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Queens Chronicle

Save the Amazon deal from misguided officials

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:56 pm, Thu Feb 14, 2019.

The city is on the verge of losing a golden opportunity to secure billions of dollars in new revenue for both its own coffers and Albany’s, see high-paying job growth in the tens of thousands, educate the next generation in modern technology and take a major step in becoming a tech hub to rival California’s Silicon Valley.

That’s right: Obstinate elected officials just might succeed in nixing the deal to bring one of Amazon’s second headquarters to Long Island City. Their primary objections are that Amazon doesn’t embrace unions and that the tax revenue it would pay over 25 years would add up to $27 billion instead of $30 billion. Officials such as City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Mike Gianaris, both of western Queens, would give up that $27 billion in new tax money because of the $3 billion in incentives that Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio agreed to provide the online retail giant if it chose to come here.

Is this what they call new math? If someone walked into our office and said he’d give us three ten-dollar bills in exchange for three singles, we’d take him up on it every time. But it seems a lot of officials would cut off their nose to spite their face. And it’s not just their faces at stake but those of millions of city and state residents.

All those social welfare programs that provide for people of low income, all those subway trains zipping around the city, all those roads that can take you from here to anywhere, all those schools that educate children and provide the first steps in moving up the income ladder — all those things and many more are paid for primarily through taxes, taxes paid mostly by the middle and upper classes.

Amazon would have to create 25,000 jobs here to live up to its end of the deal, and the forecast is for as many as 40,000. That’s an awful lot of tax revenue to turn away.

Yet there are Van Bramer and Gianaris — who both called for Amazon to come to Queens before the deal was struck — wanting the jobs and tax money to go elsewhere. Van Bramer said in a recent email that “if Amazon is anti-union, they are not welcome here” and that “We need to invest in our local community and its workers, not the largest corporations.” Invest with what money? Government doesn’t produce tax revenue. The private sector does.

As for unions, only 17 percent of workers statewide belong to one, and there are plenty of nonunionized companies — Google for one — that have been welcome to set up operations in New York City. What kind of precedent would be set by keeping Amazon out? And some unions, like those whose members would build HQ2, fully support the deal.

But now the anti-Amazon forces might have found a way to keep the company from coming here. Democrats in the state Senate have named Gianaris to serve on the Public Authorities Control Board, where he would be able to single-handedly scuttle the deal Cuomo and de Blasio made. Ironically, Cuomo has to approve the appointment.

Maybe he won’t. Gianaris has already said there are no alterations that could be made to the agreement that would change his mind. Giving him a seat on the PACB would guarantee that Amazon could not come here. It’s hard to imagine tough-guy Cuomo allowing one state senator to cost New York so much revenue and so many jobs, and to cost him so much prestige as he eyes the presidency.

There are legitimate concerns about HQ2, like gentrification, but those can be dealt with. And as a newspaper that relies on community businesses for advertising, we’re not Amazon’s biggest fans. But this is a good deal. Cuomo and de Blasio must do everything they can to make sure what’s in New York’s cart gets to checkout and delivery.

Welcome to the discussion.

2 comments:

  • Fred Davie posted at 8:46 am on Tue, Feb 12, 2019.

    Fred Davie Posts: 1

    I have lived in LIC for ten years as a condo owner. I love the neighborhood and I'm a big supporter of the proposed Amazon development. I do believe the project needs to maximize opportunities for historically marginalized populations, especially for residents of Queensbridge Houses and other NYCHA communities. Let's not allow pursuit of the perfect and ideological purity to be the enemy of the good, and in this case, the very good.

     
  • Stephen posted at 7:43 pm on Thu, Feb 7, 2019.

    Stephen Posts: 10

    How front-loaded is the deal? What sort of checks and balances are there to ensure that Amazon does create those high-paying jobs? How fast are they supposed to be created? Again, checkpoints, critical paths.
    And what about penalties for failure? You know, like not hitting the job creations? What about infrastructure improvements? Can they bring in their own construction people so that the MTA is not responsible for fixing transit stuff? That would be good, since we all know how expensive and how long it takes them to fix things.
    Big picture, everything sounds wonderful. But the big issue is the details. And if we don't pay attention to the little things, the big things will bite us you-know-where.