The Real Deal New York

Amazon LIC critic named to key board that can veto project

Gov. Cuomo still has to sign off on Michael Gianaris’ appointment
February 04, 2019 05:00PM

Jeff Bezo and Michael Gianaris (Credit: Getty Images)

When Amazon announced plans for a campus in Long Island City, local opposition quickly followed. Now, that opposition has a more prominent voice.

On Monday, the new Democratic majority in the State Senate appointed a vocal critic of the Amazon deal to a board that has veto power, the New York Times reported. Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens will be among three voting members of the Public Authorities Control Board — and any voting member has the power to block projects that come before it.

The new majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, sent a letter about the selection to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has to approve it. It’s unclear whether he’ll sign off on the appointment, the report said. Gianaris has frequently criticized Cuomo and deemed the incentives for the Amazon deal “offensive.”

Gianaris “will bring an important perspective and accountability to this board as it reviews numerous projects,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

Amazon has said the company expects the development plan to go before the board next year. Voting members of the board are appointed to one-year terms. In the past, the board has hindered other prominent deals. For example, it stood in the way of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for a new stadium in Manhattan, the report said.

For his part, Gianaris said he hasn’t committed to voting for or against the tech giant’s plan, given that details are still in the works.

“My position on the Amazon deal is clear and unambiguous and is not changing,” Gianaris told the Times. “It’s hard for me to say what I would do, when I don’t know what it is I would be asked to opine on.”

Executives at Amazon have privately expressed frustration about the opposition it’s received in New York, the report said. In remarks last week, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, said the company had been “invited to come to New York, and we want to invest in a community that wants us.”

Last week, Amazon said it won’t be taking advantage of the Opportunity Zone tax break in LIC. As part of the bidding process the state’s Empire State Development and the city’s Economic Development Corporation offered up to $3 billion in tax breaks and a dozen sites in the state, including several in the city, according to previous reports.

Amazon expects to have 700 employees in the area next year and hit 25,000 by 2028. The firm said it will remodel its temporary offices before workers can move in, and it could take two years to break ground on the New York campus. [NYT] — Meenal Vamburkar