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Mayor defends Amazon deal at state lawmakers' hearing 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies during a joint legislative budget hearing on local government Monday in Albany. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday defended the controversial financial incentives to lure Amazon to Long Island City, saying it was “mission critical” to land the thousands of jobs at stake.

The progressive Democrat told lawmakers who are reviewing the state budget that he wished the bidding process for the Amazon campus was more transparent and there should be federal legislation to prevent companies from pitting city against city for jobs.

But in the end, the city had a “real life choice to make” and the 25,000 jobs promised by the retail giant was worth the $3 billion in city and state incentives, de Blasio said. The deal, brokered by de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, faces resistance in the State Senate and City Council.

Even though he often opposes “corporate welfare” and favors higher taxes on the wealthy, the mayor said New York had to offer something to beat out the dozens of other competitors.

“To me, it was mission critical that this city get those jobs rather than those other cities,” de Blasio told lawmakers conducting a state budget hearing on local government funding. “We believe that a very careful track of the competition [indicated] there were several other cities poised to win and we had to strike the right balance.”

The mayor’s reaffirmation for the deal came just days after Cuomo and Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) exchanged sharp words over Amazon. Cuomo, also a Democrat, cited a Washington Post report saying Amazon was reconsidering coming to New York in the face of local opposition and he accused the State Senate of “governmental malpractice.” A subsequent report by the New York Times said Amazon isn’t, in fact, considering backing away from New York.

Gianaris, who represents the area of Queens where Amazon would locate, accused Cuomo of making a “secret” and “bad” deal with the company, and raised the possibility the governor had orchestrated the threat of Amazon leaving as a way to silence critics. Gianaris believes the state and city shouldn’t have offered the $3 billion in incentives, which he says should be spent on schools and the crumbling subways.

The senator was recently nominated to an arcane but important panel that signs off on tax and other state incentives for economic development. Cuomo hasn’t said whether he’ll block the nomination.

Amazon had announced in November it had decided to build half its East Coast headquarters in Long Island City and half in Northern Virginia, promising 25,000 jobs for each location.

“The notion of that many jobs and that much tax revenue — we would rather have that in our city than not,” de Blasio said.

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