Deal or no deal on Amazon HQ?
As Amazon gets strong reviews in the suburbs, Long Island state senators are making sure they’re all on message about bringing a new headquarters for the online giant to Queens.
The Point reached out to all nine of Long Island’s state senators Tuesday. With some in Albany, and others trying to make it home from the snow-clogged capital, only six responded by the time we published. While none outright oppose the deal or want to dispatch Amazon to another city, the support wasn’t entirely clear-cut. There was waffling, as some senators attempted to both talk about the need for jobs and economic development while voicing concern about the tax breaks or the need to address local issues like housing and infrastructure.
In the end, though, when it came down to the “Deal or No Deal” question, all said Deal, despite the caveats.
The senators’ support for Amazon’s presence in New York came as a Siena College Research Institute poll released Tuesday shows that 66 percent of suburban voters, which includes Long Islanders, and 58 percent of NYC voters support the Amazon-to-Queens deal, even when told it could mean granting up to $3 billion in tax incentives. The poll indicates a majority approved of the deal in every age group, ethnicity, and income bracket. Even a majority of union members support the deal, which is ironic because a leader of the opposition is a retail union that is against the new headquarters after previous efforts to get Amazon’s Whole Foods subsidiary to unionize didn’t materialize.
Sen. Todd Kaminsky told The Point he supports the deal, but that there should be a way to “make it better for the communities that are impacted.” A spokesman for State Sen. Anna Kaplan said she was unavailable to speak to The Point, but that she thinks the project is important, though there’s “still work that needs to be done.”
“Let’s not kill the deal. Let’s work with the deal to make sure the community needs are being heard,” Kaplan’s spokesman said.
Sen. Phil Boyle, meanwhile, told The Point he’s “very happy” Amazon is coming to New York, but doesn’t like the incentive package the deal included, and would like the state comptroller and the State Legislature to get involved to “see if a better deal could be had.”
Sen. Monica Martinez was more unequivocal, saying that she “most definitely” backs the deal, and adding that she hopes local stakeholders would “sit at the table and talk” to resolve differences.
“There are a lot of positives we could see in this,” Martinez said of the potential impact for Long Island.
Sen. Jim Gaughran was driving home from Albany in the snow but his spokeswoman said he supports Amazon coming to New York and wanted to “urge all parties involved in the process to work out any differences so that New York can benefit from the promised economic gains.”
Sen. John Brooks’ statement was similar: “Let me be clear. I support bringing Amazon to New York. I think all involved parties should work out any differences so New York can reap the promised economic benefits.”
While The Point waits to hear from Sens. John Flanagan, Kevin Thomas, and Ken LaValle, it’s clear that the suburban delegation has made an effort to show its support. Now the question is whether Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins -- or, even more unlikely, her deputy, Michael Gianaris, one of the deal's loudest opponents -- will start delivering a similar message.
Randi F. Marshall
A SALT-y commute
Was there more salt on Long Island roads than on President Donald Trump’s mind Tuesday?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the wintry weather trip to Washington in an effort to persuade the president that the 2017 tax code revamp that put a $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local taxes is devastating to New York. Cuomo blames the cap for a good part of the state’s $2.3 billion revenue shortfall.
Cuomo’s intent is to get Trump to pop the SALT cap when Congress amends the controversial law this year to fix poor legislative language. It appeared Trump would consider revisiting the blue-state punishment in a meeting with regional reporters last week, when he said he was “open to talking about” changes to the SALT cap because he had heard complaints from some of this fellow New Yorkers. But soon after Trump’s remarks, the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, said it would not revisit SALT this year.
Tuesday’s trip to the White House was the second for Cuomo in less than three months. In November, the governor tried to get a promise from Trump to fund the construction of two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, a key infrastructure need in the Northeast. In that visit, Cuomo brought a video of the deteriorating tunnel, but left without a promise that Trump would let the project move forward.
No word yet on whether Tuesday’s outer-borough reunion included a tunnel or any salty language.
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Always an MTA hook
When Jon Weinstein left his post as spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority late last year, it seemed he was done talking about trains and tracks, especially when he took on a gig as senior vice president of corporate communications for the National Hockey League.
Not so fast.
In between handling talk of game-winning goals and power plays, Weinstein likely will face off on continued questions about the future home of the New York Islanders. Just last month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke of how everything seemed “on track” for a May or June groundbreaking for a new arena for the Islanders at Belmont Park. But one of the significant sticking points at Belmont continues to be mass transit, and whether there can be a full-time station there for the Long Island Rail Road.
The question came up again Tuesday, at an Albany hearing on economic development as both State Sen. Anna Kaplan and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky asked Empire State Development Chief Executive Howard Zemsky about Belmont. Kaminsky called a full-time station “imperative” to the success of Belmont’s redevelopment.
“We hear you,” Zemsky responded, noting that he grew up an Islanders fan. “And we’ve heard the community ... So, I would say, stay tuned.”
So, Weinstein, who worked as a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo before moving to the MTA, likely is still going to be navigating New York politics -- and the region’s rails -- even as his focus turns to the ice.
Meanwhile, it’ll be Max Young, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer, who’ll be taking on Weinstein’s duties, among others, at the MTA, as chief external affairs officer, a newly created title.
No word yet on whether the MTA will start the weekly Sunday news conferences for which Schumer is well-known.
Randi F. Marshall