Do we really need an Amazon Air Hub at Newark Airport? | Opinion
By Kim Gaddy and Winnie-Fred Hinds
During the pandemic, Amazon has grown exponentially in New Jersey. You can’t drive down the street without seeing an Amazon van getting ready to deliver a package. Pale blue Amazon trucks dot I-95. In the news, there are constant stories about new Amazon warehouses and delivery stations opening up — in fact, New Jersey has the most Amazon warehouses per capita of any state in the country. Amazon is now the largest employer in our state.
What’s more, Amazon is now moving into key infrastructure in the Garden State. In August 2021, Amazon announced that it will enter into a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a 20-year lease agreement at the Newark Liberty International Airport to build a massive Air Hub. This cargo hub would give Amazon increased access to our airways and expand its already vast footprint in New Jersey. The deal means many more airplanes in our skies, and more Amazon trucks on our streets.
Amazon’s growth is disproportionately impacting already overburdened communities of color, like ours, in the South Ward of Newark. In the South Ward, we are already negatively impacted by the diesel pollution from the Port of NY/NJ. There are 20,000 truck trips per day in the Port (see attached for PANYNJ study) and 7,000 of them stay on the local roads of the South and East Wards.
Air pollution and noise from the airport also have a negative impact on our health. Residents of the South Ward report increased cases of asthma, cancer, elevated blood lead levels, cardiovascular disease, and developmental disorders. The proposed Amazon Air Hub at the Newark airport will only mean more pollution, and health issues in our communities.
The Port Authority entered into this preliminary deal with Amazon without consulting our communities. The Port Authority did not take public comment on the deal before approving it in their August meeting — they didn’t even list it on the public agenda before the meeting started. They have not commissioned an Environmental Impact Statement or even a traffic study to understand the impact on air and on our streets. Our communities deserve a role in making a decision that impacts our kids’ lungs, the streets we live on and the jobs our neighbors take. We deserve and demand a seat at the table.
Amazon is coming into our communities with the promise of jobs and economic growth. But the truth is that the jobs they bring are backbreaking and harmful to our health and our wellbeing. Amazon usually ends up driving down wages for other workers in the region – when a warehouse is open, there is usually no net gain in jobs.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from many counties where large Amazon facilities opened, the average compensation for the warehouse industry declined more than 6% in the two years after opening. Amazon’s serious injury rate is almost 80% higher than the average industry rate.
Amazon has not protected the health and safety of its workers either. At the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, more than 30 workers tested positive for COVID-19 at the large Amazon facility in Carteret, New Jersey. Amazon didn’t report the cases to local, county or state health officials until workers alerted the media. And workers reported a lack of PPE and sinks to wash their hands.
This isn’t the kind of business we should be welcoming into our state. We should not hand over large parts of our airport to a business that has a track record of hurting workers and harming our environment. We shouldn’t let their fleets of vans and trucks clog our streets, without first examining the impact on our environment and already overburdened communities. Amazon is reporting record profits but they are extracting these profits from our communities, to their detriment.
The Port Authority must stand up to Amazon and stop their shady deal so our voices can be heard and our communities’ health and wellbeing protected.
Kim Gaddy is executive director of the South Ward Environmental Alliance and Wynnie-Fred Hinds is with the Newark Environmental Council.
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