BY BILL PARRY
Gianna Cerbone threw herself into the effort
to pave the way for Amazon to become part of
the only neighborhood she’s ever known even if
it cost her some regular customers at her Vernon
Boulevard restaurant, Manducatis Rustica, in Long
The 51-year-old served on the Community Advisory
Committee and hosted several get-togethers be-tween
small business owners and Amazon executives
knowing their enormous HQ2 campus would serve
as an anchor for the community. That’s why she was
shocked, devastated, upset and disappointed when
the e-commerce giant walked away from the deal on
Valentine’s Day — and now fighting to get Amazon
to revive its plans for Queens.
“I’ve invested my entire life in this neighborhood
and I know this is exactly what the community needs
and the economic impact would be enormous, not just
for us but all of Queens,” Cerbone said. “Everyone is
using the wrong verbiage, and it’s costing us 25,000
jobs and $28 billion in new tax revenues that could
fix the infrastructure here.”
That is why Cerbone was proud to sign her name
along with many of her neighbors and community
leaders on an open letter to Amazon chief executive
Jeff Bezos published in The New York Times Friday
urging him “to reconsider, so that we can move for-ward
“I wouldn’t fight for something that wouldn’t be great
for this community,” Cerbone said. “We worked very
hard on this and the Amazon people were speaking
with us about what they could do for this community.
It’s quite sad that a couple of individuals would use
misinformation that drove them away.
Eric Benaim, the co-founder and CEO of Modern
Spaces, modified an online petition he started two
weeks ago to show support for Amazon’s HQ2, with
the open letter to Bezos, which he also signed. The peti-tion
on Change.org is closing in on 5,000 signatures.
“I think we have a 5 to 10 percent chance to bring
them back,” Benaim said. I’ve been working for two
weeks to bring them back and you never say never.
Business people always walk away from the table,
and sometimes they come back.”
Several of the LIC residents that signed the letter
have expressed disappointment with state Senator
Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van
Bramer for being fierce opponents of the deal and
causing Amazon’s retreat. QNS reached out to both
and is awaiting responses.
“When we expect our leaders to do the right thing
they go and do just the opposite,” Hunters Point
Community Development Corporation President Mark
Christie said. “In doing so, they seem to forget the
That sentiment was seconded by Queens Chamber
of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Grech,
who also signed the letter, blaming the grass-roots
22 MARCH 2019 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
organizations such as Make the Road New York, New
York Communities for Change and Queens Neighbor-hoods
United for protesting the Amazon deal during
City Council hearings.
“To think a small band of loud and short-sighted
people can shout down the silent majority,” Grech said.
“Since Feb. 15, myself and a large number business
and community leaders have banded together to push
back against vitriol and instead push and cajole the
Governor to do everything he can to get Amazon
back to the table.”
Governor Cuomo has place numerous phone calls
to Bezos and other Amazon executives in the hopes
of doing just that.
“I’ve had many conversations with Amazon. I hope
they reconsider,” Cuomo told reporters Thursday. It
would be helpful if the state Senate said that they
would approve it; that would be helpful.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
did that in a statement released on Feb. 28.
“I have always been clear that I support job creation
and was disappointed with Amazon’s decision and hoped
they would reconsider,” she said. “I have also repeatedly
indicated my willingness to work with Amazon in the
best interests of our state and affected communities.”
Asked if the developments in Albany and the letter
to Bezos would help bring Amazon back, Grech said,
“I don’t know, but I’m an eternal optimist.”
And then he added, “We should never chase 25,000
jobs out of our city and our county.”
Eric Benaim is once again circulating a petition to revive the Amazon HQ2 project in Long Island City.