One month since the announcement of Amazon’s intention to build a new headquarters in Queens, bypassing community consent and taking over $3 billion in tax cuts and “incentives,” the fight against the corporation is now in full swing.
With the agreement with the trillion-dollar corporation still not finalized, sell-out politicians Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio are receiving broad-based blowback across Queens and New York City.
Queens residents in the neighborhoods of Woodside and Sunnyside have already filled community board meetings to demand the Amazon deal be rejected entirely with “no negotiation, no concessions.” (Sunnyside Post)
No version of the governor’s back-room deal will be accepted. Not taken in by Amazon’s vague promises to add jobs or its increased lobbying and propaganda efforts, on Dec. 10 over 300 New Yorkers packed a community forum to organize against the deal. Initially called by the Democratic Socialists of America, the forum’s program was coordinated by Queens Neighborhood United and featured speakers from local Queens- and NYC-based grassroots organizations including DRUM, Hate Free Zone, Chhaya, CAAAV and Queensbridge Houses residents, all united in opposition.
Queensbridge, the largest public housing in the country, is only a few blocks away from where the intended Amazon headquarters will be built.
Hazoora Ahmad, a Queensbridge resident, stated: “I love my community and this is not a neighborhood for Amazon, but it’s one for working-class people. … We only have the F train out here, which is already overcrowded, and Amazon would just make it worse. Elected officials should look out for our needs, not the needs of Amazon.”
Rent increases, gentrification, and displacement are central concerns across Queens.
The borough has already experienced a sharp average 8.4 percent rent increase this year, the largest in the country, and New York City Housing Authority residents are owed over $18 billion in repairs and upgrades, as they are plagued with asbestos, leaks, mold, and broken elevators that leave elderly and disabled tenants trapped inside. The billions of dollars taken from the people for “incentives” for corporations like Amazon and other union-busting developers must be reclaimed for the people and directed towards quality housing for all poor and working people.
Even outside of the billions in stolen tax dollars offered to Amazon, the company will be bringing in thousands of tech workers with six-figure salaries, allowing landlords and developers to raise the already outrageous rents, and to reorganize the local economy to serve these high-end customers.
Organizers have also pointed to Amazon’s especially vile track record on burning economic and social questions, from immigrant rights to workplace conditions. Amazon provided facial recognition technology to ICE to help the deportation machine. They have come down hard to repress workers trying to form unions. A recent Amazon patent – to put warehouse workers in moving cages to “protect” them from massive robots whizzing around them – is one indication of the type of economy Amazon intends to build, extracting billions in profit for CEO Jeff Bezos and financial investors.
Amazon’s environment of productivity “trackers,” inhumane conditions, and constant repression sparked a walkout in Europe for basic human dignity in saying “We Are Not Robots.” (Common Dreams)
Working-class people in Queens are ready to fight back and affirmed that “there is no good deal” that brings Amazon’s headquarters to the neighborhood, that working-class people should not fall for false promises of community investments. The same stance was recently taken by organizers and community members in Berlin, Germany, who were able to stop a new Google headquarters.
PSL in Queens has been in the middle of this struggle, joining coalitions with our communities and local organizations, organizing and attending meetings, and canvassing for a petition among Queensbridge residents. On Dec. 16, PSL and sponsoring organizations will take to the streets and rally outside the mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion to show him the people reject his sell-out deal. The protest will demand not only a total rejection of Amazon but also to protect and upgrade NYCHA, make quality affordable housing a right, and support unions.
In January, the fight will travel to Albany to take on the other main culprit behind this deal: Governor Cuomo. It is already clear that Queens rejects this deal. What is needed is concerted organizing and creative action to transform that popular attitude into a powerful and class-conscious movement.
The PSL stands with the people of Queens – with our communities – to fight against yet another capitalist; Amazon is a parasite that takes resources from workers in the form of profits, tax revenue, and neighborhood space that could be used for housing and schools.
Of course, Amazon is no exception to the capitalist system. In its record of union-busting, job destruction, and fostering extreme inequality, it embodies all the essential characteristics of that system. Not only are we against Amazon in Queens, as socialists we will fight for a system where companies like Amazon will be expropriated and converted into socialized property for the benefit of all of society rather than a tiny class of investors.