Long Island City locals rally outside Queensbridge Houses to counter claim that Amazon has no neighborhood support
United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is joined by other community leaders and members to urge support for bringing Amazon to Long Island City. (Kendall Rodriguez for New York Daily News)
Supporters of Amazon’s plan to bring a new hub to Queens gathered Monday in front of the Queensbridge North Houses to counter critics who say the deal has little to no grassroots backing.
Their event attracted a diverse — and unlikely — mix of about a dozen people to the Long Island City public housing complex and included tenant leaders, a representative from the pro-business Association for a Better New York and Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
April Simpson, president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association, was front and center. She contends that, unlike other new arrivals to the area, Amazon has been talking with the group since “Day One” and believes the Seattle-based company will hire people living in the NYCHA complex.
“You know why? Because we have a voice,” she said. “We’re at the table. That’s the blessing.”
Beside her was Angela Pinsky, ABNY’s executive director, who said turning the company away now would send “a terrible signal.” She cited a recent ABNY study that found new tech jobs can have a ripple effect in lifting up other industries.
“Having Amazon select Queens for its HQ2 sent a signal to employers, tech companies, entrepreneurs, investors and researchers around the world that New York City was a place to be,” she said.
But critics of Amazon questioned Monday’s Queensbridge rally and the company’s community outreach tactics. During an appearance on WCNY radio Monday, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) said people in community groups he’s spoken with described the outreach as a distraction where nothing actually gets accomplished.
“I’ve heard from a number of them privately that they can’t get anywhere, that it’s all part of a show,” said Gianaris, who was recently appointed to a committee that could block the deal.
Other elected officials came out to Queensbridge to support the deal.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who represents the site of the proposed Amazon hub, said people who live in the area want the deal to go through.
“We’re here in the largest public housing project — not in New York City — but in the entire country,” she said. “What the residents of this community are telling me is that they want jobs. They want training. They want opportunity.”
Maloney, a Democrat who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, said another reason for supporting Amazon in Queens is it will help diversify the city’s economy, which is now heavily reliant on the financial sector.
“You can support the jobs and Amazon while still questioning other aspects, such as the extent of the subsidies, or the commitment to entry-level jobs,” she said.
Testifying at the state legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee meeting Monday, Mayor de Blasio defended his decision to support the deal and cited the 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs it could mean to the city.
“It was mission critical that this city get those jobs,” he said.
And Gov. Cuomo touched on the possibility that Amazon could back out, noting that Newark offered $7 billion in tax incentives to the company, compared with New York’s $3 billion package.
“If you're Amazon you say, 'Why don't I do that?’” he said.
He acknowledged again Monday that he understands the “political environment” that’s led others to resist the deal, but argued that it would be “single greatest economic development transaction in the state's history.”
"The economics of the Amazon transaction are bulletproof,” he said. “You don't get 25,000 jobs anymore."