Statement from Fuck Off Amazon

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 AMAZON
NO TECH-CAPITALISM
NO GENTRIFICATION
NO PRIVATIZATION
NO POLICE VIOLENCE


Visit Fuck Off Amazon for updates.

Enough With the Lies: City Council Knew Amazon Would Circumvent ULURP

(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.

NYEDC references letters of support in attached document

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.

Van Bramer's support letter of AmazonHQ2 to de Blasio
Van Bramer sent a letter to de Blasio one month prior to the infamous letter of support, signed by 77 NYC politicians, for AmazonHQ2 coming to NYC.

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.

We will leave you with an excerpt taken from a Queens Chronicle article, which we quoted in a recent post “Liars Don’t Represent Us – Van Bramer: Say NO to Amazon or Resign“:

“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.

Donate to Our Neighborhood Defense Fund to Defeat Amazon

Help fund the fight against AmazonHQ2.

Click here to contribute.

As many of you know, residents of Queens and across the city have been mobilizing to fight back against AmazonHQ2. Community meetings, protests, and direct actions are taking place. We’ve also seen the formation of multiple coalitions. The politicians want us to think the its a done deal, but many are saying there’s still a long fight ahead.

Protestors with Fuck Off Amazon outside BIll de Blasio's town-hall at CUNY Hunter
Protestors with Fuck Off Amazon outside BIll de Blasio’s town-hall at CUNY Hunter College calling to “shut it down”, in opposition to the CUNY Board of Trustee’s endorsement of AmazonHQ2, de Blasio’s positions, and in solidarity with CUNY Struggle’s demand for 7k for adjunct courses or strike #7korstrike

Together we can do this, but a lot stands in the way. Connect with us to help organize and please donate what you can.

Stay tuned for upcoming event announcements.

Fuck Off Amazon – No AmazonHQ2 Principles of Engagement & Statement

No AmazonHQ2 Principles and Statement  – 12/12/2018

No AmazonHQ2 Principles of Engagement & Statement:

The fight against Amazon has just begun, but already we are seeing official and informal alliances forming – some look promising, but others are weighed down by electoral and large non-profit interests. We understand that the many groups fighting Amazon will not always be in close coordination, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, we do feel that there is a need to clearly delineate between a concessionary, non-oppositional stance and a principled opposition against Amazon.  Moreover, we want to establish a set of agreed upon principles for all of us to help ensure that this moment is not co-opted or weakened, and to strengthen each other. Therefore, we propose the following Principles and Positions Statement:

Principles of Engagement:

  1. We will not meet or communicate with Amazon or any of its representatives.
  2. We will not meet or communicate with any politicians who have previously endorsed AmazonHQ2 or have connections to the Real Estate industry. This includes every politician who signed the statement, dated October 16, 2017, endorsing AmazonHQ2.
  3. We will oppose AmazonHQ2 in its entirety–with or without public subsidies–and reject any discussion about concessions or negotiation.
  4. We respect the diversity of tactics used in the fight against AmazonHQ2.

Positions Statement:

Amazon is not welcome in New York City, and our language must reflect this.  We are opposed to AmazonHQ2 in all its forms, whether or not they receive a subsidy or promise us jobs & infrastructure.  Known worldwide for its labor violations, Amazon is a hyper-exploitative corporation, actively contributing to the gap between the rich and working class.  The corporate behemoth is facing anti-trust complaints in multiple countries. Amazon has a history of collaboration with law enforcement agencies and federal agencies such as ICE as it pushes its facial recognition technology, contributing to an expanding authoritarian police and surveillance state.

New York City is in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis that worsens every year.  Rents are skyrocketing, neighborhoods are gentrifying, housing court lines are getting longer, and NYCHA (public housing) is in complete disrepair.  Instead of addressing this crisis through public investment in underserved, working class, and immigrant communities, the City has maintained a policy of hastening displacement through its devastating zoning policies, specifically the deceptively named Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program (MIH), and through public-private partnerships.  Lastly, we are witnessing the defunding of CUNY and public services in general, in favor of privatization.

It is in this context that AmazonHQ2 is coming to Long Island City, threatening to significantly speed up the process described above. Thousands of high paid workers from around the world will be moving to Queens, and this tech-gentrification will lead to tenant harassment, rent hikes, and massive displacement.  The human toll of these pressures is often not discussed – the financial, social, and emotional pressure produced by the reality of affordable housing and displacement destroys lives. Hence, displacement is not just about eviction, but an unmeasured toll on our livelihoods.

NO WITH NO CONDITIONS TO AMAZONHQ2!!

Endorsed By (alphabetical order):
Brooklyn College Student Union
Craash Hunter
CUNY Struggle
Decolonize This Place
Politics Reborn
Queens Anti-Gentrification Project
Sunset Park for a Liberated Future
Take Back The Bronx

Phone Blast Against Amazon HQ2 in Queens

ON THURSDAY (NOV 8TH) WE WILL BE STARTING CALLS TO JIMMY VAN BRAMER, ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, AND CAROLYN MALONEY’S OFFICE TO DEMAND THEY TAKE A PUBLIC POSITION AGAINST THE AMAZON HQ2 PROPOSAL IN LIC, QUEENS. PHONE CALLS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH NEXT WEEK.

Call in info:

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer: 718-383-9566 [press “0” for person]
Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 929-388-6141 [leave a message if no one picks up]
Congressmember Carolyn B. Maloney: 718-932-1804
State Senate Michael Ginaris: (718) 728-0960

Phone Blast Script:

It was recently announced that Amazon is considering Long Island City, Queens as a location for its new Headquarters, a move that would lead to skyrocketing rents and record levels of displacement throughout the entire borough. We are outraged that there were no public hearings on this proposal and that none of us have had the opportunity to voice our opinions, despite the fact that every single Queens resident will be impacted by this decision. The situtation is so bad that in July, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan called for a ‘Moratorium’ on new LIC developments¹, but her proposal was ignored by most politicians and newspapers. Today, I am calling [politicans name]’s office to demand that [politicians name] stand with Queens residents and reject the Amazon Headquarters proposal, as well as any other move to transform Western Queens into a so-called “tech hub”. The Queens that so many of us know and love is under threat and we’re going to fight back.

Footnote 1: https://licpost.com/nolan-demands-moratorium-on-new-lic-developments-after-news-of-queens-tallest-building

See the event here.

Liars Don’t Represent Us – Van Bramer: Say NO to Amazon or Resign

On November 9th, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer made a series of Tweets regarding Amazon setting up a headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.  On the surface he is trying to position himself as a progressive who is coming out in opposition to Amazon. However, we understand these comments to be political doublespeak – Van Bramer is a mainstream, establishment Democrat who has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from real estate.  He claims that he isn’t taking money from real estate anymore, but some of the money raised in previous cycles has transferred over to his Borough President campaign.

We would like to begin by sharing a quote from Van Bramer in full support of Amazon from a Queens Chronicle article published in October of 2017:

“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.

Here we will address his recent comments, tweet by tweet:

“Bypassing ULURP isn’t just about trying to get around me, it’s a direct assault on community engagement and consultation on a project that would change the face of Queens. #AmazonHQ2

Right off the bat, Jimmy Van Bramer is calling for a community engagement process.  It is very important for people to understand that this is NOT a statement opposing Amazon.  It is a statement opposing Amazon happening without going through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process).  For those who don’t know what ULURP is, it is the mandatory public review process that takes place for most land use proposals, such as rezonings or major developments such as this one.

The unpleasant fact about ULURP is that once a plan enters ULURP, its chances of passing become overwhelmingly likely.  A vast majority of proposals that enter ULURP are approved regardless of community opposition. Van Bramer is aware of this fact. If Amazon enters into ULURP, regardless of what the community board says, it has no veto power, which means if the politicians want Amazon, and they are all on record saying they do, then we will get an Amazon.

Public review is being used as a facade by Van Bramer.  It allows him to tacitly support Amazon while pretending to oppose it.

“It’s outrageous, secretive and the height of corporate Democrats tripping over themselves to provide corporate welfare to the richest man in the world without any community review or votes.”

Jimmy Van Bramer is a corporate Democrat.  He has been proclaimed the “Champion of the Long Island City Partnership,” a Business Improvement District organization that touts board members from Bank of America, CitiBank, Jet Blue, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and several other corporate behemoths.  Throughout his career, he has routinely made keynote addresses at real estate conferences, and is on the record praising the development that has taken place thus far in Long Island City.  He mentions community review, but does not oppose Amazon.

“Amazon Cuomo has every right to sell his individual naming rights but we will challenge his ability to sell Queens without review.”

Again, Van Bramer positions himself opposite Governer Cuomo in order to appear the progressive good guy.  However, he admits in plain English here that Cuomo’s attempt to sell Queens is all well and good, as long as it goes through a rigged review process.

“I call on @NYCMayor to reject the @NYGovCuomo’s desire to bypass ULURP, the local Community Board, the Borough President, City Planning and yes, the local Councilmember & @NYCCouncil. The Mayor must not be a party to this undemocratic process.”

Here Van Bramer makes his final call for public review.  As previously explained, ULURP itself is an undemocratic process, and the pro-real estate Mayor, City Council, and Department of City Planning are not going to save us by being included in this proposal.

What we are demanding from Jimmy Van Bramer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and all other Queens politicians, is an unconditional opposition to Amazon.  We cannot fall for the political doublespeak and pseudo-progressivism of the Democratic Party.  If Van Bramer cannot take a genuine stand against Amazon, we call for his resignation.  Liars don’t represent us.

To get involved in the campaign against Amazon, email us at queensantigentrification@gmail.com