ASTORIA – At the Greek-American Homeowners Association (GAHA) monthly meeting on April 3, New York State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris spoke about the Amazon issue and whether he was ultimately responsible for “wrecking” the negotiations, as certain media outlets had suggested.
Sen. Gianaris, who was invited along with New York City Council Member Paul Vallone, first took general questions from the GAHA members concerning Amazon and other issues related to property ownership.
Indeed, at one point, an attendee held up the front page of the New York Daily News, which portrayed Gianaris as one of the key figures responsible for the sinking the Amazon investment deal.
“I am not responsible for the headlines in the Daily News,” Gianaris said before taking the floor and presenting the audience with his side of the story.
“We did not have information, as elected officials, about the content of the agreement. I tried to communicate three to four times with them, but in vain. I contacted senior Amazon executives in Seattle. Do you know what they told me? A 160% increase in homelessness, due to rent increases. If we had complaints about the homeless now, what would happen then,” Gianaris said, referring also to the already troubled subway system and to the overcrowded schools.
At the same time, the State Senator expressed his doubts as to whether more money would be spent on small and medium-sized businesses, arguing that Amazon would operate some stores within its premises. This means that thousands of employees would spend their money on food and beverages in those places without spending money in neighborhood businesses.
“I was a candidate for the Public Authorities Control Board. I was not appointed, because the Governor did not approve me. They turn around and say that I am blame. I know that I have power, but if I think myself powerful enough to derail the plans of the richest man on the planet, something is wrong.”
Council Member Paul Vallone shared similar sentiments, making it clear that he was looking forward to any big investments, but admitting that the briefing offered was incomplete.
“What Mike was right about is that we did not know enough about the deal. Even if you supported it, you will have questions at some point. I was clearly in favor of Amazon coming here, but there had to be changes.”
GAHA President George Alexiou, expressed his concern about the fact that both the City Council and the state legislatures were not sufficiently informed about the agreement.
GAHA former president George Kitsios again noted his suspicion that the negotiations might be continuing in the background, but offered a different perspective to that of Sen. Gianaris.
“When an investment is to be made, an Environmental Impact Study is always carried out. I also cannot believe that the social conditions of the region have not been taken into account. There would not be 25,000 people coming all at once, there was time to improve the infrastructure,” said Kitsios.
However, despite the intense reactions GAHA members had expressed over Gianaris’ handling of the Amazon situation, the meeting proceeded mostly in a calm context.
Speech by Doctors
Before the open debate about Amazon, there was a lecture and discussion with two successful Greek physicians, Dr. John P. Sfakianos, Medical Director of the Urology Department at Mount Sinai, and Dr. George C. Fischer. Following their presentation, the doctors answered questions from the audience.