Since the “Valentine’s Day Massacre,” or the day when Amazon announced it was cancelling its Long Island City campus, the Queens Chamber of Commerce has been working behind the scenes to bring the technology giant back to the table.
At Queens Day in Albany, some state lawmakers lamented Amazon’s hasty departure, but voiced a message of optimism for their return.
“I don’t think the door is completely closed,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “I think we have to get the word out that we need more Amazons coming to Queens and New York City, producing good-paying jobs and economic development.”
Weprin noted that the public was supportive of Amazon coming to Queens. A March 20th Siena College poll found that 64 percent of New York state voters want public officials to convince Amazon to revive its HQ2 plans.
Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that the $3 billion in tax breaks and other benefits were worth the jobs that Amazon would have brought to New York City.
The assemblyman blamed “a couple of individuals who were in the minority” for torpedoing the project.
“I’m going to continue to support projects like Amazon,” Weprin said. “I think we should all come together and get the word out that the majority is with business and creating new jobs in Queens.”
The chamber found another supporter in Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, a proponent of small businesses, entrepreneurship and technology.
He called for a change in the relationship between government, technology and the new economy.
“It’s a shame what happened in Queens, where we ran off one of the biggest employers in the world,” Vanel said. “And we’re cheering about that? That’s a problem.”
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said his concern about the anti-Amazon rhetoric is that it has gone beyond the company; it’s about businesses in general.
“There’s an attack on business people and businesses around our city, our state and our country,” Grech said. “That troubles me greatly.”
He recalled that several weeks ago, he visited Queens Borough Hall to ask for funding for a small project at the chamber. There, Grech said he saw representatives from Queens College, York College and Elmhurst Hospital, all there to also request funding.
As he listened, Grech said he was reminded of the fact that the businesses of the country “generate the taxes” that allow nonprofits and educational institutions to ask for those funds.
“I am a compassionate, proud capitalist,” he said. “I will be until the day I die.”
Grech added that chambers of commerce across the city are working hard all the time just to keep small companies from leaving.
He said in addition to the 25,000 jobs from Amazon, the ripple effect would’ve generated 50,000 other jobs in the area, from “butchers and bakers to candlestick makers.”
“Those are all net new jobs,” he said, noting that it would have generated $27 billion in taxes over 25 years.
After he heard the news of Amazon’s exit, Grech said he penned a letter to Amazon on behalf of himself and seven of his colleagues. He wrote that while he’s been a “proud New Yorker since the day I was born,” on that day, he was ashamed.
“I was ashamed for how they were treated in the City Council, for how they were treated in other quarters of our city,” he said. “You all should be ashamed as well.”
“Without businesses, we’re not going to survive,” Grech added. “We have to organize and get better.”
At Queens Day in Albany, the chamber leader finished his impassioned plea by calling on businesses to unite and continue their push to get Amazon back to the negotiating table.
“I’m going to fight until I hear from Jeff Bezos that the answer is ‘no, we’re not going to come back,’” Grech said. “I think we should all think the same way.”