to do so before the end of the year—seemingly in contrast to attendee demands for no sit-downs.
The board chair, furthermore, has already spoken to representatives from the two parties to highlight general concerns expressed many a time by the board, including impacts on infrastructure and resiliency, cost of living, and displaced businesses and residents.
She noted that the board will be part of the community advisory council formed as part of the state-run process Amazon is moving through, which both Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris have rejected taking a seat on.
The board will also join on the advisory group created for the Long Island City infrastructure fund, another component of the Amazon deal.
Meetings for both groups have yet to be scheduled.
The state, which has started on a 14-month planning process for Amazon’s campus, expects the company to hand in working plans for the development in coming months. The planning process, they say, includes opportunities for public input.
Both city and state anticipate Amazon will begin moving into its Anable Basin headquarters in 2022 at the earliest.
The company, for the time being, will operate out of One Court Square beginning in 2019.
24 year old from Sunnyside and I look forward to the Amazon job creation even with all the challenges that lie ahead. Young people need good JOBS!
25,000 high wage Amazon jobs paying average $150,000 salaries.
3,000 UNION SEIU jobs (security & maintenance) for Amazon LIC.
1,300 UNION construction jobs annually through 2034 for Amazon development.
Plus additional tech jobs that work with Amazon and additional local service jobs (restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, etc.)
Facts with links. Enough of the BS
Is this the community board that could not get DeBlasio to stop with his plan to put bike lanes on Skillman? The community board is a joke. They have no power. The Amazon debacle is a done deal that can only be stopped if the City Council decides to with hold the funding that DeBladio promised and we all know that ain’t happening.
“No concessions/no negotiations” is a great tactic for an advisory-only board to get their way against a billion dollar corporation.
Exactly. Also not lost here is the hypocrisy of nimby’s opening their arms to the Jackson Heights anti-Target activists when it suits them while playing the “you don’t even live here/you haven’t even lived here as long as I have/you and your opinion don’t matter” card when it doesn’t.
We have some truly awful people in this neighborhood, and if the disgusting Queens Streets debacle taught us anything, its who to side with and who not to side with in this regard.
I don’t agree in principle with Jimmy and Michael’s strategy here, but I understand it is a strategy and that they are showing incredible leadership in organizing their chambers against this.
“Incredible leadership?” What Chambers?
What we SHOULD have learned from the controversial bike lane debacle is to respect our differences of opinions and be respectful of our neighbors in our public comments.
Both sides blew that one on the bike lane debate. No need to pit one camp against the other this time.
I’m going to the next meeting. This anti-gentrification perspective is not representative of my community and what most people think about the benefits of Amazon coming to town.
Already at work customers are complaining about how prices are a lot cheaper for items on Amazon, even for a big art book going almost a hundred originally retail that isn’t even sold anymore, us selling it for 35, they sell them for almost 5 dollars and I work at a thrift shop by a non-profit. Mind you the book is a huge heavy hardcover with colored printed pictures and sleeve well preserved in an attached plastic sleeve, it looks like a very valuable book. A postcard is also $5 in some stores, I wish even a $5 footlong is really $5 anymore. I can only expect that it would get worse, my job isn’t even in LIC but in Manhattan. I don’t think Amazon will only influence Queens but the whole of New York, I feel as though they are in the works of a monopoly. New Yorkers shouldn’t have to spend more money on deals with Amazon if it ends up not benefiting New Yorkers in reality; the communities and people working in New York rely on business. Not everyone who needs a job wants a $100,000 software development engineering position or a warehouse positions for $13 an hour at Amazon, people have dreams in NYC, and causes, aspirations and ideas, and there are many people who are homeless and do not even have the means yet to figure out how to get out of it, or what to do with their lives. Is Amazon going to help them out? If not then do something different Amazon, stop being a monopoly and actually do something. Settle for a cause, Bill Gates has, he’s a good man with his toilets for the world. We need more than cheap deals and being cheated of our taxpayer money meant for more important issues. We have dreams of being more than material slaves. People may even end up being unable to buy from Amazon because their retail jobs could vanish because of loss of business. Amazon’s cheap prices get customers addicted to its deals on more material items than they truly should buy. The only jobs left could be for computers and it’s engineers; manufacturers, and delivery persons because stores are starting to become obsolete. It could be self-destruction. Already Toys R. Us has closed its stores and Lord n Taylor is closing next. Several stores are already closing. https://www.businessinsider.com/stores-closing-in-2018-2017-12 Job losses could resort people to work for Amazon, becoming a trap, the number of people who lose their jobs will be more than what the number of employees Amazon or manufacturers even need because less people will be buying overall because of job loss and computers and machines do a lot of work, businesses are failing. It would also be horrible on our resources too, and it could very much be a mechanical way of living. We do not want the industrial revolution to start again with assembly lines and poor working conditions. Right now some people even go into stores to window shop items to actually buy on Amazon for cheaper, but eventually, those windows can even disappear, and then you have the isolation of a window on a phone, tablet or computer screen.
People will shop online with Amazon regardless where the Amazon head quarters is located.
If this is the quality of the opposition to Amazon one must assume the new HQ is a great idea.
If you think Amazon comin to LIC is an issue wait until the Sunnyside yards construction kicks off and the swap of a lifetime takes place with the building of new style amentities filled NYCHA projects within the yards and the teardown of Queensboro houses to be replaced with high end luxury high rise on the waterfront, with the trolley on their doorstep, a backroom deal already in discussion between our Mayor and Real Estate interests. It is cheaper to tear down, and move all the residents than to repair crumbling roach infested buildings. Just ask our beloved Jimmy Van Bramer, he will deny it. Refreshing to see all the young activists at the CB2 community board meeting. Just don’t trust our local Politicians (Jimmy Van Bramer – Ginnaris) they will sell you out. Get in their faces, call them to task, challenge them, don’t trust JVB and Ginnaris.
Let’s see how many Queens people actually get any of those jobs. No one here I bet.
Work with Amazon
their real issue if there were honest is that they might have to give back to society for once in their lives….
If we are talking about spongers, Amazon is getting a handout of $2.8 billion from Taxpayers. It is one of the wealthiest companies in the world. I don’t see any giving back.
We dont want 25,000 high paying jobs in Queens! That’s so bad!!!! OMG!!!!!!!!!
Deblasio already has his money the deal is done. He is a real progressive socialist.
this! people can complain and make up articles, but at the end of the day, the peasant crop has zero influence on a ultra wealthy powerhouse company. they pull any and all strings, because liberal politicians can be easily bought. only a fool would think there are no kickbacks under the table.
I know that many residents of Queens are fine with the Amazon proposal and realize that it will be extremely beneficial to our area. (Check out the numerous polls that have been conducted lately.)
Even it were put to a vote and was approved overwhelmingly, there would still be a noisy subset going on and on about the same stuff, like the folks so vehemently anti-bike lane.
The only ones against it are the politicians who want their handouts.
“Waterfronts at risk?” Have you seen what is there now? I took a ride down to the Anable Basin area today mid-afternoon to see what is there now. I would encourage all Queens residents to do the same. It is a mess, a real blight on our Queens waterfront.
Amazon is proposing a second headquarters campus, bringing thousands of good jobs to Queens, not just building more luxury apartments.
Of course CB2 should be part of the advisory group, and provide community input on any future negotiations. That’s what responsible community representatives do.
JVB & Gianaris are abdicating their duties by sitting on the sidelines.
I agree. That long stretch of Vernon I ride my bike from Queens Blvd downward to 46 Ave needs better tenants. ConEd needs to reduce their footprint there by building a parking structure and give up the giant flat parking lot.
Such an amazing gathering of special interest Luddities in this district. Amazon is a private employer with shareholders and a product to sell. Its not their job to apologize or fix all the real estate market and transport issues related to its relocation than anyone other company who moves to the area including JetBlue or Citibank. LIC is a changing area and lies close to the city with a large new stock of housing recently completed there. Seems a logical draw for any company to me. Politicians and special interests need to do their jobs and stop trying to gangster Amazon to do it for them. To hear the whingers on here complain about the influx of new jobs or taxpayers which will represent options for this city is asinine. Any other town or community would be celebrating such a development and engaging with it rather than manufacturing reasons on keeping this neighborhood frozen in time.
The meeting is on YouTube. Your comments are addressed by community members. Let us know your reactions when done.
LIC/Sunnyside/Woodside are fortunate to have the common sense leadership of Denise Keehan-Smith as chair of CB 2 whose clear thinking stands in stark contrast to the political pandering engaged in by Jimmy Van Bramer and Mike Gianaris.
What are you her husband. I’ve never heard of this woman and know of nothing that she’s done. So there Johnny Boy.
let me guess, another bunch of miss fits that are either living in rent controlled housing, section 8 or some other subsidized housing plan, their real issue if there were honest is that they might have to give back to society for once in their lives,
I did my own analysis
25, 000 new Amazon jobs – 100,000 jobs lost due to competition with Amazon = 75,000 new Changeguys
Wadda you pull the numbers outta your hat?? My analysis was completely variable.
There’s a reason you are continually ignored; thanks for reminding us!