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AOC can't get it straight on Amazon HQ

Daily Point

AOC still getting it mostly wrong on Amazon

After all the sturm und drang, here was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hedging about the Amazon deal at a Queens community board meeting Tuesday night: “Again it’s not saying that we shouldn’t have Amazon here. It’s not saying that I’m against Amazon coming under any circumstances, though there are members of the community that feel that way.”

This from the high-profile Amazon opponent who put the fear of primary gods in Queens politicians, who proudly tweeted that New Yorkers had “defeated” Amazon’s “corporate greed” after the company pulled out of NYC.

The freshman Democrat from the Bronx seemed less all-or-nothing on the issue Tuesday, according to a clip of the appearance posted by a pro-Amazon Twitter account called @defeatGianaris. 

Still, in explaining her opposition to Amazon, she misrepresented aspects of the dashed deal, hearkening back to her much-criticized early comments about using the entire incentive sum (much of which was future tax credits) for purposes like education and the subway.

Discussing the 25,000 jobs promised by Amazon, Ocasio-Cortez said: “if they didn’t deliver on creating those jobs, there was no penalty for it.”

But the tax incentives from state programs were tied to job creation, including the $500 million capital grant that required job and investment commitments. That money wouldn’t have flowed if Amazon didn’t hit job targets.

Ocasio-Cortez also said that “Senator [Michael] Gianaris was appointed to the board to negotiate with Amazon,” referring to the Public Authorities Control Board.

But state law says PACB’s function is to approve projects when “there are commitments of funds sufficient to finance the acquisition and construction of such project.”

Of course, it’s too late for the facts to sway activists and politicians about the project, as Amazon has shown little interest in returning to NYC since pulling out of the new hub project in February. But Ocasio-Cortez now knows that public opinion in NY is not on the side of the deal opponents. Quinnipiac University and Siena College polls this week found a majority of New York voters have Amazon remorse, with the Siena poll indicating that a plurality of voters thought Ocasio-Cortez was most to blame.

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Got a hunch, bet a bunch

For the last several months there’s been a quiet campaign mounted in Albany to get full casinos opened downstate as soon as possible, with the owners of slot palaces in Yonkers (MGM) and Queens (Genting) putting in most of the work. Now the fight has burst into the open thanks to Las Vegas Sands and its owner, Sheldon Adelson.

Sands, which is hungry for a piece of the Big Apple betting pie and currently has no New York properties, is going public with demands for a licensing process that would thwart Yonkers’ and Aqueduct’s attempts to get the inside track.

MGM and Genting want Albany lawmakers to approve in this legislative session a plan that would allow their facilities to be granted full casino licenses so they can add table games. In return, they each would pay a one-time fee of $500 million. The ace up Genting and MGM’s sleeves is dangling immediate revenue to Assembly and Senate leaders desperate for money to fund their social programs: that $1 billion upfront and an estimated additional $500 million a year in revenue.

The Sands, however, is calling for a competitive bidding process which could take a few years. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo insisted at a Tuesday news conference on such a public process to best determine how much a license to operate a casino downstate is actually worth.

When the 2013 law was passed allowing seven non-Indian casinos in the state it allowed for four upstate licenses immediately, but put in place a seven-year moratorium for three downstate locations that ends in 2023.

The rationale at the time was to give the upstate businesses time to develop a clientele without downstate competition.

But with Atlantic City, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, and nearby casinos in Pennsylvania and Delaware, most downstate gamblers have not headed north. The four upstate casinos are struggling, albeit some more than others.

Mike McKeon, who represents Genting, said his client and MGM are ready to pay the four northern operators the as-much-as $300 million total that is called for if full casinos open downstate before 2023. And the four northern operators (one of which is actually also Genting, at Empire Resorts Catskills) are more than ready to exchange their remaining years of the non-compete for the cash.

Enter Sands, and Adelson, and former governor David Paterson, now a lobbyist for Sands. The big advantage Sands has is that Cuomo has always been the leader in giving the northern casinos every possible chance to flourish, and giving table games downstate the cold shoulder.

One reason to speed up the development of casinos at Yonkers and Aqueduct is to shut a third operator out of the downstate market. If Sands were to win the third license in a bidding process, it could look to site its operation at Willets Points, Manhattan, or less likely, Belmont, or further east on Long Island.

Adelson may have already won the pot he was playing for. Make a quiet conversation very loud, and let the realities of New York politics do the rest to slow things down.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Back under his rock

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Reference Point

Springing ahead

As spring arrives Wednesday, thousands of Long Islanders will be thinking about their gardens.

Newsday’s editorial board had the same thought on the vernal equinox of 1949, writing about the “tender horticultural care” of its readers, but with a slightly more plaintive tone. The board mourned the disappearance of Nassau farms to development, concluding on March 22 of that year that “we have all but lost our bucolic character.”

But the board also had bigger issues and metaphors on its mind, advising that in addition to worries about beetles and cut worms, we all should pay attention to “blights on the bigger garden” that is Long Island.

“Away with aphids!” the board wrote. “Away, too, with fire hazards and grade crossings, traffic accidents and bottlenecks, cesspool sanitation, bigots and bookies, and school-board secrecies!”

What the board wanted more of was buses and parks, cleaner waters and “good housing for everybody.”

In the 70 springs that since have sprung, the sentiment is still worth nurturing.

Michael Dobie