'Do you realize how out of touch that seems?': NYC lawmakers rail against Amazon for HQ2 helipad demand in heated hearing

amazon protest nyc 7557Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • Amazon's demand of a provision to install a helipad at its HQ2 was repeatedly criticized during a hearing with the New York City Council on Wednesday.
  • Multiple city council members questioned the importance of its inclusion, said it appeared out of touch with New Yorkers, or invoked it as reason why the company's tax incentives were unnecessary.
  • "The only transportation aspect of this project is a helipad," Corey Johnson, speaker of the council, said during his opening remarks.

New York's city council is not happy with Amazon.

In a public hearing about the company's HQ2 project on Wednesday, members of the economic development committee peppered Amazon executives Brian Huseman, vice president of public policy, and Holly Sullivan, head of worldwide economic development, with questions.

Many of the questions mentioned what the members saw as a questionable inclusion of a provision for a helipad to be built as part of the project. The helipad was included in the memorandum of understanding that stands as an agreement for Amazon to start planning part of its HQ2 project in Long Island City, Queens. The provision was also included in Amazon's agreement with Northern Virginia, where it will build the other part of its HQ2.

Multiple city council members questioned the importance of its inclusion, said it appeared out of touch with New Yorkers, or invoked it as reason why the company's tax incentives were unnecessary.

"The only transportation aspect of this project is a helipad," Corey Johnson, speaker of the council, said during his opening remarks, relating it to a lack of promises from Amazon to fund transit projects. "So yes, Jeff Bezos' commute is all set. But what about the rest of New Yorkers?"

Read more: Most New Yorkers support Amazon coming to town but many hate the deal, a new poll says

In council member Jimmy Van Bramer's opening remarks, he invoked "Bezos' damn helipad" as evidence that the city had given too much and not asked for enough in return.

Later in the hearing, Johnson asked Huseman why Amazon felt it needed to add the helipad provision into the memorandum.

In responding, Huseman said that Amazon will be funding the construction of the helipad, that he does not commute by helicopter and nor does any of Amazon's senior team, and that Amazon's Seattle headquarters does not have a helipad.

The helipad provision was added, according to Huseman, because the company wanted to "look to the future" and have the provision in place for a later time.

Johnson, apparently aghast, responded: "Do you realize how out of touch that seems for the average New Yorker?"

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