“Shortly after my Congressmember-elect won her primary in June, Mayor de Blasio said, ‘Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is someone who absolutely comes from my wing of the Democratic Party.’ Which wing was he speaking of? The corporate wing that provides billions in taxpayer subsidies to the richest man in the world? The wing that agrees to bypass local communities to grease the wheels for an unprecedented act of corporate welfare?
“The Mayor also talked about ending the tale of two cities. Yet he is cheerleading a backroom deal that literally pays Jeff Bezos to build his gleaming tower in the sky, while the residents of the Queensbridge Houses – many of whom are freezing because of the lack of heat – can watch Amazon executives bypass the subways and land their corporate helicopter on a taxpayer-funded helipad.
“Transparency is a hallmark of good governance. So we should all be concerned they were eager to promise Amazon that they would bypass local land use review and agree to sign non-disclosure agreements while doing so. The memorandum of understanding is shocking and shameful in how much it gave to Amazon and how little it extracted from them for the community.
“Amazon is a trillion-dollar corporation with a record that should disturb all of us when it comes to organized labor and its treatment of workers. And it’s important to note that while deals have been struck with some unions, no Amazon employees in Queens will be unionized.
“And if we are horrified by the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families, shouldn’t we be equally horrified by Amazon’s desire to cooperate and assist ICE?
“The Governor – who ironically decries ‘pandering politicians’ but then offered to change his name to Amazon — is pretty clear about who he is and his clear support for this deal. I strongly disagree with him. But our progressive City cannot hide behind the Governor here by saying that the city did not provide discretionary tax incentives. The Mayor signed on to the billions in subsidies. He approved of the secretive process. He even signed on to giving Bezos his damn helipad. It is the party of progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who believe that what the Mayor has signed onto here is a shameful giveaway. This deal is a betrayal of core values.
“The Mayor and the Governor participated in this process, which was dictated by Amazon. Now I need to admit that I was wrong to sign the letter supporting New York’s bid. But that makes this bad deal no less bad. Because the Council and the People of the City and the State were excluded from knowing any of the details of this deal, we must now reclaim our rightful oversight responsibilities and ask the tough questions of this administration under oath.
“I was not elected to be a cheerleader for Amazon and neither was the Mayor. This is a moment of truth when those of us who care about income inequality must reject “so called progressives” who in practice recite corporate Republican talking points that espouse trickle-down economics, and falsely claim that all boats will be lifted. That was a lie when Ronald Reagan said it in the early 1980’s – and it remains a lie today.
“We also should be concerned about monopoly power, and its growing dominance over the marketplace. Monopolies aren’t good for Main Street, and they aren’t good for small business. We have all seen this movie before, and it ends with working people, union people, rising up against the robber barons to claim and claw back their power.
“There is a saying that if you want to know where someone is going, ask someone who knows where they have been. For that reason, I’ve been working closely with members of the Seattle City Council, where Amazon has its first headquarters. They each shared horror stories about how Amazon has aggressively fought progressive legislation and spent considerable amounts of money through independent expenditure campaigns to target candidates who do not toe the company line. The Seattle City Council members told me about their effort to pass a tax on the biggest corporations to help fund homeless services. They also told me about Amazon’s immediate attack campaign after it was unanimously passed. Amazon flexed their corporate muscle to build enough support to defeat the tax, pressuring the Council to eventually repeal the legislation less than a month later. I fully expect to be the target of one of those future attack campaigns and independent expenditures. But, I’m not going to stop fighting, and we have got to eliminate the influence of big corporate money in our elections. Queens must not become another Amazon company town.
“As I have said many times, this is a bad deal. This is bad for Long Island City, bad for Queens, and bad for New York City. The mayor and the governor caved to the richest man on earth, and then handed the bill to each and every New Yorker.
“I want to thank Speaker Johnson for working with me on this in making certain that there are a series of City Council oversight hearings and that the public will be heard in this as well. I also want to thank Chair Vallone for chairing this morning’s hearing. We must as a society rethink our approach to economic development and corporate welfare.”