Sign-carrying protesters filled a New York City Council hearing room overnight, and chanted, “Amazon workers are under attack! What do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”
“We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis,” raged New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat, as council members grilled Amazon executives about the company’s plan to build a secondary headquarters in New York during a contentious hearing Wednesday that was interrupted several times by jeering protesters.
“Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world’s richest company, valued at $1 trillion?”
As Fox5NY reports, the council members, who have no vote on the project and no apparent path to block it, demanded to know why the city and New York state were offering Amazon up to $2.8 billion in tax breaks and grants to build the new headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.
When the deal was announced last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, were quick to hail it as a huge money maker for the state and the city. Amazon is promising to bring 25,000 jobs to New York over 10 years and up to 40,000 in 15 years.
“This is a big moneymaker for us. Costs us nothing,” Cuomo said when the agreement was announced.
A narrative that Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, attempted to regurgitate in his response that the project would provide “over $186 billion in positive economic impact” over 25 years.
But, as the following clip shows, council members were not convinced:
“That analysis was done by someone who was hired by the state of New York, not by neutral third party academics or companies that can provide that economic analysis.”
Fox notes that some independent economic development researchers said the estimates from city and state officials overlook the cost of Amazon’s growth in the city .
And local officials fumed, criticizing both the process and the Amazon subsidies.
“This is bad for Long Island City, bad for Queens and bad for New York City,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat whose district includes the projected Amazon offices.
“The mayor and the governor caved to the riches man on Earth and then handed the bill to each and every New Yorker.”
State Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, told protesters rallying on the steps of City Hall before the hearing,
” Any politician in our progressive city and our state who’s willing to had $3 billion to Amazon – that should be a career ender right there.”
We wonder, in reality, if this ‘anger’ is real or simply reflects their fury at the temerity of being cut out of a deal that was negotiated without their input.