Community groups blast calls for Amazon to reconsider New York City plans

“Amazon left the first time around because of fierce vocal opposition, and that opposition still remains," the groups said.
Image: New Amazon Long Island City Headquaters Press Conference
John Schoettler, Amazon's Vice President for Global Real Estate and Facilities, shakes hands with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo looks on following a press conference officially announcing Amazon's decision to open one of two new national headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood in New York on Nov. 13, 2018.Justin Lane / EPA

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By Daniella Silva

Amazon remains a prime topic in New York City.

Dozens of community groups Friday blasted elected officials and business leaders who have urged Amazon to rethink its reversal on plans to build a headquarters in New York City.

The groups issued a statement in response to a full-page advertisement from the officials and leaders published in The New York Times on Friday that asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to revisit his plan to create the headquarters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday during a press briefing that he had “many conversations” with Amazon and hopes it reconsiders its withdrawal, but “up until now, we haven't seen any change in their position.”

The governor has been aggressively pursuing the company, including a personal pitch to Bezos and phone calls to other executives over the past two weeks, according to a report in the newspaper Thursday.

“Cuomo’s plea for Amazon to come back to New York and the open letter that appears in the New York Times today does not accurately reflect the desires of immigrant communities, working-class communities, and communities of color,” the group of more than 70 organizations said on the blogging site Medium on Friday.

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“Amazon left the first time around because of fierce vocal opposition, and that opposition still remains," they said. "We defeated them recently, and we will do it again."

Corbin Trent, communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., criticized the elected officials seeking to change Bezos' mind. Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the neighborhood where the headquarters would have been built, was a vocal opponent of the plan.

"If the elected officials spent half as much talking to the community as they do Jeff Bezos, we might have come to an agreement," Trent said in a statement to NBC News Friday.

Advocacy group Make the Road New York, which also signed the joint response, issued its own statement Thursday blasting the governor's alleged actions.

"Andrew Cuomo needs to stop groveling at the feet of corporations and billionaires and start listening to our communities, who overwhelmingly reject this deal," the group said.

The letter published in the Times, which was paid for by the nonprofit organization Partnership for New York City, said Cuomo will “take personal responsibility for the project’s state approval” and Mayor Bill de Blasio will “work together with the governor to manage the community development.”

Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Demonstrators protest against Amazon in Long Island City, Queens, on Thursday.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

De Blasio, who initially supported the deal but later criticized the retailer for its canceled plans, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the mayor told The New York Times that de Blasio was aware the open letter was being prepared.

Amazon announced Feb. 14 that it was backing out of its plans to build the headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens after protests and swift opposition from some politicians, including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, in addition to unions and community groups.

A coalition of activists and policymakers in Virginia has since followed suit, calling for a rejection of Amazon's plans to build another new headquarters in Arlington.

At the time it withdrew from New York, Amazon blamed state and local elected officials who "had opposed our presence and will not work with us."

Many activists feared the project would worsen congestion in the area and lead to gentrification and higher housing prices. They also took issue with $3 billion in state and city incentives the company was offered.

Supporters of the deal pointed to Amazon's promise to bring 25,000 jobs to New York City, which would elevate it as a technological hub.