The Real Deal New York

Cuomo looking to go around City Council to pave way for Amazon’s Long Island City HQ

Governor could sidestep normal land-use process to rezone waterfront sites
November 12, 2018 09:05AM

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with renderings of Anable Basin (Credit: Getty Images and WXY)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to turn to a controversial planning process used on projects like Atlantic Yards and the World Trade Center in order to push forward Amazon’s potential headquarters in Queens.

The Cuomo administration is planning to create what’s known as a general project plan to rezone a roughly 20-acre site around the Anable Basin on the Long Island City waterfront to pave the way for a sprawling office and mixed-use campus, Crain’s reported.

The process would give the state the power to greenlight the project without securing approval from the City Council, which usually holds most of the power when it comes to major rezoning projects.

Local City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer — who holds what would likely be the key vote in any city rezoning process — was highly critical of the governor’s plans.

“I’m not just surprised, I’m angry,” he said. “I think it would be shocking if this was done in a way that bypassed the city land-use review process. This is the most top-down approach to a project I have seen so far, with no community involvement. This is the governor and the mayor and [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos sitting in a room together.”

But a source in the Cuomo administration pointed out that the process has been used before on projects like Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Times Square and the World Trade Center.

“For decades, this has been a very typical process for joint city and state large-scale projects,” the source told Crain’s. “All of these projects included extensive community engagement.‎”

Sources said Amazon is focused on a large site owned by the plastics company Plaxall Inc. that sits adjacent to two large properties owned by the city. Plaxall last year released a draft plan to rezone its sites to make way for the construction of 5,000 apartments with mixed-use space.

Currently, the sites only allow for low-rise manufacturing uses. [Crain’s] – Rich Bockmann