By Yancey Roy and Michael Gormley
Dozens of New York political, union and business leaders are trying to get Amazon to reconsider its decision to abandon its plans for a major campus in Queens.
They have signed an "open letter," set to run in The New York Times on Friday, asking the company to reconsider its bombshell announcement on Feb. 14 canceling the Queens project. The letter, which Newsday also obtained, says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "will take personal responsibility for the project's state approval, and Mayor [Bill] de Blasio will work together with the governor to manage the community development project."
Further, the Times reported Cuomo has had several telephone calls with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, pitching him to reconsider. A Cuomo aide declined to confirm the story's account but added that the governor has had multiple conversations with company officials.
Cuomo, at an unrelated event Thursday in Old Westbury, said he is endeavoring to get Amazon to reconsider -- but said there is no indication the company will do so. He didn't say whether he had spoken to Bezos.
"I've had many conversations with Amazon," Cuomo said when fielding reporters' questions. "I hope that they reconsider. Up until now, we haven't seen any change in their position."
Amazon cited local opposition when it made the shocking announcement pulling out of Long Island City. Critics had decried the nearly $3 billion in tax abatements and grants offered by Cuomo and de Blasio to one of the world's richest companies. They also criticized Amazon for saying it would oppose any move to unionize workers and complained that the governor and mayor put together the offer without any local input.
Amazon pulled out of the deal shortly after a series of tense, closed-door meetings with union and state officials who thought they were making progress with the company. The company also faced a vocal opponent in Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), who represents Long Island City and who had been nominated to serve on a state panel that had power over granting some of the incentives offered to Amazon. Since Amazon canceled, Gianaris' nomination to the panel has been withdrawn.
Long Island's Democratic senators -- John Brooks (D-Seaford), Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) and Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) -- on Thursday voiced support for the effort to change Amazon's mind.
"Amazon would be an economic boon to our metropolitan region and the entire state, which is why we supported it previously," their statement said. "We look forward to doing whatever we can to help bring Amazon, 25,000 high-paying jobs and billions in revenue to our state."
Cuomo had lashed out at the Long Island senators, and Kaminsky in particular, for not supporting the project with enough enthusiasm after Amazon first withdrew and had partly blamed the departure on the Senate's Democratic majority.
A source close to organized labor in New York City and the Cuomo administration described the effort to lure the company back as a "full-court press."
"There is a huge appetite for it," the source said, referring to the effort to get Amazon to reconsider and adding the main movers are the politically powerful SEIU 32BJ union and several tenants groups in Queens that supported the project.
"It's too much to say Amazon is reconsidering, but they are definitely listening," the source said. "There have been several conversations ... they are definitely listening because it is coming from many different levels from heavy hitters."
The open letter to Bezos says: "New Yorkers do not want to give up on the 25,000 permanent jobs, 11,000 union construction and maintenance jobs, and $28 billion in new tax revenues that Amazon was prepared to bring to our state. A clear majority of New Yorkers support this project and were disappointed by your decision not to proceed."
The signees include several members of Congress, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), multiple union leaders such as New York State AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento, business leaders including Kevin Law of the Long Island Association and developers such as Rob Speyer of Tishman Speyer.