Holding Senator Michael Gianaris Accountable for Ignoring the Majority of His Constituents and Losing 25,000 Jobs
Michael Gianaris, the incumbent State Senator representing the 12th District in Queens, ignored the overwhelming majority of his constituents and opposed a deal that would have brought 25,000 jobs and $27 billion in tax revenue to New York. This was a transformational opportunity for Queens and the City of New York, squandered by a representative out of touch with his constituents. Instead of reaching out to the affected communities and being a steward for the long term interests of the neighborhoods he represents, he chose to play politics to further his own career. Voters need to have the opportunity to hold Senator Gianaris accountable in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Let’s Break It Down
In October 2017, Senator Gianaris, signed a letter in support of New York’s bid to be the home of Amazon’s second world headquarters (HQ2) and 50,000 jobs. Then, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory against incumbent Joseph Crowley, who Gianaris had earlier endorsed as “the progressive leader we need,” he turned like a weathervane against the deal.
Without conducting any meaningful constituent outreach, Senator Gianaris came out against the Amazon deal before it was officially announced. The day after the announcement, he rallied against it. He ignored polls consistently showing strong support for the deal, starting with a December 5 Quinnipiac University poll that showed 60% of Queens residents supported Amazon coming to LIC, and only 26% disapproved. When asked about the $3 billion incentive package, Queens residents supported them, 55% to 39%. All polls consistently supported this finding (See 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). In addition, Senator Gianaris spent $24,000 on a poll in late December 2018, during the midst of the Amazon deal. He hasn’t disclosed what it was about, but it is safe to assume that it was on the Amazon deal - and did not support his position.
In addition to the strong support shown in polls, the Amazon deal enjoyed strong support from leaders in the area, including from the NYCHA community, LaGuardia Community College, Pursuit, and unions such as 32BJ.
Rather than making any effort to negotiate with Amazon, the state or the city on behalf of his constituents, Senator Gianaris refused to join with 45 community leaders to help shape the deal, dismissing the community advisory committee as “window-dressing.” The New York Times reported that Amazon reached out to Senator Gianaris on multiple occasions, and he refused to meet with them.
The Amazon deal may be behind us, but as Shakespeare wrote, “What’s past is prologue” and Senator Gianaris has shown that he will side with a vocal minority against the interests of the majority. Can Senator Gianaris be trusted to thoughtfully handle the next great opportunity Queens has, and give all a good faith hearing? The answer is clearly no.
Senator Gianaris has not had a Democratic challenger for nearly a decade - his entire time in the Senate. Help us make sure voters have the opportunity to hold him accountable for his handling of the Amazon deal, and will be able to consider a more optimistic and inclusive vision for Queens.
We Believe All Deserve Respect, a Fair Hearing, and Good Faith Consideration
One of the most basic jobs of a representative is to consider the interests of all constituents. When it came to an extraordinary opportunity for Queens, we didn’t get the good faith consideration we should have. Instead, Senator Gianaris and others sided with a small but extremely vocal group of activists. The activists deserved to be heard, but it was the job of our representatives to balance their concerns against the interests of the strong majority of us who were in favor of the deal. Senator Gianaris failed to do any meaningful constituent outreach on the deal, and ignored the majority who were in favor of it.
We Believe in More Inclusive Growth
We believe in growth, but we also understand that the status quo where it primarily benefits a small percentage is unsustainable. It is the job of our representatives to enact policies to help ensure that growth benefits far more than have benefited in the recent past. There needs to be a focus on bold and constructive ways to improve housing affordability, access to opportunity, our infrastructure, our schools, and transportation, among other needs. We’re optimists who believe our problems can be addressed in ways where far more can benefit from growth.
We Need to Focus on Careers, Not Just Jobs
Unemployment is at record lows, and that was often cited as a reason we didn’t need the Amazon deal. However, a recent study found that 46% of Queens residents are underemployed, and we know that simply having a job is no guarantee of financial stability. The Amazon deal would have provided good paying jobs not only for tech workers, but also for unionized construction workers and building service workers.
Unions have played a key role in developing careers and providing financial stability. They are just as important now as they were in the past, if not more so as we see occupations that once provided financial stability get turned into “gigs.” Business creates the jobs, and unions helps make them careers.
Organizations and institutions that provide pathways to careers are essential and deserve aggressive support. In Queens we are fortunate to have institutions such Laguardia Community College, as well as innovative organizations such as Pursuit, which are focused on getting those in need into careers.
This is About More than Queens
We want to make it clear to politicians everywhere that if they side with a vocal few against the interests of the quiet majority, there will be consequences. But that means we need to start standing up to run in primaries against politicians like Senator Gianaris, and we need to show up to vote in primaries. The movement that put Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into office has proven that they do, so when the same activists said jump, Senator Gianaris said “how high.” That has to change.
Making More Votes Count
New York City is dominated by Democrats, and which Democrats are in office has a profound impact on our lives and future as shown by the demise of the Amazon deal. Which Democrat ends up in office is determined in the primary election. Check out the article Primaries Are Where Politics Happens Today, And That's Why The Amazon Deal Died. To vote in the Democratic primary, you must be registered Democrat. If you are unaffiliated (“independent”) you can’t vote in the primary, and if you are a registered Republican, whoever you voted for is unlikely to be elected. Citizens for Queens will be encouraging more voters to register Democrat, and turn out to the primary elections.
Our Path Forward
We are going to ensure that voters have the opportunity to hold Senator Gianaris accountable in the 2020 Democratic primary. Citizens for Queens will aid the best candidate to challenge Senator Gianaris. For the time being, CfQ is backing Justin Potter as he explores a run for State Senate. The final decision as to which candidate we’ll be backing will be made at a later date. In the coming months, the focus of CfQ will be on building the committee and laying the groundwork for a strong campaign.