A map of the partial, proposed route of the BQX streetcar service, indicating that the streetcar would run through the Long Island City section of Queens, which is represented in the New York City Council by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). New York City Economic Development Corporation/Public Domain

Amazon.com was using lobbying firm from BQX to lobby City Government for cloud computing services

Yoswein New York, Inc., had been lobbying in support of the troubled BQX street car service that was supposed to run through Long Island City.

By Progress New York Staff

The lobbying firm, Yoswein New York, Inc., which had been prominently promoting the troubled Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, a proposed streetcar service that would join the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, has been lobbying the New York City Council on behalf of Amazon.com Services, Inc., to secure for the giant online retailer a cloud computer services contract with the City of New York, according to online lobbying records published by the New York City Office of the City Clerk. Two principal targets of Amazon’s lobbying have been Councilmembers Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge), chair of the Council contracts committee, and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chair of the Council finance committee, according to online lobbying records.

UPDATE : Amazon.com’s lobbying was the subject of a report, published by the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon.com has separately extracted $3 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies from the State of New York and the City of New York in order to situate a proposed headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. The controversial offering from the City of New York included “business income-tax credits worth $897 million and a property-tax break worth $386 million over 25 years,” according to a report published by the Democrat & Chronicle, with the income-tax credits described as an “as-of-right” economic development program. It is not known if the procurement contract being sought by Amazon.com was supposed to be part of the inducement.  Councilmembers Brannan and Dromm did not immediately answer advance questions submitted for this report. As chair of the Council finance committee, Councilmember Dromm has power to influence the City Budget. It is not known what discretion he has over the $1,3 billion in City financing that Mayor de Blasio has promised Amazon.com.

Feds countenancing violations of democratic processes, violations of transparency in Amazon.com #HQ2 deal.

The violations of democratic processes, as well as the lack of transparency, that were features in the negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York State), Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), and Amazon.com has sparked an outcry from anti-gentrification groups, anti-corruption activists, the normally neoliberal nonprofit groups that are closely-allied with elected officials, and the editorial boards of corporate-owned media. Because nothing about Amazon.com’s negotiations have been transparent or democratic, Amazon.com’s lobbying for a procurement contract has raised some interest, because the lobbying was taking place as it was negotiating for compensation for its HQ2, as its second headquarters project has been called.

“I think it’s really revealing that Danny Dromm has apparently said nothing about the Amazon HQ2 deal even though it’s the biggest issue facing Queens right now and arguably the biggest controversy roiling City and State politics, as well,” said Pauline Park, an LGBT activist who led the campaign for the transgender law enacted by the New York City Council in 2002. “Danny seems to be casting himself in the role of the Cowardly Lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ refusing to say anything about Amazon HQ2, and one has to wonder why,” said Park, a long-time Queens resident and a prominent anti-corruption activist, adding, “My guess is that he’s angling for an appointment in the Cuomo administration, and he doesn’t want to piss off Andrew Cuomo by standing in solidarity with grassroots groups opposing this massive corporate welfare boondoggle even though that’s what a real progressive would do. He’s playing it safe by saying nothing and may even be secretly negotiating with Amazon lobbyists lobbying the City Council finance committee ; as finance committee chair, Danny is the most powerful committee chair in the Council, and he stands to benefit by helping to grease the wheels for this shady deal, and I’m sure he knows it would be politically perilous for him to challenge both Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio at the same time over a deal they’re both aggressively pushing.”

Besides $3 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies, Amazon.com may have also extracted “details about optimal sites for development, current and future land use and development projects, planned infrastructure investments, and demographic information,” according to a report published by Business Insider, information that could potentially prove to be valuable to certain participants in the real estate industry. According to information obtained by Progress New York, anti-gentrification activists have long believed, without much in the way of proof, that real estate developers have come into possession of valuable City information about infrastructure and finance before that information has been released to the public.

The Bloomberg news service has revealed that the investment bank Goldman Sachs invested in a housing project in Long Island City on the same day that the announcement was made that Long Island City had been picked as one site of Amazon.com’s new headquarters. In 2017, Goldman Sachs advised Amazon.com on its acquisition of Whole Foods grocery store chain. Goldman Sachs has an active real estate investment group, and real estate developers with connections to it have received from the de Blasio administration $1 billion in subsidies and tax breaks, according to a report published by the Village Voice.

Besides lobbying the City Council, Yoswein, Amazon.com’s lobbying firm, had also been lobbying deputy mayors to Mayor de Blasio. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, a point person for the Amazon.com deal, was formerly employed by Goldman Sachs. For this report, the press office servicing U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, in Manhattan, expressly declined to answer advance questions submitted for this report. A press inquiry sent to the press office servicing U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, of Brooklyn, whose district includes Queens, was not answered.

The selection of the chairs of City Council committees were said to have been influenced, at least in part, by outgoing U.S Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY 14), who reportedly selected Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea) to serve as speaker of the City Council, according to a report published by the Gotham Gazette. According to press reports, each of the committees to reëlect U.S. Rep. Crowley and Councilmember Johnson received campaign contributions from individuals associated with the real estate industry, as did U.S. Rep. Crowley’s political action committee and the committee of the Democratic Organization of Queens County, which U.S. Rep. Crowley chairs.

Progress New York has reported that there is Federal law enforcement interest in the activities of the Queens County committee of the Democratic Party. In the time since, particularly after the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to succeed U.S. Rep. Crowley in Congress, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) have renounced donations from individuals associated with the real estate industry in a move that has been viewed as suspect by Government reform activists. For their part, both Councilmember Van Bramer and State Sen. Gianaris have been critical of being cut out of having any say in the Amazon.com deal. Generally, Councilmember Van Bramer would have had a determinative say in a large land use project in his Council district, but Council Speaker Johnson signaled last March that he would not permit Councilmembers to veto large real estate development projects, according to a report published by Gotham Gazette, and Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have cut out the entire City Council from having final say on the Amazon.com HQ2 deal.