A huge opponent of Amazon’s HQ2 in New York may soon have the power to kill it

Protesters critical of the Amazon HQ2 project stand outside the second hearing hosted by the New York City Council. Getty/Andrew Lichtenstein
  • The New York State Senate majority has nominated Sen. Michael Gianaris to a position on the Public Authorities Control Board, The New York Times reported.
  • Gianaris, of Queens, has been a vocal opponent of the Amazon HQ2 deal negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Whoever fills the spot on the board would have the power to kill the deal with a single vote.
  • The position still must be approved by Cuomo. The governor has the final say over whether Gianaris gets the seat on the board.

The future of Amazon‘s HQ2 deal no longer looks so certain.

The New York State Senate majority has nominated Sen. Michael Gianaris to a seat on the New York State Public Authorities Control Board, according to a report in The New York Times. The appointment was made known through a letter sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Senator Michael Gianaris
Sen. Michael Gianaris. Getty/Pacific Press/Contributor

Gianaris, who represents Queens, has been a vocal opponent of the Amazon HQ2 deal from the start. He may soon get the power to scuttle the deal he has been relentlessly railing against.

The HQ2 deal needs approval from the New York State Public Authorities Control Board, which has the final say over the “approval of the financing and construction of any project proposed by state public benefit corporations,” according to state law.

The board is composed of five members, with representatives from the governor and legislative majorities of both the State Assembly and the State Senate. Representatives selected by the speaker of the assembly, the senate majority leader, and the governor all have veto power on the board.

In other words: all Gianaris would need to do is vote no, and the deal would not go through. Amazon would need to either start from the beginning on negotiating a new deal, or pick up its pieces and go home.

Gianaris did not indicate to the Times which way he would vote on an HQ2 project if his appointment to the board were to be approved by the governor. He did say he would not use the power to seek additional concessions from Amazon.

It was not immediately clear whether Cuomo would approve or reject Gianaris’ appointment.

In a statement to NY1’s Zack Fink, the governor’s press secretary Dani Lever said that the senate majority’s appointment makes clear that the senate opposed the deal and “puts the self-interest of a flip-flopping opponent of the Amazon project above the state’s economic growth … Every Democratic senator will now be called on to defend their opposition to the greatest economic growth potential this state has seen in over 50 years.”

A representative for Amazon declined to comment.

Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council, indicated in an interview with Business Insider in December that a board vote would be the best hope of stopping the HQ2 project.

Read more:This isn’t a done deal’: New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson lays out his plan to avoid being ‘played’ by Amazon

There is precedent for the board rejecting plans and cancelling large, ambitious projects or throwing their future into great uncertainty. In 2005, the board rejected a $US2.2 billion plan spearheaded by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a redevelopment that would have included a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side to be used by the New York Jets and, possibly, for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Gianaris recently sent faux marked-up mailers critical of the HQ2 plan that mimic the one Amazon has been sending to Queens residents.

Amazon mailer
A mailer Gianaris sent to Queens residents. Business Insider/Dave Mosher