N.Y. Sen. Gianaris: Gov. Cuomo Is Behaving Like a 'Petulant Child' in Battle for Amazon Outpost

Photo Credit: Hans Pennink/AP/Shutterstock
February 5, 2019

By Kate Gill

Amazon may have met the David to its Goliath in the epic battle for Long Island City ー provided that Gov. Cuomo doesn't stand in his way.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents New York's 12th district, including Amazon's planned Long Island City outpost, said the tech giant's plan ー promising 25,000 jobs in exchange for billions in city funds ー doesn't even merit negotiation.

"This deal is so bad that I don't want to use this deal as the subject of a negotiation that we can tweak or amend and end up with a final product," he told Cheddar Tuesday.

Now, the ball has landed squarely in the court of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will either approve or decline Gianaris' appointment to the powerful Public Authorities Control Board. That three-member board will be tasked with reviewing Amazon's development plan ー and either approve it unanimously, or reject it with a single vote.

The position would essentially give Gianaris veto power over the deal ー if the deal is brought before the board at all.

"Normally that board approves all major economic developments across the state. The governor has made some suggestion that he thinks he can bypass [the board] ー now this is after already after bypassing the entire city government process that would normally be required to approve something like this," Gianaris said, likening Cuomo to a "petulant child."

After Gianaris was named on Monday, Cuomo fired back almost immediately.

"This recommendation puts the self-interest of a flip-flopping opponent of the Amazon project above the state’s economic growth,” Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement. “Every Democratic Senator will now be called on to defend their opposition to the greatest economic growth potential this state has seen in over 50 years.”

But can Gianaris and the board really block the all-powerful Amazon ($AMZN)?

"The short answer is, I'm not sure," he said. "It depends if Gov. Cuomo follows what we believe to be the requirements."

The Public Authorities Control Board flexed similar authority 14 years ago when it halted a proposal by ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build a new stadium in New York.

When Amazon announced its plans to split its HQ2 in half ー one outpost in Crystal City, Va., and another Long Island City, N.Y. ー last year, the backlash was both swift and intense. Protests erupted as locals took to city streets with picket signs and an explicit message of thanks but no thanks to Amazon's business.

"This deal was put together without any consideration of the consequences and it was a bad deal and it's going to cost New York $3 billion and the return on that is not nearly enough to justify it," Gianaris said.

"Amazon doesn't care about the people who live in Long Island City. All they care about is how much they can squeeze out of the public till in New York."

For full interview click here.