A brief note on our representatives after Amazon

There is a narrative that says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election victory last year pushed State Senator Michael Gianaris, who endorsed AOC’s opponent before the HQ2 announcement and became the deputy majority leader after he came out against the Amazon deal, to take a more progressive (and possibly more visible) lead when the opportunity arrived. This narrative could extend to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who also endorsed Rep. Joe Crowley — and thus might have to make up for it.

The New York Times put it this way:

The company’s decision was at least a short-term win for insurgent progressive politicians led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upset victory last year occurred in the western corner of Queens where Amazon had planned its site...

Her race galvanized the party’s left flank, which mobilized against the deal, helped swing New York’s Legislature into Democratic hands, and struck fear in the hearts of some local politicians.

Politico New York more or less told the same story:

Gianaris had his own reasons for concern. He witnessed self-described Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) topple Queens Democratic party boss and longtime U.S. House member Joseph Crowley in a congressional primary last year, and no doubt took notice of her unabashedcriticism of the deal.

After I expressed confusion about this narrative on Twitter yesterday – it seemed like a way of seeing AOC as the center of the political universe – I wondered if it’s possible this whole Amazon debacle actually traces back to AOC, period. I can’t say for sure that’s not how this equation worked, but this whole time, while I’ve mostly not blogged at all and didn’t attend any Amazon hearings or anything, I’ve taken a less linear view. I’ve seen Gianaris and JVB at rallies before, from near or afar, courting the activist community of LIC. Actually, I saw it on 44th Drive, the ragged strip where Amazon planned to build a campus, when the issue was a smaller scale land-use and real estate debate. And I spent four months working on a story learning about how JVB, not only readily separates himself from the mayor, but can be extremely anti-development, an especially sensitive subject in the area.

Are the local politicians, including one who may be running for borough president, being opportunistic? Could be. But the City Council and our local representatives didn’t become progressive, anti-development, anti-ICE, pro-union and populist when AOC showed up — even if they did write a letter supporting Amazon early on.

It’s not important to me to deconstruct what happened. But obviously the sudden lack of an Amazon HQ in Queens leaves us with a certain self-reflection. Queens is still not Brooklyn. Long Island City has a way of not becoming Williamsburg or Downtown Brooklyn — though it is a downtown. What we learned, I think, is that Western Queens is just as much as other places the epitome of what New York is right now, I think. Politico put it this way:

Some supporters of the deal derided Amazon’s… inability to muster the nerve to move forward in a city that has a reputation for fighting development.

Amazon to come to Anable Basin

The Anable Basin was controversial even before Amazon said it would show up. Less than a year ago, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, other local pols and various LIC activists were there to protest a plan to turn the strip at 44th Drive at the waterfront into a development that would somehow involve residential and industrial uses altogether. Well — no one cares about that anymore, because Amazon is coming, which is apparently the biggest business story in a while and it’s down the street from my apartment. A memorandum of understanding shows where Amazon plans to set up shop for part of it’s HQ2, and it’s the same area, just south of Con Edison. JVB and Senator Michael Gianaris were initially down with Amazon coming to LIC, but held a protest at the site today saying this was a huge $3 billion giveaway that won’t involve any public review. The mayor says the 25,000 jobs or more promised over a decade is unprecedented and the governor says the return on investment would be nine to one.  Continue reading “Amazon to come to Anable Basin”

State Sen. Gianaris joins in call to abolish ICE

 

State Senator Michael Gianaris (Astoria, LIC, Sunnyside) has joined in the call to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a position popularized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ stunning primary victory against Rep. Joe Crowley. Last Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on WNYC Radio, “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is right” and, “We should create something better.” U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren have also joined in the call. 

Gianaris called for abolishing ICE at a rally for Yeni Maricela Gonzalez Garcia, a Guatemalan mother who crossed the country to reunite with her three children in East Harlem. “This was an agency that was created after 9-11 to combat terrorism,” Gianaris said in Long Island City. “Not to separate women from their children… We should abolish ICE immediately and then we should abolish Donald Trump at the ballot box as soon as we can.” (See video here w/ ICE remarks at 1:05.) State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas was there too.  Continue reading “State Sen. Gianaris joins in call to abolish ICE”

Ravenswood has so much development and CB1 wants to know how you feel about that

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The nor’easter in Ravenswood, 11 a.m., Wednesday, March 21

At this month’s Community Board 1 full meeting, members said they’d be sending out a survey for Ravenswood area residents. The idea, apparently, is to have some measure on how residents feel about changes happening in the area in regards to all the development going on. This should help the board in future land use reviews and all that kind of stuff. The same survey will go out throughout CB1 but it will start in Ravenswood because there’s so much development happening here. I think I can name some of it:

The twin Alma towers at 34-46 Vernon Boulevard. It looks finished, doesn’t it? But someone pointed out to me recently the fences weren’t on the balconies yet. 

The seven-building Halletts Point development.

The site at 11-23 31st Drive which was recently bought for $8 million and holds 33,982 square feet of residential potential. 

And to be honest, IDK what else, except maybe all those hotels in the IBZ

The survey will go out to tenants association type groups CB1 members said but be on the lookout for it in local newspapers, if you guys read those things. 

A few notes: 

  • $450,000 year-round exercise equipment at Queensbridge park, a $500,000 soil science lab at the Ravenswood Houses? These are a couple of the eight ideas that are up for a vote in the 26th council district at the 4th round of participatory budgeting
  • A 7 Train Coalition launched to fight gentrification along the 7 line but I wish they’d call it Occupy the 7 Train. 
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney and other electeds are rallying for early voting in New York. 
  • Did you know March 20th was Queens Day? Here’s State Sen. Gianaris talking about it in Albany: 

 

Continue reading “Ravenswood has so much development and CB1 wants to know how you feel about that”

Corner of Astoria still exists!

It’s been one week since you looked at me I started this blog on my phone while eating a sandwich in a Subway restaurant on 7th Avenue. I have posted every day. (Sometimes after midnight though). Saturday, I covered the 44th Drive rezoning protest in Hunters Point. I see little other post-coverage of that other than on NY1. And this was not a bad alternative for getting that news (IMHO).

A few notes:

  • It’s hard to choose a seat at the new/reopened Love Cafe on Steinway Street. I tried popular Kinship Coffee but it was too crowded. Next door at Love, hardly anyone was there. But there are so many types of spots to sit it took a while to choose. Wait, is this a metaphor for the world?

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Continue reading “Corner of Astoria still exists!”

Quiet 44th Drive corner becomes rallying ground against EDC waterfront development plan

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The deep end of 44th Drive west of Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point is usually a quiet stretch, all concrete and bricks with a great Midtown skyline view. But today several dozen people, including elected officials of the area, held a rally around some parked cars to say no to the city’s current rezoning and development plans for the strip. The current plan calls for rezoning two lots for housing, manufacturing, offices, park space and a school. The protesters say too much is being given away.

 

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The Economic Development Corporation put out Requests for Proposals early in 2016 to redevelop 5-40 and 4-99 44th Drive where the Department of Transportation and the defunct Water’s Edge restaurant are. Last summer the EDC revealed its plan with TF Cornerstone as developer. The plan involves 1,000 rental units and 100,000 square feet of industrial space. Some 250 or 25% of the units are supposed to be affordable.

Long Island City Coalition and allies want a shot at influencing a different plan. Part of the issue is population density given the state of transit and what’s said to be overcrowded schools. “We’re being walled in,” a musician said to the crowd. Instead, opponents have floated ideas such as more park space, a community center or a big school. “A permanent solution for overcrowding is this beautiful building,” someone said of the DOT behemoth behind the rally. “This is a public space. We own this,” Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association said.

I asked Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer if he has a plan to bring an alternative plan to the EDC. “EDC has to come to the table,” he said, as in have forums where the community weighs in. I asked how long it will take to get an alternative plan through. “Whatever amount of time that would take, it’s worth taking.”