Community Leaders Call on Port Authority to Block Amazon Air Cargo Hub at Newark Airport
NEWARK, NJ - At a press conference today, Amazon workers, environmental advocates, labor groups, and small business owners came together to push back on plans for a new Amazon air cargo mega-hub at the Newark International Airport.
The project, first reported in August, would give Amazon a twenty-year lease through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build two 250,000 sq. ft. air cargo facilities next to the airport, letting the company significantly expand its footprint in the tri-state region. The plan has been shrouded in secrecy, with virtually no formal community input and an ongoing lack of transparency.
Speakers at the press conference took Amazon and the Port Authority to task for a lack of transparency surrounding the project and for failing to get any community input before finalizing the terms of agreement for the cargo hub. Battling with the sounds of planes flying overhead, they called on the Port Authority to block the project until members of the community had a chance to meaningfully weigh in.
"We demand a seat at the negotiation table. We expect both the Port Authority and Amazon to join us on the right side of history. We demand transparency. We demand that our public health risks are heard and held in proper regard,” said Terrance L. Bankston, President of Parent University New Jersey and an environmental justice advocate who spoke at the press conference. “For the South Ward, more planes and more trucks, poses a greater threat to our quality of life. When it comes to the South Ward of Newark, we demand that the Port Authority and Amazon be helpful vs. hurtful to our community."
Given the lack of visibility into the project, speakers urged state, city, and Port Authority leaders to get input from impacted community members, workers, and small business owners, before the plan is finalized.
"Too often, people of color and low-income communities have been excluded, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from the decision-making process, even when these decisions affect their health and quality of life. We, the City of Newark Environmental Commission, would like to ensure that the process for the Amazon lease agreement plan with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), is a transparent one, involving community input,” said Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, Co-Chair of the City of Newark Environmental Commission. “Furthermore, in accordance with PANYNJ’s commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion, we would like PANYNJ to ensure that community members, and the ‘Good Jobs-Clean Air-Safe and Healthy Communities Coalition’ are included in a constructive, and collaborative decision-making process, in order to achieve more positive conditions and equitable outcomes.”
Former Amazon workers and labor allies at the press conference also stressed that the jobs Amazon has promised come with steep safety risks and risks for the local economy, underlining that the presence of an Amazon facility has been found to depress wages and safety standards in surrounding regions.
"As a former Amazon worker and as a lifelong resident of the Ironbound, I'm calling on the Port Authority to stop the secret deal with Amazon and listen to community voices. When I worked at Amazon I was monitored like a robot and overworked to increase the profits of the richest man in the world,” said Christian Rodriguez, a former Amazon worker and Ironbound resident who spoke at the press conference. “We need the Port Authority to listen to workers and community members like me. Amazon is using our roads, our highways and now our airports to make billions in profit at the expense of our health and our safety."
"In Elizabeth, as a city with a port and an airport, we already have a lot of pollution and too many trucks on our roads. As a mother, I'm concerned that the Amazon airport hub expansion will just increase pollution of the air our kids breathe,” said Anny Gonzalez, a member of Make the Road NJ and Elizabeth, NJ resident. Amazon promises jobs but the reality is that when they come to a city, jobs decrease overall in the area. We call on the Port Authority to stop this dangerous, secret deal with one of the richest corporations and to listen to the voices of community residents.”
Environmental justice leaders from Newark and Elizabeth and small business owners at the press conference also underlined the pollution and human health impacts that Amazon’s additional truck traffic brings and the widespread devastation to small businesses resulting from Amazon's aggressive pursuit of e-commerce dominance.
"Our South Ward community is already impacted by the number of diesel trucks contaminating our air daily and destroying our roads. In addition, the air traffic and air pollution from the number of planes shaking our homes and businesses is already bad,” said Malika McCall, a South Ward resident and minority business owner. “With Amazon at the airport and ignorant to our concerns, the aforementioned conditions are certain to become worse. Help us, do not hurt us."
"Port operations and goods movement is not good for everyone. Dirty diesel trucks and equipment make people sick and take our breath away in some cases forever,” said Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey State Director at Clean Water Action. “Amazon has the resources to run 100% electric trucks, power with renewables and keep workers safe and properly cared for. If Amazon can deliver packages every day, it can deliver clean air and good safe jobs too."
“The South Ward neighborhood is disproportionately burdened with cumulative impacts of pollution impacting the health and quality of life of our residents,” said Asada Rashidi, Environmental Justice Organizer with the South Ward Environmental Alliance. "We demand that Amazon and the Port Authority stand with our community in solidarity. Good jobs and clean air now!”
Cities across the United States have increasingly fought Amazon's expansion plans, including in New Jersey:
- In July 2021, the City Council in Fort Wayne, Indiana, voted against giving Amazon a tax abatement after widespread opposition from the community.
- In June 2021, the Arvada, Colo. city council voted to reject a land use ordinance that would have paved the way for a new Amazon delivery station, after thousands of residents spoke out against the increased traffic, noise and air pollution the facility would bring.
- In San Bernardino, California, local residents and community organizations are demanding a Community Benefits Agreement at a new Amazon air hub at the San Bernardino International Airport, which would include stipulations for clean air and good jobs. San Bernardino County has the worst ozone pollution in America due to air pollution from trucks and planes, and the Amazon air hub project’s environmental assessment showed that the project’s projected smog emissions are 18 times above what is considered significant.
- And in Carteret, New Jersey, Mayor Dan Reiman called for an Amazon facility to be shut down after more than 30 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020. Amazon didn’t report the cases to local, county or state health officials until workers alerted the media.
At the press conference, speakers also announced they would be holding a community forum on the project next Tuesday, October 12.
"When it comes to opportunities offered to the Newark community, we should not have to sacrifice our public or mental health for jobs and or a decent hourly wage," said Oscar S. James, II, Former South Ward Councilmember, current West Ward resident and a local business owner.