Gianaris HQ2 Timeline
In 2017, Senator Michael Gianaris supported tax incentives used in the Amazon deal, and joined with Jimmy Van Bramer and other NYC representatives to call on Amazon to bring 50,000 jobs to NYC. Then in June 2018, AOC beat the candidate he endorsed in the primary, and everything changed. Senator Gianaris suddenly became a strident opponent of “corporate welfare,” and 25,000 jobs - half that he urged Amazon to bring to NYC - would be the downfall of LIC. While decrying the closed door process of negotiating the Amazon deal, he gladly accepted the nomination to a position that would allow him to veto the deal a majority of his constituents wanted. Then on Valentine’s Day 2019, the jig was up. Here’s the timeline.
June 14, 2017 - As reported in Politico on February 19, 2019, Senator Michael Gianaris votes to extend relocation and employment assistance credits that would be used for the Amazon incentive package.
September 7, 2017 - Amazon announces the search for HQ2, “New headquarters will be a full equal to Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, and is expected to grow to 50,000 employees as part of the company’s ongoing job creation.”
October 16, 2017 - Senator Michael Gianaris joins with numerous other elected officials to declare “We, as a united body of elected officials, urge Amazon to make New York City the home of its second headquarters” for 50,000 employees. Presumably, when he signed on, he understood that tax incentives like the ones he voted for would be involved, and had a sense of NYC’s capacity to handle 50,000 jobs.
June 26, 2018 - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upsets incumbent Joseph Crowley, whom Senator Michael Gianaris endorsed against AOC. From Crowley’s site, dated May 17, 2018: “I’m proud to endorse Joe Crowley for re-election. He is the progressive leader we need fighting for Queens families in Congress. He’s proven he can get things done on so many important issues, including housing, health care, gun safety and immigration,” said New York State Senator Michael Gianaris.
November 5, 2018 - Rumors emerge that Amazon will be splitting HQ2 between two locations, and LIC is a contender for 25,000 jobs - half the total Senator Michael Gianaris encouraged to come to New York City in the October 16, 2017 letter he signed.
November 7, 2018 - Senator Michael Gianaris, who voted in June 2017 to extend tax incentives, and whose district is a major beneficiary of hundreds of millions tax credits for film production, and who signed the letter encouraging Amazon to bring 50,000 jobs to NYC… now expressed reservations about the prospect of 25,000 jobs coming to LIC and the use of tax incentives.
November 11, 2018 - Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer issue a press release denouncing the rumored Amazon deal and “corporate welfare.” It states: “Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong… Corporate responsibility should take precedence over corporate welfare.” Again, Senator Gianaris’ was (is?) a major proponent of “corporate welfare” for the film industry, which has totaled $1.2 billion dollars over the past 4 years.
November 13, 2018 - Amazon makes it official. Long Island City and Crystal City, VA have been chosen, beating out 237 other localities who submitted proposals. The NYC bid was significantly lower than what other localities had offered. The announcement by the Governor states “A Community Advisory Committee will be established, which will include representatives of the State, City and local elected officials.”
November 14, 2018 - Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hold a rally to denounce Amazon, “backed by members of labor unions and progressive grassroots organizations.”
[As a Long Island City resident, and a constituent of Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, I am not aware of any constituent outreach they conducted on what was likely the most significant economic development opportunity the district will ever have. When I stopped by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office on February 21, 2019 to ask what sort of outreach had been done, his scheduler said ‘he attended some rallies.’ Senator Michael Gianaris created a petition, Stop Amazon: #NoHQ2 in LIC, but that can hardly be considered a good faith effort to solicit constituent feedback.]
November 21, 2018 - Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer issue a statement refusing to participate in the community advisory committee called for, declaring “We will not participate in the Community Advisory Council, whose purpose is to give local validation to a project we are working to stop in its tracks.”
See LOVETT: Gianaris opposition to Amazon deal raising questions about his endgame. “Mike is good at reading the tea leaves and which way the political winds are blowing,” said one Democratic Party insider with no direct ties to the Amazon deal…. The wins by Ocasio-Cortez and Ramos “demonstrate it’s a different day in Queens,” the party insider said. “There’s more progressive politics coursing through the borough. I think (Gianaris) recognizes that and wants to get in front of it so it doesn’t run him over.”
December 5, 2018 - An independent Quinnipiac University poll shows 60% of Queens residents supported Amazon coming to LIC, and only 26% opposed it. Overall, 57% of NYC residents supported it, and only 26% opposed. In terms of the “roughly 3 billion dollars in tax breaks and other benefits” 55% of Queens residents supported them, and only 39% opposed them.
December 11, 2018 - The Community Advisory Committee is announced, consisting of 45 community stakeholders and leaders including Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer refused to join. Senator Gianaris denounces the committee, declaring "This is a process designed to give cover to a bad deal." In the NY Post, Senator Gianaris declares “this is window dressing.”
December 12, 2018 - Hearings are held at City Hall, featuring protestors chanting “GTFO, Amazon has got to go” and where “Council members took advantage of the executives sitting before them to vent their anger at the terms of the agreement.” Senator Gianaris issues a statement regarding the City Hall hearings, stating “we must keep working to stop this deal in its tracks, and I rededicate myself to that cause today. The people must be heard, and their concerns must be respected.”
Senator Gianaris also appears on CNBC.
January 7, 2019 - Senator Gianaris meets with two Seattle City Council members at the headquarters of the Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution Workers Union (RWDSU). In Senator Gianaris’ press release, it states “Senator Gianaris has led the fight against Amazon’s Long Island City deal,” and Senator Gianaris says “Amazon’s HQ2 debacle is not a done deal no matter how much they want you to believe it is.” How right he was.
Late January 2019 - Rather than conducting good faith constituent outreach, or commissioning a poll of constituents, Senator Gianaris uses taxpayer funds to send out a flyer with misleading claims such as that the deal would be “costing us over $3 billion” and that Amazon is helping “Donald Trump’s ICE track immigrants.”
February 4, 2019 - Senator Michael Gianaris is nominated by the State Senate to the Public Authorities Control Board, which would give him veto power over the Amazon deal, although the function of the board was only to ensure that “with relation to any proposed project, there are commitments of funds sufficient to finance the acquisition and construction of such project.” See also: A huge opponent of Amazon's HQ2 in New York may soon have the power to kill it; New York State Senator Who Opposes Amazon Deal Nominated to Board With Sway Over Project; Gianaris named to panel that could kill Amazon project in LIC; Cuomo fumes that Senate is ‘playing politics’. On February 5, 2019, The New York Times writes a glowing profile about Senator Gianaris, “Amazon Wants to Come to New York. This Senator May Stand in the Way” which he tweets about.
February 5, 2019 - HarrisX releases a poll, commissioned by Amazon, showing strong support for the deal, particularly in Senate District 12.
February 8, 2019 - The Washington Post reports that Amazon is reconsidering LIC. The Wall Street Journal noted, “The recent change in conversation at Amazon accelerated after Monday’s nomination of New York state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a vocal opponent of the deal, to a state board that would allow him to veto the development plan, people familiar with the matter said.”
February 12, 2019 - Siena College releases the results of an independent poll, conducted February 4-7, which asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the recently announced deal between Amazon and New York, which grants up to 3 billion dollars in state and city incentives to Amazon in return for Amazon locating its corporate offices in Queens, where it is projected to generate 25 thousand jobs?” The poll showed that within NYC, 58% approved, and only 35% disapproved. Siena College earned an “A” from 538, and is ranked in the top 5% of pollsters.
February 14, 2019 - Amazon announces they are no longer moving forward in Long Island City, writing:
After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. 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 we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.
We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.