NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo says lawmakers are “playing politics” by nominating an Amazon critic to a state board with the power to veto the project.
“If somebody says to any New Yorker, ‘I'll give you $30 billion if you'll give me $3 billion back,’ the answer is ‘yes, of course,’” Gov. Cuomo said of the deal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Long Island City.
He told WNYC that every company asks for incentives before moving into New York and that Amazon is no different, “otherwise they wouldn’t be here.”
However, that’s exactly what state lawmakers want. The incentive package may need approval from an obscure panel known as the Public Authorities Control Board, which state Sen, Mike Gianaris was appointed to Tuesday.
The legislator, who represents Long Island City, has been an adamant opponent of the Amazon deal and has slammed both Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for excluding the city from negotiations.
On Tuesday, when asked whether he plans to use his powers of persuasion on Gianaris to approve the Amazon deal, Mayor de Blasio instead came at the issue from a different perspective.
“I don't think, in the end, there’s a lot of public servants want to be responsible for losing 25,000 to 40,000 jobs,” de Blasio said. “I think a lot of people like to go to rallies and there’s a lot of people like to offer critiques, and I think there are some bigger, real issues here that should be dealt with going forward.”
He said he would be standing behind “what’s good about the deal” and will work to improve it over the coming months.
However, without Gianaris’ approval, the deal could very well fall apart.
“It's important that someone have a voice in this project representing the communities that are going to be most affected,” Gianaris said.
Cuomo has the option of rejecting the appointment of Gianaris to the board, but that would set up a new conflict with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Additionally, when speaking with WCBS 880, Gianaris said he doesn't see a reason for Cuomo to reject his nomination.
"We don't know what might come before this board or not. The governor also, I believe in the same interview, said that he doesn't think that the deal necessarily will come before the Public Authorities Control Board,” he said.
Though, Gianaris did say that $3 billion in incentives for one of the world’s richest companies is terrible economic development policy. He said the logic rests in the “discredited economic theory of trickle down economics.”
“That is not the way we should be doing economic development in this state. We should be focusing on investing in our infrastructure, which is in desperate need. We should focus on helping working people get a leg up in a time of incredible wealth concentration in our country, and we’re not doing that we were giving Jeff Bezos the keys to the bank of the state," Gianaris said.
If his nomination is approved, the state senator would be one of three voting members on the Public Authorities Control Board, which rejected Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for a West Side stadium nearly 14 years ago.
In response to Cuomo's comments Tuesday, Gianaris said: “It seems that to Gov. Cuomo, anyone that disagrees with him is playing politics, I view it as doing my job.”
The Democratic state senator, who represents Long Island City, is staunchly opposed to the Amazon deal idea for a variety of reasons, including the impact it would have on public transportation and rent.
When asked what Amazon could do to make him support to move, Gianaris answered simply: “They need to come to the table with the desire to be a good corporate citizen.”
Gianaris believes Amazon has a responsibility to improve the city, and he doesn't believe they've sought to do so, pointing to the company's work with ICE and refusal to allow workers to unionize.
“This is not a company that gets it," Gianaris said, "and if they don't get it, then they shouldn’t be in New York."