While Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio continue to woo Amazon to New York, an influential union and other progressives are raising warning flags about the potential project.
Amazon’s reported decision to set up shop in New York has also put pressure on de Blasio to hit the throttle on his streetcar project.
The internet giant will have headquarters in Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City, Va., The New York Times reported. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
But critics say the state and city should be wary of using taxpayer dollars to lure the company and also raise concerns that the project could result in gentrification.
“Amazon, one of the wealthiest and largest companies in history, needs the city more than the city needs Amazon – plain and simple,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union and a frequent Cuomo ally. “If Amazon wants to come here, they can afford to do so on their own.”
He said his union “is deeply concerned about using taxpayer subsidies for a company run by the richest man on Earth to set up shop in our city, especially when it’s something they want to do and can do on their own anyway.”
Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, said the state and city should be “extracting concessions” from the online retail giant rather than competing against other states by offering government subsidies.
“They should demand that Amazon pay a gentrification tax to offset the negative impact of rising rents and lost small businesses the company will cause in Long Island City,” Westin said. “And they should demand that Amazon hire a significant number of local residents, with a preference for public housing residents in nearby NYCHA developments in Queens.”
Cuomo talked up the project Tuesday. “Amazon would be a big win, obviously, for anyone who gets it,” Cuomo said, adding it would attract thousands of young people and high-tech jobs.
“We’re working very hard to seduce Amazon here,” he said. “I think we’re putting together a great package to bring them here.”
Meanwhile, backers of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector — an 11-mile waterfront trolley known as the BQX — called on the city Tuesday to “fast-track” the streetcar project.
“Amazon’s move to L.I.C. would clearly be a boon to the city’s economy — but the campus would only reach its full potential with the BQX,” said Friends of the BQX director Jessica Schumer.
De Blasio said in August he’d need about $1 billion from the Trump administration to make the BQX a reality, but supporters of the project say that may be unnecessary if Amazon lands in Queens, changing the entire economic landscape.
The BQX trolley that would run along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront was announced in 2016 as Mayor de Blasio’s marquee transportation project.
Two supporters of the BQX told the Daily News that they believe the de Blasio administration has been too conservative about the economic benefits of the streetcar because of concerns over gentrification and housing prices.
They also felt that de Blasio has been too quiet about the project, unlike Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s constant advocacy and planning for the extension of the No. 7 subway line into a new Manhattan West Side neighborhood, Hudson Yards.
“It’s safe to say that there’s a pretty broad consensus that the mayor could have made this more of a priority to date,” a transit advocate and board member of the Friends of the BQX said.
This month, the city sent a request for proposal to several firms to complete an environmental impact study, a critical part of the project. A spokeswoman did not say how many firms were approached.
The firms have an early December deadline to submit their proposals so the city can launch the environmental study in January, according to Stephanie Baez, a spokeswoman for the city Economic Development Corp., which is managing the project.