By Bill Parry
First he called for a boycott against Amazon to protest the incentive package the company will receive as part of its deal with the state and city, and now state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) is planning to introduce new legislation that would ban state agencies and the government from entering non-disclosure agreements at the insistence of private corporations engaging in economic development talks.
After nearly 15 months of secret negotiations, the state and the city of New York announced the deal with Amazon last week to open half of its new headquarters in Long Island City at a cost of nearly $3 billion in public subsidies.
“Corporate interests should not have the power to dictate to our governments when they should withhold important information from the public they serve,” Gianaris said. “The secretive process surrounding the Amazon deal sets a dangerous precedent that must be prohibited so that our government answers to the people, not wealthy corporations.”
State freedom of information laws already contain provisions regarding the disclosure of information to the public and exceptions thereto when sensitive data is involved. Gianaris will introduce his new bill when the state Senate reconvenes in January.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio believes the Amazon deal could breath new life into his $2.7 billion Brooklyn-Queens Connector project.
“I think it makes the need for the BQX even greater,” de Blasio said during a press event with Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week. “The BQX has made sense for a long time. The center of gravity economically is shifting to the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront on the East River. That was before Amazon. This amplifies that many times over. And the BQX is going to be a crucial piece of the equation.”
The proposed 26-stop street car system would run 11 miles from Astoria to Gowanus, Brooklyn, according to the city’s plan that was revised in August.
“It’s undeniable that the BQX would provide a powerful benefit for Amazon and its future employees, but its benefits would be far broader, serving an emerging jobs corridor along the East River in LIC, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn,” Friends of the BQX Executive Director Jessica Schumer said. “It will also connect underserved communities to employment, education and workforce development opportunities that will surely follow Amazon’s arrival.”
The proposed HQ2 campus surrounding Anable Basin, would be built along the street car line, and bring 25,000 to 40,000 Amazon jobs over the next 10 to 15 years.
“Now is the moment to seize on this potential and equitable transit planning,” Schumer said. “To deliver the reliable option so many communities along the corridor have long lacked, and to move full steam ahead with the BQX.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr