Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday called Amazon’s decision to abandon a project in Queens “the greatest tragedy” since he’s been in public office.
“What happened is the greatest tragedy that I have seen since I have been in government,” Cuomo told WAMC in Albany.
Cuomo’s office clarified after the interview the governor’s comment was in the context of government shortcomings on other projects that fell through.
At the same time, Cuomo’s interview with the station once again cast blame on Democrats in the state Senate for sinking the deal, which would have brought as many as 25,000 jobs to Long Island City tied to $3 billion in tax incentives.
Cuomo pointed to the appointment of Sen. Mike Gianaris, a critic of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, which could have had oversight of the project.
“What happened here is a number of factors, but primary the state Senate made the misguided decision in my opinion, which I think is now clear to all, to treat Amazon as a local political issue and defer the decision making to the local political senator who they also appointed to the governmental board who had to approve the project,” Cuomo said.
Amazon’s decision in part was also fueled by a sustained push from labor unions to organize the company’s workforce in New York, a move the online retail giant opposed.
But Cuomo on Friday continued to point to Gianaris’s opposition to the project as the primary reason for its demise. The governor demurred when asked if he would aid a primary challenge to Gianaris in his Queens Senate district.
Democratic incumbents in suburban and upstate districts, however, may have political consequences, he said.
“No, it doesn’t spell trouble between me and them,” Cuomo said. “It spells trouble between them and the state of New York. This was 70 percent popular. This was a mistake for them to think this was a New York-Long Island political issue.”
He added, “Either they have not read a newspaper or talked to a person or taken economics 101 or civics 101 or they get it. The Buffalo News said it was terrible for the state Senate. Albany Times Union, Long Island Newsday. It was never a Queens issue.”
Senate Democrats fired back, noting Gianaris was never even approved by Cuomo to sit on the board.
“It’s unfortunate that Governor Cuomo is once again failing to accept any responsibility for this failed deal,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.
“We have no member on the PACB. We made a recommendation and if the Governor was so upset he could have rejected it. In fact, the full Board met this week without our recommended member further proving the Governor’s argument has no merit. As we told the Governor numerous times we would be happy to make a new recommendation if he rejected this one. New Yorkers deserve facts from their elected leaders. The Governor should spend less time with baseless attacks and attempts to divide Democrats and more time fixing his flawed economic development process so we can move forward and help business and the community thrive.”
It’s not yet clear what consequences the Amazon deal falling through will have not just politically, but also on the government side. Lawmakers have been out of Albany this week for a mid-February break in the session. When they return, the budget negotiations will likely heat up.
The governor, however, is not considered someone who forgives and forgets.
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