N.Y. State Sen. Gianaris Blasts Amazon HQ2: New York Doesn't Need You

Photo Credit: Mike Groll/AP/Shutterstock
December 12, 2018
Updated 2mo ago

By Carlo Versano

Amazon's New York HQ2 is a "fiasco" among the greatest "PR scams" in history, according to the state senator that represents the New York district that will be home to one-half of the new split headquarters.

Michael Gianaris, the Democratic state senator from New York's 12th district, which includes Long Island City, spoke to Cheddar Wednesday, just as protesters amassed on the steps of New York's City Hall to voice their concerns with the deal.

According to Gianaris, the state badly misplayed its hand in giving Amazon ($AMZN) billions in incentives to build an outpost in the booming Queens waterfront neighborhood.

"It's $3 billion in public subsidies for a company that's probably the last one that needs it," said Gianaris. "It's outrageous."

The Queens-born Democrat pointed to the familiar grievances of many New Yorkers ー a crumbling subway system, an affordable housing crisis, and public school overcrowding ー to argue that new jobs and economic development in the district shouldn't come at the expense of the state's coffers.

Gianaris criticized Amazon's highly-publicized national search to find a home for the new headquarters as nothing more than a "beauty contest" and called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials to rip up the agreement and "reset the conversation" about the terms of the deal.

Long Island City is among the fastest growing neighborhoods in the country even before Amazon, Gianaris noted, and is already struggling with skyrocketing rents, crushing subway crowds, and packed schools, with local parents literally fighting over kindergarten seats. "I don't know how we're supposed to add 25,000 people."

Because the Amazon deal was engineered through the state's economic development arm largely in secret, it was able to bypass the city's typical land-use review and was thus exempt from potential opposition from local politicians and community leaders.

Gianaris released a statement saying he was rededicating himself to drafting legislation that would prevent "secrecy agreements" and "insider dealing in the real estate industry."

"The more we learn about this deal, the worse it gets, and I expect to come forward with even more proposals to prevent something like this from ever happening again," Gianaris said in the statement.

Amazon has said it intends to start hiring at its new HQ2 locations in Queens and northern Virginia next year.