Amazon has marshaled two Big Law partners, Edward Wallace and Mark Weprin of Greenberg Traurig, to help combat fervent and increasingly organized opposition to the retail giant’s plan to open a new headquarters in New York’s Long Island City.
As noted in a recent New York Times feature, the deployment of Wallace and Weprin signals the intensification of a high-stakes battle between Amazon and locals who are concerned about the viability of independent businesses and the status of low-income residents in a gentrifying part of the city.
Joining together to oppose Amazon’s planned expansion in New York are activists, political organizations, local businesses and residents. And they are backed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens and has garnered nationwide media attention since her major upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries.
On one side, advocates for Amazon claim the new base will benefit the community, situating a facility that will employ 25,000 people in Long Island City, in Queens. But opponents contend that the plan will contribute to the forcing out of small businesses and poorer residents and put a strain on subways and other services.
Ocasio-Cortez is quoted in The New York Times story saying it is wrong for Amazon to “receive hundreds of millions in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment.”
But Ocasio-Cortez and others that make up the opposition will have to face Wallace and Weprin, whose broad experience and skills helped put Greenberg’s New York office on a list of New York City’s top 20 lobbyists. The firm has also received recent press for being the highest-paid law firm in the first half of 2018 that is lobbying local and state governments, reportedly raking in more than $4.7 million for those lobbying efforts.
In addition to serving as co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s New York office, Wallace is a longtime legal adviser to the Carlyle Group, Silverstein Properties, Columbia University and other prominent players in New York real estate. His track record in obtaining government approval for projects is extensive, and includes such highlights as representing Extell in the ultimate round of obtaining City Council approval for the development of the 31.5 million-square-foot Riverside Center, and helping Fordham University win approval for a $1.6 billion, 2.3 million-square-foot plan for the school’s campus in Lincoln Center.
Weprin is a former member of both the New York City Council and the New York State Assembly. He drafted 63 pieces of legislation while in the Assembly. He also is a former deputy secretary of legislative affairs for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He also has served as chair of the Queens City Council Delegation, the Small Business Committee, the Jewish Legislative Caucus and the Land Use Committee’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.