A Great Greek Neighborhood Has Taken a Beating

February 20, 2019

When, on February 11, four days prior to Amazon’s decision, I was warning the Amazon Deal could be cancelled, I could not imagine it would happened.

Obviously something went quite wrong both on the part of Amazon, but also involving the opposition, especially Michael Gianaris.

I wrote a few days before the company announced that it was going to pass on building its second headquarters in Queens, namely, in Long Island City:

“The latest newspaper headlines say the deal may crash and burn”, I wrote. “That the company is re-thinking its decision to invest in Long Island City. Why is Amazon rethinking it? The answer is, among others, New York State Senator Michalis Gianaris who is perhaps the strongest critic of the deal.

He is right in several respects” I continued… “And the main thing he is right about is that the $3 Billion in incentives that City and the State are giving to the company is too much. But how do you throw away the benefits of 40,000 new jobs with an average salary of $150,000 a year? It is therefore hoped that the two sides will find a way to compromise, that Gianaris will be able to improve some conditions for the benefit of all, so that even the company benefits from gaining more support among its neighbors. And once this has been done, after some terms of the deal have been improved, they will agree to move forward with the project. But if the deal is shipwrecked, they will load all of the blame on Gianaris.”

Unfortunately, it was my fear, not my optimism that was verified. The news hit like a bomb. The deal was wrecked. It was unbelievable. But it’s a fact.

Amazon made the hasty decision to withdraw its proposal, believing that the toxic political climate that it created would be an obstacle, now and in the future, to its plans.

Maybe they wanted to send a message to other cities where they eventually will decide to settle.

However, the error is not only Gianaris’. The main negotiators of the agreement are also to blame, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, who acted in the dark with complete secrecy.

It was they who surrendered to one of the largest and richest companies in the World, the exorbitant amount of $3 billion in tax relief.

But it is also clear that Gianaris’ calculations were way off. He thought the company would try to satisfy him at some point, enabling him to claim victory, and causing his political star to soar.

Unfortunately, it did not happen this way.

And the damage done is enormous.

Tens of thousands of jobs – high paying jobs – were lost in the Long Island City area. There was a chance for a radical upgrading of the area. Not that that its already impressive development will not continue – it will, but it will take a lot more time than it would have with the influence of Amazon.

So mistakes were made by both parties. By Amazon and Gianaris.

But the price, unfortunately, is already being paid by the neighborhood, where so many Greeks own property.


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