Amazon breaks NY's heart
As the region reels from Amazon’s decision to abandon plans for a new corporate headquarters in New York City, the blame game has already begun. As anti-corporate groups celebrated Thursday, the corporate behemoth blamed local politicians who danced to the hostile tune of local Democratic Socialists.
“A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project,” the company said in a statement.
The compliment was returned by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter: “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s spokeswoman made it clear that the repercussions would last long after Amazon’s story fades, especially for Democratic senators from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“The Dean of the Long Island delegation, Senator Todd Kaminsky, should have fought for Long Island’s economic interest when the State Senate tanked the Amazon plan by placing a stalwart Amazon opponent on the government approval board to pander to the local socialists. Senator Kaminsky cowered when he should have shown courage. Now all of Long Island suffers. Todd Kaminsky says Amazon should come to Nassau, how disingenuous, people aren't stupid, he and his colleagues just kicked them out of the State," wrote Dani Lever, director of communications for the governor.
Kaminsky said blaming him for not whipping the LI delegation against opposition from Queens State Sen. Mike Gianaris is misdirected.
“I hoped there was a way to bring people together to make that work...There was a good contingent in our Senate delegation that made that clear externally and internally that this a worthy project we should embrace,” he told the Point.
The beginning of the end for the Amazon deal began last week, when State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins nominated Gianaris to a fiscal oversight board that had to approve awarding Amazon about $500 million in incentives directly tied to the creation of up to 40,000 jobs over a decade. Gianaris, who represents 70 percent of the Long Island City area where the headquarters would have been built, was pressured into adopting the left’s rhetoric for his political survival. He is part of the Queens political machine eviscerated by the June primary victory of Ocasio-Cortez over longtime House incumbent Joe Crowley. Her organization threatened Gianaris with a primary in the 2020 State Senate race.
So Gianaris, the Senate’s deputy majority leader who had earlier signed a letter welcoming Amazon to Queens, got Stewart-Cousins to appoint him to the state board and made it clear he would use his veto power to get concessions from Amazon.
Last Friday, as he headed into a Long Island Association meeting in Woodbury, Cuomo got a call that Amazon was likely to pull out of New York, and during the event he blasted the Democratic senators sitting in the front row. At the same time, The Washington Post published a story online saying that Amazon was considering withdrawing from New York, and that led to a marathon weekend of trying to salvage the deal.
Cuomo met with Amazon leaders and assured them the project could stay on track and that the approval process, especially the environmental review, could be accelerated. The governor asked the six Democrats in the Long Island delegation to publicly call on Stewart-Cousins to withdraw the Gianaris recommendation, but they declined.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke directly with top Amazon officials on Monday. Cuomo hosted a meeting between Amazon and union leaders, including some who opposed it, as late as Wednesday.
But Amazon, which was poised to hire staff and work on deals with architects and developers, had deep doubts that the deal it negotiated with the city and the state would remain intact. Stewart-Cousins had discussions with Amazon about getting Gianaris off the review board and instead appointing a senator who was publicly neutral about the deal.
However, the killer was that Stewart-Cousins insisted the deal still needed to be renegotiated to reduce the “corporate subsidies,” according to sources familiar with the conversation. But Amazon doubted that Stewart-Cousins would put anyone on the board who would remain neutral or approve the deal. By Wednesday night, Amazon informed Cuomo and de Blasio that it didn’t want to go forward because of the political uncertainty.
“This is not the Valentine that NY needed,” tweeted Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney.
Working for a greener economy
Both ends of the spectrum of what it means to have the State Senate under Democratic control were on display Thursday.
At one extreme was Amazon’s decision to pull out of the deal to build a second headquarters in Queens, a debacle for which many placed blame on State Senate Democratic leadership.
At the other extreme was the second of this week’s trio of climate change hearings held by Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s environmental conservation committee — the first climate change hearings ever held by the State Senate. Under Republican control, the committee recently had been headed by climate change skeptic Sen. Thomas O’Mara.
The hours-long hearing in Manhattan featured testimony from dozens of witnesses. It followed an earlier session Wednesday in Albany, and preceded a third meeting on Long Island on Friday, all in support of a bill intended to spark a conversion of the state’s electrical grid to renewable energy and a carbon-free economy by 2050.
“I feel really heartened that transferring to a green economy, while a major endeavor, is doable, practical, and in the long run will spur our economy forward,” Kaminsky told The Point.
Kaminsky said testimony from experts will help strengthen his bill, but he also was moved by what he called “regular people, from other occupations.”
“They really don’t want their children raised in a world filled with unusually harsh storms and sea level rise and crop failures,” Kaminsky said. “People cried, they had tears about not wanting their 3-year-olds raised in a world in which climate change is not mitigated.”
Offshore wind, sea level rise and land preservation figure to be among the topics addressed in the Long Island session. Among those presenting at the legislative building on Mineola will be Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“The bill has to be scientifically defensible,” Esposito said in an email. “We don’t want pie-in-the-sky goals. We want a science-driven transition that is meaningful, doable, and isn’t a fraud put upon the public.”
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