After Cuomo’s Calls to Amazon, a Flurry of Conversations to Rally Support

After Cuomo’s Calls to Amazon, a Flurry of Conversations to Rally Support

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After multiple conversations this week with Amazon officials, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to show them just how much support for the company there really was in New York City.

So after those calls — including one with the Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos — the governor’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, spoke with the president of the city’s pre-eminent business group, the Partnership for New York City, about how to follow up. They quickly settled on a strategy for a letter addressed to Mr. Bezos that would appear as a full-page newspaper advertisement.

Time was of the essence.

By Wednesday, emails began flying; phones were ringing seemingly everywhere, from union halls and public housing apartments to executive suites of companies like Goldman Sachs and Warby Parker and the offices of local congressional representatives.

In some cases, the pitch came from Ms. DeRosa. In many others, it came from the president of the partnership, Kathryn Wylde, whose group paid for the ad.

“I wanted the letter to symbolize that New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds know how to work together,” said Ms. Wylde, who came up with the idea for the letter.

Others, particularly businesses in or near Long Island City, Queens, where Amazon canceled plans for a headquarters last month, learned about the impending letter from Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the Long Island City Partnership.

“The idea was to put together a diverse range of voices in a short amount of time,” said Ms. Lusskin, who was asked to help on Thursday morning. “There are many, many more people who would have, if asked, been part of this. We were trying to get together a broad range.”

Six people described the efforts to create the letter, but some would only do so on the condition of anonymity. One person said the call to Mr. Bezos took place on Tuesday; the person said on Friday that Mr. Bezos had seen the ad.

Unions that had not previously expressed a position on Amazon signed on, including the New York branch of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Hotel Trades Council, which represents hotel workers, and unions representing teachers and hospital workers.

“Every worker has the right to organize, but we know that having a job is essential to that process,” George Gresham, the president of 1199 Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.

Not every union that got a call decided to add its name, according to two union officials who said Ms. DeRosa, along with Ms. Wylde, had reached out. Several people said they had received a call to add their names to the letter with only a few hours to decide whether to sign; others were given a little more time.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Dani Lever, disputed the union officials’ account, saying that no one Ms. DeRosa called had said no.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 70 signatories had joined, including public housing tenant leaders, the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter, pastors, as well as businesses in Queens.

There was no evidence that the letter, which appeared as a full-page ad in The New York Times on Friday, had changed Amazon’s decision to abandon the deal, in which the company promised to create up to 40,000 jobs in Long Island City in exchange for a state grant of $500 million and state and city tax breaks that would have eventually totaled more than $2 billion.

On Friday, the governor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that the company had not conveyed any change of heart. “I have no reason to believe that Amazon is reconsidering,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Would I like them to? Certainly.”

But the letter may have tempered some of the political opposition to the Amazon plan; as the contents of the letter and breadth of support became known, many of the voices of opposition grew silent or appeared to soften their messages.

The local elected officials who had been most critical of the deal — State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer — declined to comment in response to Mr. Cuomo’s efforts to lure the company back.

State Senator Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat who recently replaced Mr. Gianaris as the nominee to the obscure but powerful Public Authorities Control Board (it would have had veto power over the Amazon deal), issued a statement on Friday that stressed his willingness to work with Amazon.

“I was disappointed in Amazon’s retreat rather than choosing to work together to address the concerns of the affected communities, and ensure the best outcome for New York taxpayers,” Mr. Comrie said. “If Amazon chooses to come back I would be glad to work with them.”

Even the office of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose surprise win last year helped galvanize resistance to the company, and whose opposition to Amazon led to a Times Square billboard blaming her for the pullout, seemed to be more measured in its comments.

“If elected officials spent half as much time talking to the community as to Jeff Bezos, I think we would already have come to an agreement that works for everybody,” Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, said.

Mr. Cuomo, in the radio interview, sought to diminish the importance of Amazon’s most strident opponents; he called Mr. Van Bramer and Mr. Gianaris “irrelevant,” adding that “there are other ways that the state can get it done. I told Amazon that.”

The governor was even more dismissive of Make the Road New York, a coalition representing minority and working-class New Yorkers that opposed the Amazon deal, saying he did not know what the group was.

The group was one of 78 associations that co-signed their own letter, released on Friday, reiterating their opposition to any economic development plan that “excludes investments in local communities,” citing what they said was “Amazon’s predatory practices.”

Mr. Cuomo was particularly unpersuaded.

“This is a blow to the state, and I’ll do everything I can to reverse it,” he said. “You punch until you hear the bell, and the bell hasn’t sounded.”

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