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LI leaders support effort to win Amazon back, but say Island must move on

Even without the online retail giant bringing 25,000 jobs to Queens, Long Island must move ahead with plans to increase housing options near LIRR stations, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran with Larry Levy

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran with Larry Levy of Hofstra University at a development conference at the Hofstra University Club on Friday Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Local leaders on Friday said they support efforts to win back Amazon's second headquarters for Queens, but said Long Island needs to move on with plans for business development and housing projects that had been tied to the online retailer's now-scuttled plans.

“There is a movement afoot to lure them back,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, referring to a public pitch to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos by top business, labor and nonprofit officials in the metropolitan area.

“I truly hope that it is successful," she said. "But in the meantime…we can see that Amazon was one, a big one, but one of the many regional economic development opportunities for Nassau County.”

Curran told about 130 people gathered for a development conference at Hofstra University in Hempstead that her administration will continue to support housing projects near Long Island Rail Road stations, which would have housed people working at the proposed Amazon HQ2 facility in Long Island City, Queens.

Curran and others said the availability of housing, particularly apartments, condominiums and co-ops, is crucial to keeping young workers on the Island and in turn providing a skilled workforce for businesses.

Stuart Rabinowitz, Hofstra University president, said he was doubtful Amazon would resurrect HQ2, noting “in my opinion, very sadly, unless we have a very good reconciliation, that’s not going to happen.

“We have to move on from there,” he said. “Just because that didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to pursue bold ideas now and in the future.”

Rabinowitz, co-vice chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, said Friday’s conference was planned before Amazon’s Valentine’s Day announcement that it would not bring 25,000 jobs to Queens after all. The company has blamed its pullout on opposition from some Queens politicians and liberal activists.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also have blamed Queens opponents and said they wished Amazon had fought harder for the project, which would have received nearly $3 billion in tax breaks in return for $27.5 billion in tax payments over 25 years.

Friday, in an advertisement in The New York Times, 80 civic leaders publicly asked Amazon to reconsider. Cuomo "will take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval," the “open letter” states.

The only signer from Long Island is Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association business group.

 Cuomo, in a Friday interview on radio station WNYC, said the effort is a long shot. "I don’t believe they will reconsider, but I am hopeful. They have given no indication that they would reconsider."

An Amazon spokesman said Friday the company had no comment.

: Peter Goldsmith, chairman of LISTnet, a regional technology advocacy group, applauded efforts to get the company to reverse its decision.

 "This really would have made our whole area a better competitor to Silicon Valley,” he said.

-- With Victor Ocasio and Yancey Roy

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