Amazon, stay out, declares candidate for Public Advocate

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Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito says she will advocate for improvements in the subway system and public housing. Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council

Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito says she will advocate for improvements in the subway system and public housing. Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council

By Cristina DC Pastor

Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is running for NYC Public Advocate, called for “scrapping the Amazon deal,” which involves construction of a multi-billion dollar headquarters in Queens by the retail tech giant.

Speaking before the community and ethnic media, the former speaker of the New York City Council said Amazon’s “track record” of union busting and supposed disregard for homelessness in Seattle are “examples that give me pause.”

“We don’t want to welcome those practices here,” she said during a December 5 forum held at Manhattan Neighborhood Network El Barrio Firehouse studio.

Amazon has announced it was investing $5 billion in two new headquarters in New York City and Arlington, Virginia creating more than 50,000 jobs in both locations. In NYC, the new corporate office will be located in Long Island City in Queens.

The announcement made on the company blog also states that Amazon will receive “performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion…This includes a refundable tax credit through New York State’s Excelsior Program of up to $1.2 billion calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, which equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000; and a cash grant from Empire State Development of $325 million based on the square footage of buildings occupied in the next 10 years.”

Mark-Viverito opposed the grant of tax credits and other incentives to Amazon. She said, “The economic model of incentivizing large corporations that really don’t need to be incentivized is outdated.” She said New Yorkers should reject the Amazon contract “the same way we banded around Walmart.” Walmart’s attempt to open a big-box store in NYC has faced resistance from activists and the local communities.

With members of the NYC community and ethnic media after the press conference at Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

With members of the NYC community and ethnic media after the press conference at Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

“It’s no coincidence that the two locations Amazon chose to set up in, the outskirts of Washington D.C. which is the seat of political power and New York, which is the financial capital of the world. It’s hard to believe they need any incentive to come here,” she argued.

“We have to scrap the deal,” she added.

The Public Advocate race is a crowded one with Mark-Viverito among at least eight candidates. Also running, according to reports, are Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, journalist Nomiki Konst, Columbia University professor and historian David Eisenbach and Assemblymen Michael Blake and Danny O’Donnell.

Mark-Viverito said she would advocate for issues that affect New Yorkers, such as the “broken” transit system and decrepit public housing where half a million New Yorkers live. She is reviving her 2014 proposal to legalize marijuana so that an estimated $1.3 billion in tax revenue can help fund transit improvements.

“The subway system is crumbling because of decades of disinvestment. Tax revenue from marijuana sales can be used to help improve service by funding desperately needed repairs and capital projects,” she said in a statement.

She would continue to be vocal on the issues of criminal justice and immigration reform, she said.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mark-Viverito came to the U.S. when she was 18 years old. She went to school in Columbia University where she studied Political Science. She spent a decade as a grassroots organizer advocating for greater Latino representation in city government. She was elected Speaker in 2014, becoming the first Latina to hold citywide office in NYC.

The role of the Public Advocate is that of a “watchdog” to City Hall. It can investigate complaints against agencies and officials, hold hearings, or recommend policy solutions. In the event the Mayor of New York City is unable to continue his duties, the Public Advocate is next in the succession line. However, there are sectors who believe the position is “useless” and should be abolished as some of its functions overlap with the those of the NYC Council Speaker.

The date for the special election for Public Advocate will be set by Mayor Bill de Blasio. It is likely to be held first quarter of the year.

(C) The FilAm 2018

The former Council Speaker with Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a Bronx affordable housing building in 2015. Photo by  William Alatriste for the New York City Council

The former Council Speaker and Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a Bronx affordable housing building in 2015. Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council



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