Photo: Community members protest secret Amazon deals at the Port Authority of NY/NJ Board Meeting. Credit — Good Jobs, Clean Air NJ
This month, after nearly a year of organizing by local communities, Amazon announced they were canceling plans to build a new warehouse facility near Newark International Airport. This is the second time the company was forced to withdraw from the New York area due to community pressure for the second time since 2019.
“For an environmental justice community continuously fighting for our right to clean air and well paying, safe jobs for its people, this is a big triumph … Amazon has shown they do not align with their unwillingness to comply with basic standards of safe, well paying jobs without added pollution or injury rates set by the community.” said Chloe Desir, Environmental Justice Organizer at Ironbound Community Corporation.
Newark fights back
In August 2021, Amazon announced a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to grant Amazon a 20-year lease to build a new facility in Newark International Airport.
The residents of Newark, Elizabeth, and other communities surrounding the airport quickly organized. Good Jobs, Clean Air NJ, a coalition of many community groups and unions, formed to make their voices heard. Residents felt the deal was secretive and wanted input on how their infrastructure would be used.
Christian Rodriguez, a resident of the Ironbound district of Newark, spoke at a demonstration in October 2021:
“We need the Port Authority to listen. We need to value community input and put people before profits, especially when our infrastructure is put out for rent. Amazon is using our own roads or highways, and now our airports, to make billions in profits at the expense of our health and safety.”
The community spoke up, and organizers knocked on thousands of doors in Elizabeth and Newark to spread awareness about the backroom deal and educate the community on the risks of this new facility.
Kim Gaddy, National Environment Justice Director for Clean Water Action, wrote in an opinion piece:
“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. … 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.”
Activists attended the Port Authority’s monthly meetings to voice their concerns, and in March delivered a petition with thousands of signatures opposed to the new Amazon facility. In July 2022, the community rejoiced when Amazon announced they were canceling plans to build this facility.
“While our communities fought for basic health and safety, Amazon was unwilling to comply with basic labor and environmental standards. This fight has shown us that when we come together and fight against corporate greed and environmental destruction, our communities win,” stated David Lenis, a member of Make the Road NJ and Elizabeth resident.