This Amazon HQ2 critic could have the power to stop its New York expansion

Posted at 10:33 PM, Feb 04, 2019

The backlash to Amazon’s decision to place half of its second headquarters in New York’s Long Island City neighborhood has been swift. Opponents of the deal, including local politicians and residents, have held protests and events to voice their disapproval.

Now, those who are against the project may have a sliver of hope.

On Monday, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who is a vocal critic of HQ2, was recommended to serve on the Public Authorities Control Board, according to a letter obtained by CNN Business. The news was first reported by the New York Times.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, temporary president and majority leader of the New York State Senate, made the recommendation, according to the letter.

The relatively unknown board weighs in on any financing and land use deals that run through public authorities, which primarily include economic development projects. It’s had some success in the past blocking major projects. In 2005, the board rejected a plan by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build a football stadium in Manhattan.

Projects must receive unanimous approval from the Public Authorities Control Board, according to Gianaris. While he said many believe the HQ2 deal must be brought before the board, it’s unclear if it will be.

“The governor has said publicly it doesn’t need to be. So we don’t know,” Gianaris said in an interview with CNN Business.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo must also approve Gianaris’ appointment to the board. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Gianaris has organized and attended protests against HQ2 in Long Island City and began a petition on his website to stop the project.

“I have several problems with [HQ2]. Most notably providing $3 billion in public taxpayer subsidies for the richest corporation on earth when we have great needs of our own, offends me,” Gianaris told CNN Business. “This deal is so historically bad that I do not believe it can be tweaked.”

If HQ2 moves forward as planned, he believes it will “dramatically increase gentrification” that is already taking place, and put further stress on local subways and schools.

Amazon declined to comment.

In November, Amazon announced Long Island City and Northern Virginia’s Arlington would split duty as its second headquarters. Both locations will receive a $2.5 billion investment from Amazon, and each will eventually have more than 25,000 workers.

After backlash from the Long Island City community, Amazon has tried several tactics to win over New Yorkers.

In January, the company ran a print advertisement in the Saturday editions of local newspapers — the Daily News and the New York Post.

“Happy New Year from your future neighbors at Amazon,” the ad reads. The company said it hopes to have a “long and mutually beneficial partnership between New Yorkers and Amazon.”

The ad said the company will offer career training for local residents and bring in over $27 billion in state and local tax revenue that can help “improve subways and buses.”

The company has also mailed fliers to Long Island City residents with a similar message highlighting the jobs and benefits the new headquarters will bring.

Most recently, Amazon executives appeared at a second meeting on the HQ2 deal before the New York City Council last week and answered questions.