Join us Sunday, 6pm at the LIC Waterfront for a Send-Off Rally for Amazon. RSVP here.
Statement on Amazon cancelling their HQ2 plans for LIC
The Amazon deal was just one apex of a long and violent process of planned corporate and techno-financial development, working class displacement, racial violence, and corrupt, real estate driven rezoning that has had disastrous effects on our neighborhoods for decades.
HQ2 was proposed to be built across the street from Queensbridge, the biggest public housing complex in the Western Hemisphere, run by NYCHA. Many buildings run by NYCHA have been without heat, without working elevators, and facing general conditions of non-livability for years. Politicians are slowly moving to privatize NYCHA, handing the desperately necessary maintenance of affordable housing from an underfunded and understaffed program to the very developers who inflate rent prices in NYC.
Apart from being one of the world’s biggest collectors of data (given their cloud platform), Amazon has deep ties to the American military (currently bidding on a 10 billion contract) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (providing facial recognition tech, running algorithms which target persons of color). Moreover, Amazon is known worldwide for low paying wages, precarious working conditions and anti-labor policies.
New York is home to over 8 million people and hosts some of the strongest economic engines in the world. Amazon was not about 20-40,000 jobs, but rather a developer class ruling our cities, demanding constant expansion at the cost of the very things that have kept our cities great – people, communities and livelihoods. It won’t end with Amazon and it won’t end unless we fight back.
Now is the time to celebrate, but it is also the time to stay organized, build off this momentum, and move to the offensive! We have to continue our work in New York City by opposing tech capitalism in its entirety; working to end the restructuring of our neighborhoods by state and corporate developers; lending our energy to Amazon employees and other workers across the city; and supporting nationwide and global struggles for freedom. Lastly – Amazon has stated they intend to slowly increase their presence in NYC – let’s let them know we’ll be giving them hell!
NO POLICE VIOLENCE
(TLDR; On October 16, 2017, dozens of NYC politicians sent a letter of support to Amazon that was attached to a larger proposal, partly drafted by New York City Economic Development Corporation, which clearly stated that it is possible to go around local zoning restrictions.)
On October 16, 2017, dozens of New York City politicians, including 30 City Council members, signed a letter asking Amazon to set up shop in NYC. Now, one year later, they claim to be leading the fight against it. City Council representatives like Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris, in an effort to set the narrative, argue that they got “duped” by Amazon when they allegedly got cut of the negotiation process. If it were up to them, they say, Amazon would not have gotten such a big tax subsidy, nor would they have been permitted to evade city zoning law. This posturing has allowed them to create the appearance of opposition by criticizing the process through which AmazonHQ2 is coming to NYC, while, at the same time, refraining from rejecting the deal in its entirety – a demand many grassroots groups have been making.
Given that those who occupy City Council are notoriously untrustworthy, however, can we really believe that they didn’t know about the proposed tax subsidies and the desire to circumvent the city’s zoning process, known as ULURP? Most likely not. As we shall see, members of City Council were almost certainly informed, directly or indirectly, of what de Blasio and Cuomo were going to offer Amazon.
Fact Check: City Council Knew Amazon Would Try To Circumvent ULURP
The letter by City Council and other elected officials, referenced above, was dated the same day (October 16, 2017) that Governor Cuomo sent a lengthy response to Jeff Bezos regarding Amazon’s HQ2 proposal. Cuomo’s response included a section, prepared by NYCEDC, that had a letter from de Blasio, a list of various benefits (economic and social) of locating in NYC, and a description of 4 sites that could accommodate Amazon’s new proposed headquarters. On page 25, the document refers to an appendix including “letters of support”. Although the released document did not include any of the appendix items, it is reasonable to assume that a letter of support, dated the same day, and signed by 77 NYC politicians, would have been among the items sent to Jeff Bezos that day, since it would have shown that the Cuomo/NYCEDC response had strong political backing.
The Cuomo/NYCEDC response document was not drafted in a vacuum and clearly went to great lengths in engaging various parties during it’s preparation. One such party must have been Jimmy Van Bramer, council member of the district where the HQ is now slated to be built. Indeed, one month prior to the support letter and Cuomo/NYCEDC response document, Van Bramer sent de Blasio a support letter of his own, indicating the degree to which he supported the proposal.
Therefore, it is clear, that during the months of September and October of 2017, a concentrated effort was being made by city and state politicians, and entities like NYCEDC and the state version Empire State Development (ESD), to convince Amazon to come to NYC. The final result of this effort was the Cuomo/NYCEDC response document mentioned above. An excerpt from this document CLEARLY states that ESD “can also override local zoning, offer tax subsidies while holding title to a property, and provide lower cost financing or grants to economic development projects.”
One would think that politicians would read or, at least be briefed, on a proposal for which they are indicating their support, but maybe that’s asking too much from elected officials. (Even if they did not read the Cuomo/NYCEDC document, however, the process of circumventing city zoning for large projects has been used as recently as the Atlantic Yards project, so City Council cannot claim ignorance – they are literally paid to know these laws). In any case, perhaps at the next sham City Council hearing on Amazon, Van Bramer and others can clarify the degree to which they were aware of what was being offered. We aren’t holding our breath waiting for these politicians to come clean though.
“I am excited to see the New York City Economic Development Corporation recognize in their proposal what thousands of New Yorkers have been recognizing for years now: that Long Island City and Western Queens as a whole are among New York City’s most dynamic and innovative neighborhoods,” Van Bramer said in an emailed statement. “I am an enthusiastic supporter of the proposal, and of any plan to bring good paying jobs to my district. I think it is clear that Amazon HQ2 would be an ideal fit for Long Island City and for the entire borough of Queens. I look forward to working with the Economic Development Corporation in the months to come to support Long Island City’s proposal.
If you want to join the fight against AmazonHQ2, please click here to see a list of upcoming events supported by Fuck Off Amazon.