Activist groups are asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to halt Amazon’s plans for a massive cargo facility at Newark Liberty International Airport, saying the project could be harmful to the environment and workers’ health and safety.
As part of a 20-year lease the e-commerce giant signed with the Port Authority, which owns Newark airport, Amazon will spend $125 million to redevelop two aging airport buildings into a 250,000-square-foot air cargo campus.
Amazon is paying the bi-state agency $150 million upfront, and another $157 million in rent over the next 20 years, the Port Authority said.
But labor rights and environmental advocacy groups want the Port Authority to block the plans, saying they and local residents in Newark have been left out of the process.
The joint Oct. 6 statement from Clean Water Action and Make the Road New Jersey – an immigrant rights group – says that the deal needs to be paused “to allow for more community input.”
We demand that our public health risks are heard and held in proper regard. For the South Ward, more planes and more trucks, poses a greater threat to our quality of life.
– Terrance Bankson, local Newark resident and activist
It cites issues with worker safety, such as the COVID-19 outbreak that affected more than 30 workers at Amazon’s Carteret facility in April 2020, prompting backlash from local leaders.
“When I worked at Amazon I was monitored like a robot and overworked to increase the profits of the richest man in the world,” added Christian Rodriguez, a Newark resident and a former Amazon employee. “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.”
And the addition of a company like Amazon could “depress wages and safety standards in surrounding regions,” the two groups added.
“We demand that our public health risks are heard and held in proper regard,” said Terrance Bankson, a local Newark resident and activist. “For the South Ward, more planes and more trucks, poses a greater threat to our quality of life.”
Indeed, the typically lower-income southern stretches of Newark’s residential areas have long been at the receiving end of air pollution from the nearby airport, trucking and shipping facilities, and heavy industry in the area.
Officials from both the Port Authority and Amazon indicated that the deal was still going forward as planned.
The Port Authority, in a statement, said that “negotiations with Amazon are currently underway,” and stressed that the online retail company would need to comply with “fairness in hiring practices and compliance with our airport wage mandates.”
“As a company we are always looking to invest in communities and retain talented people to join our team,” Amazon said in a statement.
“While the lease at the Newark International Airport remains subject to final negotiation, I can say we are proud of the investments we’ve made so far in New Jersey and look forward to continued growth and prosperity to best serve our customers.”