Against a nascent political backdrop that is renouncing gentrification and the role of real estate money in politics, Gov. Andrew Cuomo embraces over-development by corporate welfare.
By Progress New York Staff
A controversial bid marred by a lack of transparency to offer taxpayer-funded incentives first estimated to be worth several hundred million dollars and later revealed to approach $3 billion to Amazon.com to locate one of its proposed new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, is generating new scrutiny and criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), who has boasted about offering the inducements. “We have a great incentive package,” said Gov. Cuomo for a report published by the New York Times. It was not initially known if Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) supported Gov. Cuomo’s offering of taxpayer-funded incentives described to be worth several hundred million dollars, but later Mayor de Blasio defended the mega-billions giveaway. For this report, the Executive Chambers of Gov. Cuomo and the press office servicing New York City Hall did not answer press inquiries.
In the past, Mayor de Blasio has steadfastly defended the use of property tax abatements to fund the speculative construction of luxury real estate development. In 2015, Mayor de Blasio lobbied in support of the 421-a tax abatement program, which was allowed to expire that year then after the role of real estate donations in State and City politics triggered the attention of Federal prosecutors. For his part, Gov. Cuomo’s management of past, large real estate developments have been tainted by corruption. Gov. Cuomo’s much-vaunted Buffalo Billion program became the subject of an investigation under that heavy scrutiny of Federal prosecutors ; that corruption investigation resulted in the conviction of a former New York State university president and three executives on charges of rigging contracts worth nine figures.
The package of taxpayer-funded incentives being offered to Amazon.com has reached ten figures ; this, as public housing residents face uninhabitable conditions.
In order to subvert public participation in the offering of taxpayer-funded incentives to Amazon.com, Gov. Cuomo is reportedly planning to circumvent the Uniform Land Use Review Process, or ULURP, a legal procedure that gives the Municipal legislature final say on major land use decisions in New York City, according to a report published by Crain’s New York Business. Gov. Cuomo’s move against democratic determination of land use come at a time when the State and the City claim that no money exists to fully fund the capital improvement needs at the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, and in the wake of two leading politicians in Queens, State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), having renounced political donations from the real estate industry. NYCHA tenants are confronting a lead poisoning crisis in paint and drinking water and other conditions that make public housing developments nearly uninhabitable, including the presence of toxic mold and lack of heating in the winter.
The decisions by State Sen. Gianaris and Councilmember Van Bramer to distance themselves from real estate donors have been described, in part, as duplicitous and self-interested and follow reports that Federal law enforcement are interested in the activities of the Democratic Organisation of Queens County, which received real estate donations into its committee account — and into each of the committee to reëlect and the political action committee of its chair, outgoing U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY 14). For this report, the offices of State Sen. Gianaris and Councilmember Van Bramer did not answer press inquiries. Gov. Cuomo has relied on the real estate industry for the making of large campaign contributions. The press offices respectively servicing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman did not respond to media requests for this report.
The Government is setting aside only $4 billion to make repairs to NYCHA’s vast portfolio of public housing developments, even though the cost of the Authority’s true need for capital repairs exceeds $30 billion. Critics of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have long complained that public policy deliberately funnels almost limitless resources to support corporate welfare and gentrification and, yet, there are never any, much less enough, resources to tackle social, legal, and economic injustices, like the lack of habitable public housing, State-sanctioned racism, and homelessness. A week ago, Mayor de Blasio surprised few when he admitted that he does not support setting aside more housing under his neoliberal building plan for homeless New Yorkers.
- EDITORIAL : New York Should Say No to Amazon [The New York Times]
- As U.S. District Court decides NYCHA settlement, Wilmer Hale, a law firm with questionable legal authority, has been participating in the litigation [Progress New York]
- Federal Judge Pauley will decide whether pennies on the dollar repair fund will be approved for NYCHA [Progress New York]
- U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman turns back on NYCHA tenants after woefully inadequate repair fund settlement [Progress New York]
- As REBNY ramps up efforts to stop or gut SBJSA, two politicians renounce campaign donations from the real estate industry [Progress New York]
- Cuomo likely to steer Amazon project around City Council [Crain’s New York Business]