The Cuomo administration will likely use a controversial planning process to shepherd Amazon's potential headquarters in Queens around the normal city review, Crain's has learned.
Several sources familiar with the negotiations to bring the tech giant to a sprawling office and mixed-use campus around Anable Basin on the Long Island City waterfront say the state is planning to create a general project plan to rezone the roughly 20-acre site, which today can only accommodate low-rise manufacturing uses.
That would give the state the authority to remake the area without having to secure approval from the City Council, which usually holds power over major development projects in need of a rezoning.
The general project plan still requires an environmental review, allows the community to comment in a public forum and is subject to nonbinding input from the City Planning Commission and the local community board.
The advantage for Gov. Andrew Cuomo is that the Amazon project could not be held hostage by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, per the council's tradition of deferring to the local member on rezonings.
"I'm not just surprised, I'm angry," said Van Bramer. "I think it would be shocking if this was done in a way that bypassed the city land-use review process. This is the most top-down approach to a project I have seen so far, with no community involvement. This is the governor and the mayor and [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos sitting in a room together."