City And State Announce Community Advisory Committee For Amazon Project


As promised, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the group of business and local leaders who will serve as an advisory committee for the development of Amazon’s new headquarters in Long Island City. The list reads like a Who’s Who of community power players in western Queens who support the project.

“Amazon’s new headquarters in Long Island City is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our economy and community input will be a critical part of the development process,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We look forward to working with local elected officials, community organizations and residents to ensure their voices are heard as we work to create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, generate billions in revenue that will be reinvested in the region, strengthen our infrastructure, and expand opportunity for New Yorkers.”

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is going to focus on three specific areas and will be divided into subcommittees to tackle each of them. One will be the development of Amazon’s headquarters on the waterfront, tackling issues like restructuring traffic patterns in the area, pedestrian access and other related matters. This committee will be headed up by Long Island Partnership president and CEO Elizabeth Lusskin and Denise Keehan-Smith of Queens Community Board 2.

“Long Island City is a highly diverse mixed-use community, and we look forward to working with the members of the CAC and the entire community to ensure that the voices of that mix — including commercial, tech, industrial, retail, cultural, small and large businesses, as well as residential and student — inform this project,” said Lusskin. “Only in that way can it fulfill its promise to strengthen the balance of those uses, while benefiting the larger community as well.”

The second subcommittee will look at infrastructure investments the surrounding neighborhood will need, like new schools, fire departments, police stations and, of course, better subway and bus access. Melva Miller of the Association for a Better New York and Rob Basch of the Hunters Point Park Conservancy will lead this subcommittee with a goal of building on the $180 million already earmarked for investment in the area.

The third subcommittee will tackle training and hiring programs for the local community, to make sure that some of the 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs at the Amazon headquarters will be filled with homegrown talent. Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor of Urban Upbound, Gail Mellow of LaGuardia Community College and Jean Woods-Powell of Information Technology High School will lead this committee.

“This is a historic time for our city and an even more historic time for northwestern Queens. The arrival of Amazon will revitalize neighborhood businesses and jumpstart young entrepreneurial minds in our communities,” said Taylor. “This is an opportunity to create real careers for the public-housing residents of Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria and Woodside. Co-chairing this subcommittee, we will lay the groundwork for a future where these residents are leading the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.”

Ardine Williams, vice president of People Operations, HR Worldwide Operations at Amazon, echoed the sentiment that the company is committed to train and develop talent among people living in western Queens.

“Amazon chose New York City because of its talent pool, and we are dedicated to growing and developing that talent. Working with the CAC, we will build on Amazon’s existing job training and workforce development programs — ensuring they meet the needs of Long Island City residents and create pathways to the 25,000 new jobs we are bringing to the neighborhood,” Williams said.

All three subcommittees will work closely with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Amazon. The full CAC will begin holding quarterly meetings in January, and the subcommittees will meet once a month during the planning process for Amazon’s buildout.

“The Community Advisory Committee will guarantee that city residents have a role in shaping Amazon’s new headquarters in Long Island City. Community-based planning is critical to guiding strategic investments in Long Island City,” said NYCEDC president and CEO James Patchett. “We look forward to working with elected officials, local residents, community organizations and business leaders to use this opportunity to create a blueprint that will strengthen western Queens for generations to come.”

Community Advisory Committee Members

Project Plan Co-Chairs:

  • Denise Keehan-Smith, Chair, Queens Community Board 2
  • Elizabeth Lusskin, President, the Long Island City Partnership

Neighborhood Infrastructure Co-Chairs:

  • Robert Basch, President, Hunters Point Park Conservancy
  • Melva Miller, Executive Vice President, Association for a Better New York

Workforce Co-Chairs:

  • Gail Mellow, President, LaGuardia Community College
  • Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, CEO and President, Urban Upbound
  • Jean Woods-Powell, Principal, Information Technology High School

CAC Members:

  • Plinio Ayala, President and CEO, Per Scholas
  • Antonios Benetatos, President-elect, Dutch Kills Civic Association
  • Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasurer, 32BJ SEIU
  • Paul Camilleri, LIC Resident
  • Gianna Cerbone, Owner, Manducatis Restaurant
  • Meghan Cirrito, Board Chair, Gantry Parents Association
  • Claudia Coger, President, Astoria Houses Tenant Association
  • Lisa Ann Deller, Land Use Chair, Queens Community Board 2
  • Paul Finnegan, Executive Director, New York Irish Center
  • Angie Kamath, University Dean for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, CUNY
  • Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Hour Children
  • Debra-Ellen Glickstein, Executive Director, NYC Kids RISE
  • Tom Grech, President and CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce
  • Kenny Greenberg, Neon Artist and CB2 Member
  • Chris Hanway, Executive Director, Jacob A. Riis Settlement House
  • Jukay Hsu, Founder and CEO, Pursuit
  • Richard Khuzami, President, Old Astoria Neighborhood Association
  • Debby King, Former Director, 1199 Training Fund Director and LIC Resident
  • Sheila Lewandowski, Executive Director, The Chocolate Factory Theater
  • Reverend Corwin Mason, Community Church of Astoria
  • Annie Cotton Morris, President, Woodside Houses Tenant Association
  • Joey Ortiz, Executive Director, NYC Employment and Training Coalition
  • Tom Paino, Chair, Hunters Point Community Coalition
  • Santos Rodriguez, Director of Community Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, NYC Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Julie Samuels, Executive Director, TechNYC
  • Carlo Scissura, President and CEO of New York Building Congress
  • Seema Shah, Director of Technology and Innovation Initiatives, LaGuardia Community College
  • April Simpson, President, Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association
  • Alvarez Symonette, Chief of Staff, Lady M Confections
  • Marie Torniali, Chair, Queens Community Board 1
  • Matthew Troy, Executive Director of Variety Boys & Girls Club, Queens
  • Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of Employment Services and Education, The Fortune Society
  • Carol Wilkins, President, Ravenswood Houses Tenant Association
  • Tom Wright, President and CEO, Regional Plan Association
  • Frank Wu, Transportation and Safety Committee Chair, Court Square Civic Association
  • Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
  • Judith Zangwill, Executive Director, Sunnyside Community Services
  • A CUNY Student Representative