Beyond Amazon: Constituents Not Corporations Should Have The Power.
By Danielle Brecker, Co-lead Organizer of Empire State Indivisible
The decision for Amazon HQ2 to come to LIC was announced a few days after the 2018 general election. At the time, I had just spent 18 months as part of Empire State Indivisible focused on holding our elected officials to account and flipping the NY State Senate true blue. I felt incredibly positive about the power we the people had to make real change and I saw the Amazon HQ2 decision as an opportunity to continue making change.
… an opportunity to leverage people power to push Amazon, notorious for bad policy and practices
… an opportunity to shine a light on and fix the problems of overdevelopment that plague my community of LIC
Sadly, there was not the political will to do this. Some of my elected officials rolled out the red carpet for Amazon making every possible concession, touting the benefits to the city and state. Our governor even went so far as to proclaim that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo”. My other elected officials took a strong opposition stance and said NO in the most inflexible way, allowing no room for negotiation or compromise.
Neither approach was helpful. By the time Amazon pulled out months later, the community was divided and none of the problems we faced had been solved. Watching activists celebrate in the streets was devastating, not because I necessarily wanted Amazon to come but because we squandered our opportunity to make real change in our community.
Now we have an opportunity and a responsibility to make that change.
This is why we have signed on in support of the #BeyondAmazon platform to reshape New York’s approach to economic development. This platform put forth by a coalition of grassroots and community organizations, lays out clear guardrails, to avoid future debacles like Amazon H2Q, and presents a common sense people-focused approach to how our state handles economic development. It is afterall, our state and this economic development is for us.
The core need facing LIC and all of NY state is investment in infrastructure. As the platform lays out, we must invest directly in infrastructure because this investment will not only bring jobs but will transform communities and give all New Yorkers the opportunity for economic equality. Reinstating the stock transfer tax is the obvious way to initiate this but ultimately our investment in infrastructure will pay for itself.
We are a state of people and therefore economic development must put people first. I support Senator Gianaris’ legislation “mandating that major economic development deals incorporate a true social impact assessment into the cost-benefit- analysis.” I suggest that we go beyond this by including community input in all stages of planning economic development. This will not be easy, Amazon proved that, but it is necessary because a community knows best what that community needs.
New York was built by organized labor and we must make sure that we are rebuilt by organized labor. At a town hall I attended in LIC in early 2017, a representative from organized labor stood on stage and told the audience “organized labor is ready to stand with you, march with you, resist with you…labor is with you!” He was speaking to me and to those in the room who needed jobs, training, and opportunity. Economic development is only economic development if it is with labor and about jobs, training, and opportunity for all New Yorkers.
Constituents not corporations should have the power. Back on that November day after the general election when Amazon announced their LIC decision, I was not worried about Amazon because I felt strongly that we the people had reclaimed our power from bad politicians and corporations. I was wrong; we had started down that path by holding our elected officials to account and primarying the bad ones out but we needed more support to stand up to domineering and bullying corporations. This platform gives us that support by limiting what corporations can take from us and making the benefits and subsidies they receive transparent.
If we can pass the laws and adhere to the approach laid out in this platform, we will have just, smart, human economic development that benefits all New Yorkers, not just a privileged few. This will make equality and quality of life for all New Yorkers better. And we can be a model for many other states that struggle with the same issues.
Empire State Indivisible is part of the national Indivisible movement and the True Blue NY Grassroots Coalition. We are committed to defend New York against the Trump administration and those who enable its policies.
Follow us on Twitter @es_indivisible