To: Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Alicia Glen, Tom Finkelpearl, The New York State House, The New York State Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo
The NYC Arts community rejects Amazon.
As working artmakers and arts organizations in NYC, we pledge not to take any crumbs from Amazon. We reject any outreach from Amazon including residencies, studio or performance space or exhibitions. We don't want to help art-wash or culture-wash a dirty deal by Amazon with any "Sub-Prime" offers to artists. And we won’t give the city and state any cover by participating in any of their blatantly undemocratic, closed-door deals. What's bad for the community of LIC, the working poor and the working class is also bad for artists.
Why is this important?
We are unequivocally opposed to the deal to bring Amazon HQ2 to Long Island City. As we’ve seen in Seattle, Amazon’s presence promises little more than soaring rents, rising homelessness and a white-male dominated mono-culture. This poses a direct threat to Queens, the most ethnically diverse urban culture in the world. Amazon isn’t promising new jobs to current residents, but rather highly-specialized jobs for those already enmeshed in the technology world. Their presence will push out small businesses, working artists and any resident who doesn’t happen to have a background that fits Amazon hiring needs.
Our city is facing a serious displacement crisis in every borough. Rents are unaffordable, and are rising even higher due to lax regulation from Albany—and mayor DeBlasio’s MIH rezonings are exacerbating this rampant overdevelopment. There are currently more than 63,000 homeless people in NYC. Our mom & pop stores are going under, with communities losing their supermarkets, bookstores, and beloved restaurants. Chain stores and empty storefronts are the new normal. Working artists are losing their studio spaces—and like most lower income New Yorkers, struggle to pay rent on their apartments. Non-profit arts organizations and community-based music and dance studios are disappearing. Culture is disappearing. And this erasure is being hastened by bad policymaking, from the governor to the mayor to the city council.
The displacement crisis falls most heavily on communities of color, and threatens neighborhoods like East Harlem, Inwood, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx. And luxury hyper-development is creating a “tale of two cities” right right here in LIC: south of the bridge, where most of the new development has occurred, the average income is soaring, and the white population has increased. North of the bridge, the site of three major NYCHA developments and home to a diverse community of tens of thousands of middle and low-income tenants, the average income is far lower, and opportunities are shrinking: the question is, who will benefit from Amazon’s presence? Upward pressure on rents in the northern part of the neighborhood is already causing displacement. And rents have become unaffordable in the industrial zones of LIC, historically the home of jobs-producing manufacturers, artisans and working artists.
Against this backdrop of intense and growing inequality, the backroom deal to bring Amazon HQ2 to Long Island City is like a slap in the face. With the initial willing collusion of most NYC elected officials to lure Amazon, Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo offered, in effect, over $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks and other benefits to Amazon’s $5 billion investment project. They are one of the most profitable corporations in the world—and in autocratic fashion, are making an end run around the city council and ignoring community input. We are glad to see that some elected officials, including State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, are now taking an anti-Amazon stand.
And well they should. What is LIC getting out of this deal? The city’s mass giveaway allows Amazon to contribute almost nothing to public infrastructure for 11 years while paying no taxes. The residents of LIC certainly need good-paying jobs, but the ones brought in by Amazon are clearly not for the people who already live in the neighborhood. Amazon’s offer (not even legally binding) to offer “job training and resume workshops” to residents of the nearby Queensbridge houses is an insult. Amazon’s new headquarters would bring in 25,000 wealthier, whiter residents, whose presence will cause surrounding commercial and residential rents to soar—and displacement will result.
We are New York City working artists—some of us based in LIC—and we stand with residents of Queens NYCHA developments, local mom & pop stores, and jobs-producing manufacturers to say HELL NO TO AMAZON. Save our communities, save culture, save NYC.