Amazon’s decision to suddenly abandon HQ2 sent shockwaves through the city’s business community, which for the most part was looking forward to the tech and retail giant setting up shop in New York City, but no one has taken it harder that the owner of a Long Island City barbecue joint.
Joshua Bowen, owner of John Brown Smokehouse, has been on a one-man crusade to lure Amazon back to the northeast. He even went so far as to fly out to Seattle to try and convince company officials to reconsider the pullout.
And the person he blames for Amazon’s about-face: Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
The dispute has turned nasty and personal, and now it’s headed to the courts.
Last month, Bowen sent an aggressive text message to Van Bramer’s chief of staff, Matthew Wallace, demanding that the councilman call Amazon executives and apologize for his role in scuttling the deal.
“You can be at the back of the parade or in front of the firing squad,” Bowen texted. “If they come back, y’all may get elected dog catcher. If they don’t you’re in the history books Make the f---ing call. And let me know by 4.
“Call now and I can stop the growing forces that will end Councilman VanJobskiller’s career,” Bowen also texted. “Y’all f---ed Queens. Your careers are over. This is your way out of the darkness.”
Wallace sent the message to his boss, who took it as a personal threat. Van Bramer posted the text message to Twitter, and then promptly filed a criminal complaint with the 108th Precinct. Bowen was never charged with a crime.
You would think once the police became involved, both sides would cool down and hit the pause button on the rhetoric.
If you think that, then you also probably can’t tell the difference between North Carolina pulled pork and Texas brisket, Yankee scum! (Just kidding, John Brown specializes in Midwest-style BBQ, so you’re in the clear.)
No, Bowen took things a step further and filed a defamation lawsuit against the councilman in Queens Supreme Court this week. He claims the councilman sullied his reputation by posting the texts to social media and then calling the cops, and going one step further and encouraging people to find another place to enjoy their slow-cooked smoked ribs and sausage.
In the suit, Bowen argues that Van Bramer cropped the text messages in a way that made it look like it was sent to Van Bramer instead of Wallace, who for about five years lived with his wife in an apartment above John Brown Smokehouse.
Bowen’s lawyer says that Wallace and Bowen have texted each other regularly for years, and the messages were a conversation between two people who have a personal relationship and not a threat to the councilman.
He also argues that the councilman is using the NYPD to silence a constituent who disagrees with him on an issue.
Bowen has agreed to drop the lawsuit if Van Bramer issues a public apology and donates to a Queens charity the pair can agree on, otherwise he is going to force the councilman to take the stand.
It looks like Bowen is looking to add his own version of “pol-led” pork to the menu at John Brown!