Amazon lesson: No more closed doors


Mayor Bill de Blasio in Albany at a budget hearing before the Joint Fiscal Committees of the New York State Legislature on Feb. 11. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
by arlene kayatt

Civics and the City and Amazon — It happened on February 14th, but as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney opined, “It was not the Valentine that New York needed.” Amazon pulled out of the deal that would have brought their HQ2 and 25,000 jobs to Long Island City before it would have been pummeled by New York politics. But that was inevitable, and our governor and mayor, who formed an unlikely alliance to broker a behind-the-scenes agreement, were tone deaf to how legislating and business have to be done in a new New York. No more three-men-in-a-room kind of deals. No more closed doors. No more cutting out local elected representatives. No more ignoring local communities and organizations impacted by legislation and deals that affect them. In NYC everyone has a voice that gets heard. By tweet. By twitter. By email. By letters and postcards. By phone. By text. By marching. By protesting. Using microphones and megaphones. Decibel level — high. And yes, they vote. And yes, their electeds are vocal, too. Think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/AOC, Jimmy Van Bramer, Corey Johnson. They have the bully pulpit and they tweet. And twitter, and get heard on Errol Louis’s NY1. As does Carolyn Maloney whose congressional district includes LIC.

Apparently, Cuomo and de Blasio neglected to factor all of that in when they decided to go it alone and without the collaboration of the city council, Queens representatives, and the local communities and organizations impacted by Amazon’s presence. Yes, the city council got to hold hearings, but only after the deal was made. The three-men in a room cadre was upended in November with the re-election of Andrea Stewart-Cousins to the state Senate, who was then chosen by the body to be the Democratic Senate majority leader. Stewart-Cousins then passed her input on the deal — and showed her unwillingness to rubber-stamp the Cuomo-deBlasio-Amazon agreement — to state Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, whom she appointed to a panel that could have final say (make that nay say) on whether Amazon was coming to Queens. Gianiris represents Queens’s 12th state Senate district, which covers LIC, Astoria and Sunnyside. While initially a supporter of Amazon coming to LIC, he is now strongly opposed.

There’s blame to go around for the undone deal. On the NYC side, politicians bypassing elected government representatives and their constituents and dealing behind the scenes with the corporation without notice and collaboration. On the other side, Amazon expecting special treatment and giveaways that would adversely impact the city or communities or give them no benefit.

Seems a good time to heed the advice of Justice Louis D. Brandeis who reminded that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” And from an unknown source, “Next.”

Bar crawl — The SOTU (State of the Union) speech is long since gone, except maybe for the pixel visions of Congress’s contingent of mostly newly-elected women all in white. But the night was also prime time for like-minded politicos to join together to listen to the ritual annual President’s monologue. So the Metropolitan Republican Club packed the tables and bar at the UES’s Dorrian’s, with the overflow crowd making it to the back bar. Seated together at a crowded table were newly elected Met Club prez Ian Walsh Reilly and Manhattan Republican County Chair Andrea Catsimatidis. A less jubilant crowd of Democrats partook of the SOTU speech at a watch party a little over a block away at Upstairs at Five Mile Stone, on Second Ave, where the Women’s Leadership Forum Metro New York held a gathering. Their jubilation awaited Stacey Abrams’s Dem Response. Manhattan Dems on hand during the evening included Borough President Gale Brewer, Vice President of State Dems Trudy Mason, and Upper East Side for Change’s Monica Atiya, who hosted the event for the women’s forum. I split my night between the two parties. As expected, the Met Club crowd cheered when the TV cameras zeroed in on Republicans and jeered when a Dem face appeared. Their cheers and jeers mirrored the sounds coming from the TV screens. Notably, however, there were no boos, on screen or at Dorrian’s, when the camera zeroed in on Amy Klobachar. Could be because the Senator hadn’t yet announced that she, too, was running for a shot at giving the 2021 SOTU speech.