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First city council hearing with Amazon expresses economic concerns

Amazon’s decision to open a new headquarters in New York has drawn praise and criticism, and this week the project’s critics were able to voice their concerns.

The New York City Council held its first of three planned hearings on December 12. Councilors on the Economic Development Committee asked Amazon executives and the New York City Economic Development Corporation about the deal to build in Queens. Protesters attended the hearing and often needed to be calmed or quieted by the council.

Criticisms over used of state funds

City Councilor Corey Johnson took the lead asking questions about the decision to bring Amazon to Long Island City, asking why the company chose the location and why they bypassed the City Council’s land review process. Among councilors’ concerns were the need for economic improvements in the city, such as the subway system, increasing homelessness, public housing crises and rising rent prices.

Amazon Vice President for Public Policy Brian Huseman suggested the project would provide "over $186 billion in positive economic impact" over 25 years, but Johnson said the analysis came from “someone who was hired by the state of New York, not by neutral third party academics or companies” that offer analysis.

Future hearings are yet to be determined

The dates for the January and February hearings, which are slated to go through the Finance Committee and the Land Use Committee, respectively, have not been announced yet. Amazon executives would not commit to returning for the additional hearings and Johnson won’t plan them until Amazon agrees to show up.

“Is this what you think being a good neighbor is and coming to… one hearing, but not coming to other hearings?” Johnson asked, referencing Amazon’s promise to be a good neighbor.

Huseman replied that he did not know the specifics one when the hearings were going to be planned, but Johnson countered that the council would plan the hearings around Amazon’s schedule so they could attend.

We will continue to provide updates when hearings occur or if the council abandons its plans to hold the other two.  

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