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Fight over Amazon heats up in Albany

The fight over Amazon’s expansion to Long Island City in Queens on Monday tiptoed toward a confrontation between a top Democrat in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Sen. Mike Gianaris was nominated to serve on the obscure Public Authorities Control Board, which has overseen and approved similar tax breaks that Amazon is seeking to build its campus in Long Island City. Gianaris is a critic of the proposal and its $3 billion package of tax subsidies.

The move is expected to generate 25,000 jobs earning on average more than six figures. Amazon only receives the tax credits if the jobs are created.

Gianaris, along with Queens lawmakers like Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, have been vocally critical of the proposal.

“I have a viewpoint on this deal. It’s not a secret,” Gianaris said. “It’s clear and unambiguous that I think this deal is terrible for New York.”

Cuomo has disputed the board can sink the deal and Gianaris’s appointment must still be approved by the governor himself.

The governor’s office in a statement knocked Gianaris’s opposition, though did not indicate whether Cuomo would veto the appointment.

“This recommendation puts the self-interest of a flip-flopping opponent of the Amazon project above the state’s economic growth and is a clear sign that the Senate Democrats oppose the 25,000 to 40,000 new technology jobs that would diversify our state’s economy — a move that is especially shortsighted given that today the State announced an economic slowdown,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever. “Every Democratic Senator will now be called on to defend their opposition to the greatest economic growth potential this State has seen in over 50 years.”

Gianaris shrugged off the criticism.

“I don’t know why he does what he does,” he said. “I’m the deputy leader of the Senate Majority. My leader saw fit to put my name forward for this important position. I’m honored that she did that. I’m thankful she did that.”

But more wrinkles have stoked opposition to the project, including Amazon’s opposition to unionizing its workforce. Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have expressed concerns with Amazon’s stance on organized labor.

“I think New York is a very pro-union state,” Heastie told reporters on Monday. “I would happen any company coming into New York is respectful of that.”

Heastie said the process is in the very early stages when whether the deal could be blocked.

“It’s way too early,” he said. “We hear the community’s concerns, we hear labor’s concerns. There’s some time to figure this out.”

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