Just a dozen days after Amazon announced this winter that it would pull out of plans for a Queens headquarters in the face of raucous opposition, the local authority that had helped forge the deal sought help from a familiar face, emails obtained by THE CITY show.
Andrea Hagelgans, the de Blasio admininistration’s former communications chief, got a message from the NYC Economic Development Corporation chief of staff James Katz on Feb. 26 requesting a phone call about a “potential engagement.”
That engagement — cemented in April at $80,000 for four months’ work — was a reputational rescue led by Hagelgans at the public relations firm Edelman, which she’d joined in 2018 after leaving her City Hall job.
Her team signed up to lead a course correction in Amazon’s aftermath, the correspondence shows. It would enhance EDC’s existing press operation, rehabilitate the corporation’s wounded image and win future land-use fights against community and political opponents.
EDC spokeswoman Stephanie Báez characterized the hiring of Edelman as nothing out of the ordinary. “EDC carries out dozens of complicated projects that require time and attention,” she said.
“As in the past, we’ve taken the straightforward step of engaging outside help to assist with capacity and strategic support.”
She did not answer questions about total billing, whether the contract would be extended or renewed or if the work was ongoing.
Edelman declined to comment.
The Edelman proposal from March, released to THE CITY under a Freedom of Information request, describes EDC’s “most urgent needs” as “capacity building and the preparations needed to weather and win critical land use fights.”
“We have designed a program that we believe meets your immediate needs while propelling NYCEDC forward as you work to shape the future of NYC for its residents,” Hagelgans wrote in an email to Katz.
The proposal also aimed to elevate EDC President James Patchett in the public eye, “building executive visibility.”
The objectives included positioning Patchett “as a fierce advocate for business growth and development,” and creating a “playbook outlining a strong defense to political or community-related attacks surrounding high-profile land use fights and other reputation risks.”
The strategy involved a “systematic, rapid-response approach to effectively navigate political and community-related opposition that could slow or stall progress” on such deals.