Feb. 16, 2019, By Meghan Sackman
Dozens of community activists who led the charge against Amazon and its plan to build a headquarters in Long Island City celebrated in Jackson Heights Thursday night shortly after learning the E-commerce giant had announced it was no longer coming.
The more than 100 attendees congregated at Diversity Plaza, located at 73-19 37th Rd., and brought with them colorful signs and paraphernalia that signaled their euphoria. One prominent sign read: “Dear Jeff Bezos, It’s not us, It’s you, Bye,” referring to the breakup between the state and the corporation that took place on Valentine’s Day.
The celebration also reflected the cultural diversity of the activists and Jackson Heights as a neighborhood. A Mariachi band was playing most of the night while there was a piñata decorated with a picture of Jeff Bezos’ face.
Representatives from several grassroots organizations involved in the fight turned out to celebrate–including Make the Road NY, ALIGN, and Desis Rising Up & Moving.
Many activists said the future of Queens should be determined by residents, not corporate behemoths in secret deals.
“Now people can breathe,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, the executive director of community organization for ALIGN. “They have the opportunity to think about what needs to be developed in the area instead of having a large corporation decide it for them.”
Silva-Farrell said that Amazon’s abrupt decision to leave indicated how they didn’t care about the welfare of New Yorkers.
“The fact that they walked away…and could not answer questions about unionizing meant they couldn’t be trusted,” Silva-Farrell said.
While the activists celebrated, many Queens residents were angered that the deal fell through and blamed the protesters and the elected leaders who supported them.
Community figures, such as April Simpson, President of the Queensbridge Tenant Association, along with other NYCHA leaders in western Queens, believed that the activists played an over-sized role in the discussion over Amazon.
They were particularly upset that State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer sided with these groups.
Amazon’s statement put the collapse of the deal on these leaders.
“While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project,” the statement read.
Many also people blamed Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the high profile Democratic Socialist whose district is adjacent to the proposed Amazon headquarters, for the plan falling through.
She also celebrated Amazon’s decision to abandon its plans.
“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” she tweeted.