Several compelling arguments can be made against the establishment of Amazon's HQ 2.0 in Long Island City, but according to a report in Crain's, Governor Amazon Cuomo is not interested in them. Hell bent on bringing the Seattle-born retail giant to New York City, Cuomo is reportedly planning an end-run around the city council to rezone land for the humongous tech campus.
Citing "several sources familiar with the negotiations," Crain's reports that Cuomo plans to create a General Project Plan [GPP] for a 20-acre plot around Long Island City's Anable Basin, which would allow the state to construct mixed-use buildings there without City Council's approval. The state is reportedly eyeing a site owned by plastics company Plaxall, as well as two waterfront spots previously earmarked for the LIC Innovation Center. (A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment.) For reference, GPPs have previously been used for projects including Barclays Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The Amazon GPP would still need to undergo environmental review, and the public would be given opportunity to comment in a forum. The GPP would still require input from community boards and the City Planning Commission, but that input would be non-binding.
"I'm not just surprised, I'm angry," Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents LIC on the City Council, told Crain's. "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."
Amazon has not officially announced the locations of its two-part East Coast headquarters, but credible speculation suggests it's looking at LIC and Crystal City, Virginia, as frontrunners. Critics—including New York politicians—have questioned the implications for the area. How many billions of public dollars will New York front to attract the tech conglomerate, and what do we get for that money: More jobs, or just a bunch new workers lured in from Silicon Valley, equipped to pay rental prices far higher than the LIC norm? Will Amazon catalyze rapid gentrification of the neighborhood, driving out the existing community in LIC and surrounding pockets of Queens? What will the addition of 25,000 workers do to our hobbled subway system?
As NY Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents LIC, Astoria, Sunnyside, and parts of Ridgewood, told Gothamist last week, there's too much we still don't know.
"Part of the problem is how precious little information we have about what's being negotiated," Gianaris said. "People are alarmed. Long Island City is already stretched to its limits. And they're very scared about what it would mean to change the entire identity of this neighborhood by dropping this massive development right in the middle of their already gentrifying community."
Cuomo, however, remains laser-focused on what he predicts will be a "great economic boost," having pledged that he will do whatever it takes—including changing his first name to "Amazon"—to bring the one-stop internet shop to New York. Granted, all these reports remain tentative and pegged to anonymous sources, but with Google sprawling out across the city, New York seems on track to achieve hulking tech campus status within the next few years.