On December 10, nearly 400 residents of Queens and larger New York City packed the Church of the Redeemer in Astoria for over 2 hours, to learn about and speak out against Amazon’s proposed headquarters in Long Island City.
The Amazon HQ2 deal is projected to funnel 3 billion dollars of public money and nearly 4 million square feet of land, some of which is public, to a private company. The deal comes at a time when public and affordable housing, public transit and public education are dealing with crises over lack of funding.
The event was sponsored by CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities; Chhaya CDC; DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving; Hate Free Zone, Queens; NYC Democratic Socialists of America; Queens Neighborhoods United; Socialist Alternative, NYC; and Whole Worker.
Members from these groups spoke about why the Amazon deal should be completely rejected with no negotiations, focusing on Housing, Immigration and Labor issues and highlighting the stories of Queens’ working class communities of color who are most vulnerable to displacement as a direct result of the deal.
“Amazon holds a lot of power in our politics, and they’re working with the government. Our government should focus on NYCHA’s needs – language access, heat, hot water – instead of what politicians need. NYCHA already doesn’t take care of our homes. What will happen when there’s even more people here?” said Hazra Rahman, member leader from CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, which organizes public housing tenants in Queensbridge houses, the largest public housing complex in the nation, located right next to the proposed HQ2 site. “Queensbridge is an area for residents; we don’t want it filled with businesses and corporations. We’re not going to allow Amazon to come here!”
Speaking earlier that night about Amazon’s stake in state surveillance and immigration, Nitesh Das, member from Desis Rising Up and Moving emphasized the outsized role that our local elected officials had in the deal: “It is shameful that [Governor] Cuomo and [Mayor] de Blasio have chosen the economic interests of the few in exchange for the lives, neighborhoods and communities of the many. No deal with Amazon is worth it. Our communities are priceless.”
“If we invest in Amazon — if our government and our schools invest in Amazon, our money is funding displacement,” Mauricio Piratova from Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU) and former LaGuardia Community College student told the audience. “We’re funding the invasion of our land, the erasure of our culture, displacing a lot of small businesses and residents, and funding the technology that ICE and police use to track down and arrest our people.” QNU has been organizing against gentrification and displacement in
Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst since 2014, most recently halting a luxury rezoning in Elmhurst and suing the Target Corporation for violating city zoning code.
“Chhaya experiences the realities of real estate speculation everyday. Our tenant leaders are harassed by predatory landlords trying to deregulate their apartments, while low and moderate income homeowners are targeted by speculative investors and house-flipping LLCs,” said Will Spisak, Program Director of Chhaya CDC. “We know that if Amazon comes to Queens, speculation and harassment will only increase, expediting the process of displacement in immigrant communities. This is why Chhaya opposes Amazon coming to NYC.”
“We’re here to say housing is a right – and staying i n our housing is a right. We’re organizing to push Amazon out, but more than that we want to make sure they never even have the ABILITY to force us from our homes,” said Brian Cahill Moledo on behalf of the Queens branch of NYC Democratic Socialists of America. “Universal Rent Control means a right to lease renewal for all New Yorkers, a limit on rent increases across the board, and the removal of incentives for landlords to force us from our homes.”
Addressing the promise of 25,000 jobs, Matthew Hunt of Whole Worker read a letter from a Whole Foods worker, referencing Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods last year. The letter noted Amazon’s track record of overworking its workers and refusing to let Amazon and Whole Foods workers unionize. Notably, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has admitted that there is no requirement on record for Amazon to hire locally.
Sharing insight from Seattle’s experiences with Amazon, Keely Mullen of Socialist Alternative said, “We need to launch a battle to take on not just Amazon but Wall Street too! There is a lot at stake and I hope the people in Queens know they are not alone. Our power lies in mass movements on the street.” Socialist Alternative had elected a City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant in Seattle who successfully led a campaign to pass a head tax for affordable housing, only to have the bill overturned once Amazon and other corporations poured millions into an anti-tax campaign.
The event organizers then asked attendees to engage in discussion about how to build collective power and opening up the floor for comments and insights gained from discussion. Closing out the event, the audience chanted, “NO AMAZON, NO NEGOTIATIONS! NO AMAZON, NO CONCESSIONS!”
Organizers of the event encouraged attendees to plug into actions to stop Amazon. In particular, organizers highlighted the December 12th City Council hearing slated to discuss the Amazon HQ2 deal and the December 19th Public Authorities Control Board session in Albany.