LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens — It began as an effort by a broad coalition of leaders in business, in labor, in the clergy, in politics, and in community activism joining together to try and get Amazon to change its mind about rescinding its offer to locate its second headquarters in New York.
On Friday, however, the effort erupted into a war of words, some of which were very threatening.
It all ended up possibly highlighting a reason why Amazon thought better of expanding to the Big Apple, and why the reconsideration effort may ultimately prove futile.
The process started out on Thursday evening. That’s when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the other leaders took out a full page in the New York Times to publish a letter to Amazon pledging their best efforts to make a renewed interest in expansion by the world’s sixth-largest corporation be fruitful.
“How could we let this slip away?” asked Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and one of more than 80 signers of the letter. “When your back is against the wall that way,” he said, referring to Amazon’s withdrawal, “it’s funny how people come together to make something work.”
Another of the letter’s signers gained notoriety on Friday afternoon. Josh Bowen is the owner of John Brown’s Smokehouse, which is located just a block away from the site on which Amazon had proposed building HQ2.
Bowen had flown out to Amazon headquarters in Seattle earlier in the week, and on Friday afternoon, a vocal anti-Amazon city council member, Jimmy Van Bramer, tweeted the image of a text he’d received from Bowen.
Josh Bowen, who recently went to Seattle to meet with Amazon sent this text today. It is several threats rolled into one. Demanding an elected official make a call to Amazon by a certain time – or else. This is disgusting. did others get this too? I don’t respond to threats. pic.twitter.com/Txtf53aaiN
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) March 1, 2019
It demanded that Van Bramer contact a high ranking Amazon executive and apologize for his opposition to HQ2 or be “in front of the firing squad.”
Among other threats, the text also warned that Van Bramer would not get re-elected unless he were to “make that f*****g call.” PIX11 News attempted to contact Bowen about his alleged threats, but were not successful.
There was an additional social media dispute related to the Amazon re-wooing. This one involved the governor.
On The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio on Friday, Cuomo responded to criticism from the main opposition group to Amazon, called Make The Road New York, by claiming to not know what the 23,000-member organization is. Cuomo made the comment in spite of the fact that he’s mentioned Make The Road in past public appearances.
His verbal denial led to a Twitter war, in which hundreds of individuals and groups tweeted #IAmMakeTheRoad messages and videos.
“[It’s] a deliberate attempt to erase the work” of the organization, said Make The Road NY spokesperson Angeles Solis. She said that the governor’s efforts to snub Make The Road had not worked.
As for the governor’s efforts to woo Amazon back to Long Island City, even he admitted on Friday that it may not prove successful.
However, workers and residents in Long Island City on Friday told PIX11 News that they supported the governor’s efforts.
“I think we should make another run for it,” Berlinda Gregory said. But she also said the same thing as others who live and work in the neighborhood.
When asked if he felt there was a chance that efforts to woo Amazon back would be fruitful, Joseph Magaldi replied immediately, “None. Not convinced at all.”