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Dueling LI views on HQ2 postmortem

Protestors opposed to Amazon staged a demonstration outside

Protestors opposed to Amazon staged a demonstration outside State Sen. Todd Kaminsky's Rockville Centre office on Friday. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Divergent views of economic development now that Amazon has scuttled plans for a second headquarters in Queens were on display Friday at competing events.

In Melville, Long Island's top business and political leaders proposed to spur development by lobbying for a permanent 2 percent cap on property-tax increases, an additional natural gas pipeline and a possible compromise on higher wages for construction workers.

In Rockville Centre, liberal activists who pressured   Amazon to withdraw its plans for Long Island City, Queens, criticized state senators for urging the online retailer to reconsider. Amazon HQ2 was projected to create 25,000 jobs and generate $27.5 billion in tax revenue for New York State and New York City over 25 years, in return for $3 billion in tax breaks.

The events attracted about 30 people each.

Long Island's two county executives joined developers and nonprofit leaders to discuss how to respond to Amazon's pullback at a private meeting organized by the Long Island Association business group.

“We believe our region was tarnished because Long Island City has ‘Long Island’ in it name,” said LIA president Kevin Law. “There is a negative perception that we don’t support development, and that is not true.”

He and other leaders said they have until March 31, the deadline for adoption of a new state budget, to win support for the tax cap and the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a pipeline that would increase access to natural gas needed for building projects.

The leaders also said they want to negotiate with labor unions about legislation that would require projects receiving tax breaks to pay construction workers the prevailing wage -- pay that's significantly higher than the wage for non-union workers. The requirement would boost the cost of developments, they said.

Suffok County Executive Steve Bellone said, “It cannot be something that undermines our economy or the jobs we’re trying to bring here.”

Later Friday, two activist groups, Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change, rallied outside the Rockville Centre office of Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), leader of the six local Democrats in the Senate's ruling majority. The groups said Amazon was a bad corporate citizen not worthy of the senators' support.

"Amazon's business model destroys small businesses," said Peggy Perkins, 36, of Hempstead. "More importantly, why do we have to give our hard-earned tax dollars to the richest company in the world?"

Kaminsky responded that most of his constituents back the Amazon HQ2 project because it would bring "good-paying jobs and a stronger economy." In the wake of the retailer's Feb. 14 pullout, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo criticized Kaminsky for allegedly not lobbying Senate opponents, including Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), to convince them to support the Amazon project.

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