NYC Council to grill city leaders on Amazon deal
Citing concerns about the closed-door deal that drove Amazon to choose Long Island City as home for its second headquarters, the New York City Council announced it will host three hearings to question both city leaders and company exeuctives. Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the first hearing will take place on Dec. 12 to look at how the deal happened, as the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. “One of the major perversions of this is that was all done behind closed doors, with nondisclosure agreements, and without the public or elected officials who weren’t including feeling like they had any say,” Johnson told the WSJ.
Amazon announced earlier this month plans to split its second headquarters between two locations, Long Island City and Arlington, VA. The deal reached between New York and the tech company, which has been lauded by both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, promises to create 25,000 new jobs in exchange for potentially $3 billion in incentives and grants from the city and state.
The campus is planned for a waterfront area in Long Island City known as Anable Basin, and will include a mix of public and private sites. While typically a project like this would be subject to city rezoning regulations, Cuomo has said he is prepared to create a general project plan to rezone the site, which does not require City Council approval.
“I’m not just suprised, I’m angry,” Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City, told Crain’s after Amazon’s announcment this month. “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 Jeff Bezos sitting in a room together.”
Council Members Jumanne Williams and Brad Lander, along with Van Bramer, have spoken out against the plan and have said they will introduce legislation to prevent city officials from signing non-disclosure agreements like what happened with Amazon, Bloomberg reported.
“What is the argument that Amazon should have been able to know that there was a willingness to bypass the city’s land use process without the people of the city of New York and their elected officials knowing that?” Lander asked in an interview with Bloomberg.
The Council hopes the hearings give officials who were left out of the process a clearer understanding of the deal. City Hall will host a second hearing in January to look at the specifics of the incentives promised to Amazon and a third hearing in Februrary to examine the impact on the local community. The Council invited Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, NYCEDC President James Patchett, and executives from Amazon to attend the hearings.