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Community Activists Come to Jackson Heights to Celebrate Victory After Amazon Abandons HQ2 Plans

Activists celebrate Amazon’s decision to abandon its Long Island City plans. (ALIGN Twitter)

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.

Activists celebrating at Diversity Plaza (ALIGN Twitter)

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33 Comments

steve jackson

Lets teach our teaching to just complain and not work. Lets teach them to hate and not judge on their own. Lets teach them that everything should be free so there is no need to thrive and persevere. DJT is evil, but teaching our children the opposite extreme is not the answer

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Theresa LaSalle

New York City lost. Many New Yorkers were excited about the possibility of a job….whether working directly at Amazon or the area that surrounds it….restaurants, clothing stores, movie theaters,
construction sites, gyms, cleaners, supermarkets, health food stores, yoga studios, hair and nail salons, childrens’ services (babysitting for employees’ young children while they are at work)…. ………endless opportunities.
Did the the opponents of Amazon ever take Economics 101?

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Mike f

You didn’t beat Bezos. He’s getting more from Virginia. Go ahead develop your neighborhood like you want and let your real estate taxes in your district pay for it. When your landlord raises your rent because the city is squeezing taxes from the owner please don’t cry for rent control. The villains of New York are the politicians.

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40 Years in the Hood

Interesting this rally took place far from the proposed Amazon site. Begs the question of what the response from those directly affected would/will be if these activists ever hold one of their celebrations on Vernon Boulevard environs. And as for JVB, Gianaris or AOC taking a victory lap here? Think their reception from the folks they supposedly represented so well might be a bit too warm for their taste? Just asking…

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LIC Resident

Community activists are so committed to LIC’s future they celebrated far away from LIC, and didnt bring any money to a local business. Love the optics. Perhaps they care as little for the LIC community as Amazon? Actually that’s a fact, not perhaps.

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Ro

Good riddance. Amazon does not need any special treatment. The idea that the state was going to give them over 500 million to them for building their physical HQ structure is sickening. Google and Facebook have added thousands of jobs in our city and neither has accepted any tax breaks even though Google qualifies for some and Facebook probably does too. Everyone who is blaming activists and politicians should be ashamed of themselves. The activists and politicians brought up real concerns. Amazon should have negotiated and made the deal better. They did not have to pull out, they were not forced to pull out. The Governor and Mayor were not going to let the deal die. The Governor would have rejected Gianaris for the Public Authorities Control Board to defend the deal. The reports say that Amazon was negotiating with some of the unions that opposed the deal on the day before they pulled out. The Amazon executives killed this deal because they could not handle the negative press and because they did not want to make a better deal that would have required more concessions. Our city will be fine without the HQ2. Google is adding 7,000 jobs and Amazon is still going to expand in our city but it won’t get the incentives that it did not deserve.

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Smells Fishy

Perhaps the abrupt departure had another cause. Is Amazon actually ready for the larger expansion stated earlier? If so, why not give the ‘prize’ to a runner up? The reason for running is unconvincing.

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DJS

You should be ashamed of making fun of Jeff Bezos. He gave $33,000,000 to fund scholarships for Dreamers in honor of his father who is an Hispanic immigrant.

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Anonymous

Shame on the so called progressive community leaders and politicians. They got into a pissing match with a no nonsense company and we the Queens residents lost. And we lost very big. Their ego got into way of making a good common sense decision.
Amazon and all the satellite companies would have created more than ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND good paying jobs and would have created campuses and school that would have educate our next generation.
These shameless politicians like Cortez Gianaris And Van Bramer will bring the 1970’s bankrupting policies..

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Life is good

From the cushy confines of my suburban home, I look at these people pictured in this story and I laugh. Keep on struggling then. No sweat off of anyone elses back who don’t live there.

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Chip

With all the long winded responses like James up there you should be selling your books on Amazon instead ranting about them. Holy shit how pathetic are you??? Seriously. What a loser.

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James

I see a lot of people blaming the activists and politicians for what happened. If you think Amazon deciding not to build the HQ2 in NYC is a bad thing you should be blaming Amazon. It’s most accurate to say that Amazon killed its own HQ2. Amazon could have negotiated instead of pulling out. The NY State Senate and City Council wanted to negotiate or create a new deal more than they wanted to kill the deal. Amazon’s own Harris Poll showed that only 20% of NYC residents felt that the deal wasn’t giving up too much in terms of tax breaks. This shows that the city community at large was not ok with the deal. It’s true that another poll said 46% approved of the incentives and a third said 56% of State voters approved so it’s hard to say which poll was most accurate but 2/3 polls showed that a majority did not approve of the tax breaks and other incentives. If Amazon wanted to come they could have negotiated a deal that was more acceptable to the public. As for those worried about the jobs I think we shouldn’t worry too much about them, tech jobs are constantly coming to New York. High profile tech companies like Google and Amazon are still expanding. Amazon has more employees in NYC than anywhere other than Seattle and they’ve stated that they intend to add more workers here even though the HQ2 deal is off. On top of all that I think the New York City and New York State governments should not help a company that is arguably a monopoly and if it’s not quite a monopoly it is certainly aspiring to be one. Amazon consistently sells products at a loss just to bankrupt other companies that are attempting to make a profit. Amazon is able to do these things and stay in business because of its scale. However its scale is the one of the main issues because its scale acts as a barrier that prevents potential competitors who wish to emulate its business model from having a chance of competing. The entry barrier to compete with Amazon is so large that no company can possibly compete with it. Additionally Amazon’s online marketplace is predatory. Amazon gathers sales data on the businesses that use its platform and then it competes with them as a retailer on the same platform. Over 50% of online purchases in the USA occur on Amazon it is hard for many businesses to avoid using the platform. It is a conflict of interest for Amazon to control the marketplace and compete against other companies that use the marketplace. Amazon has used predatory pricing tactics to buy out profitable businesses like diapers .com and Zappos. Amazon does not even attempt to make profits on many of its sales, it’s main goal is often to cause its competitors to fail so that it can gain market share. Amazon purposely sells profitable items at a loss to undermine profitable businesses. Amazon started using this tactic on the publishing industry and they incurred heavy losses during their early years but Bezos was able to convince investors to wait for many years until the strategy would pay off. Now the publishing industry has been severely damaged, profitable firms are much smaller, wages are down for publishing employees, and pay for authors is down too. Amazon is able to use their scale and market share to demand cheap books from publishers. These tactics should have never been allowed and anti-trust laws need to be updated to stop Amazon from continuing to use these tactics on other industries. The technology itself is not bad, the disruption it causes to brick and mortar stores is not necessarily bad because economies are always changing, but what is bad is that Amazon has too much power and too much market share. Its pricing practices are not in the best interest of the country and it should not be getting subsidies if it behaves as a monopoly. It also should not get subsidies if it says it will not remain neutral on issues of employee organizing. Whole Foods and Warehouse workers should be free to choose a union without interference. I don’t see a need for this deal with Amazon to be made. The City is doing well from a financial perspective and its constantly attracting new businesses and adding new tech jobs. Amazon does not need a subsidy that gives it a competitive advantage over other tech firms and no monopoly or near-monopoly should be getting aid from tax payers. Read more about Amazon here – Why the proposed deal was not good for NYC – https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/14/18225001/hq-2-new-york-canceled-housing-impact?fbclid=IwAR0r9nLn3yIJeUt2LZ0Sx1lNhOHgT_PuAzfJUMfcwMtyP-CIDLsyXALnCZ8 – Amazon’s monopolistic behavior – https://www.thenation.com/article/amazon-doesnt-just-want-to-dominate-the-market-it-wants-to-become-the-market/?fbclid=IwAR0fFfuRmXk3qe-gAJSYwQCU8q-NouuwcuRCAHxmJb9C2VrfYgz8XtqCSB0 – Take a look at the links below to get a better idea about the unfair business practices. – https://www.forbes.com/sites/retailwire/2014/10/30/is-amazon-undercutting-third-party-sellers-using-their-own-data/?fbclid=IwAR3SyybJK89vyOOf0-aG_Oa_W5ucV_IO2cn6qyFLB4_qkJo7xYaEQVw0sLY#ad12cb53d8d9 – Squeezing Small Businesses – https://www.ibtimes.com/amazoncom-retail-predatory-pricing-bully-tactics-squeezing-competition-retailers-1516554?fbclid=IwAR1BWSS4iCUYbhWDK4zxW4toMFrpHPO0eOY0brH0NbnLjxr8PXMjLm39F20 – Harming the publishing industry – https://www.cnbc.com/2014/06/30/amazons-predatory-pricing-questioned.html – Concerns of authors and publishers – https://newrepublic.com/article/142616/amazon-steps-battle-book-industry?fbclid=IwAR3l47mIUyXzjQ8jPzp0uihzOJbKpU16DkBsWBBaZgM0LKKf5EdPAx4kWtc – Monopoly Power – https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevendennis/2017/06/19/should-we-care-whether-amazon-is-systematically-destroying-retail/?fbclid=IwAR1Aw6jcJgV7uTISxpoL2oNKhJtKGH42WfcykZU7o2yde5zrEOnsgdQxNz8#325db71b6b1f – Cost assessment of the deal – https://www.fastcompany.com/90269146/the-amazon-deal-is-even-worse-than-it-looks-and-will-cost-ny-more-than-it-thinks?fbclid=IwAR3PxRW5OCez6Ctdofp20432jj1CoGgzxpIEsEeZkP96Q71kt9w-ElFlSwg – Amazon needs to be broken up into smaller firms by the federal authorities, it should not be aided by NY State and the City of New York.

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Enough Already!

What a poor excuse to justify killing 25,000 jobs. Jobs that would have fed many families and provide much needed tax revenue for all those generous subsidized programs in NYC. James you could’ve wrote another 5,000 words but it still wouldn’t change that fact that Gianaris and Bramer are horrible politicians.

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Ro

Amazon killed the jobs. The Governor and Mayor would have defended that deal until the end. Cuomo would have blocked Gianaris from the Public Authorities Control Board. Amazon pulled out because they could not handle the legitimate criticisms from the activists, unions, and politicians. Reports say Amazon was negotiating with unions that opposed the deal on the day before they pulled out. Some high level executive probably made the call to bail because they could not handle the negative press and they were not willing to compromise. Don’t worry about the jobs, Google is bringing 7,000 taxable jobs and they have not asked for any subsidies. Google and Facebook have not applied for any subsidies at any of their current New York locations. Amazon is still planning to add jobs too but they aren’t getting the subsidy deal they wanted.

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Sample Poll Questions that were not asked

A. Want non union jobs, sharing facial recognition with ICE, destruction of local economy.
B. Against Amazon opening HQ2 in Queens in preparation for anti trust guidelines required divestiture.
Without knowing the questions, it’s impossible to know what the surveys asked, so the results are meaningless.

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Anonymous

Hey Maritza Silva-Farrell , Amazon’s abrupt decision to leave indicated how they barely got enough to make it work. The 3 billion in tax subsides were not enough to get them to stay. If this was a true sweetheart deal they would not have left. What this shows is both the governor and the mayor pulled as much as they could for NY and any less of a tax break made the deal not worth it for Amazon. We know you helped to kill 10’s of thousands of jobs and poo pooed billions and billions in future tax revenue. What’s your “better” plan genus?

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Anonymous

when you want to insult someone’s intelligence, you need to get the spelling right, you maroon!

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James

Amazon can make the deal work without any breaks. They are valued at 1 trillion dollars, they can afford to pay an extra three billion. Other cities offered them more money but they chose New York because that’s where they wanted to be. They’re still choosing NYC to expand in NYC, they mentioned this in their statement about abandoning the HQ2 plan, they also said they won’t move HQ to another city. Don’t worry about the jobs, companies are always coming to NYC, the tech job sector is expanding, Google is expanding. The City has added many jobs since 2009, it’s been one of the largest expansions of the economy in NYC history. The deal was not good for NYC. Please check out the following articles – https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/14/18225001/hq-2-new-york-canceled-housing-impact?fbclid=IwAR1WTvpcloVO9V__dl7HqRMa5cVESzkEwCCfALmeD439GeswDiks0oP6cTM this study explains the fallacies of needing incentive deals to attract jobs – http://www.natemjensen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Kansas-Working-Paper-7-23-15.pdf

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Paul

“ if this was a true sweetheart deal they would not have left.“

I think they were more scared of the the insistence on fair working conditions The thought of unionization scares them I think.

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Queens Resident

These activists do not represent this Queens resident. Neither does Ocasio job killer Cortez and Jimmy dog walk Van Brainless. I wonder what the median income of those in this picture is. Perhaps when the city is having a revenue short fall, they will be happy to pay more taxes. I hope so but I will be moving to a lower tax state .

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anonymous

What do you mean more taxes. This looks like an “earned” income tax credit crowd if I’ve ever seen one.
You want my vote? Give me free stuff!

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Anonymous

It is funny these are the same people who demand good paying jobs…A company wants to come and create those good paying jobs, then they protest against that company. Crazy socialists.

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Anonymous

they’re demanding that a $1,000,000,000,000 company pay some taxes…not set up shady backroom deals to bleed our community for everything they can get

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JH resident

How were they going to bleed the community? By creating jobs? Developing an area of LIC? Encouraging an educated/professional population to consider Queens as a place to live?

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Another Southie

$27B wasn’t enough for you??? They got a $3B break, and the city would get $27B. Now we get $0.

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