E-commerce warehouses, which multiplied during the pandemic-inspired boom in online shopping, would be harder to site in New York City neighborhoods under a new proposal being pushed in City Hall.
The Last-Mile Coalition, named for the final step of the direct-to-door delivery chain the warehouses sustain, submitted a proposed amendment to the city's zoning rules Wednesday that would ramp up regulations for such facilities totaling at least 50,000 square feet. The proposal would also bar warehouses within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, nursing homes, public housing buildings, or any other such warehouses.
A special permit would be required, with input from the city transportation and environmental protection agencies, to ensure the facilities won’t negatively impact nearby traffic, pedestrian and road safety, or air pollution.
For some facilities with waterfront access, 80% of deliveries in and out of the buildings would have to arrive by water.
According to coalition members, the issue is a matter of environmental justice because many new e-commerce warehouses are concentrated in communities of color already overburdened by air pollution, traffic, and other environmental harm. They say community members deserve a voice in where the facilities are located, as they contend with increased truck traffic and air and noise pollution.
There’s no notice, and then the next day there’s this massive facility going up.
Currently, warehouses built in certain industrial areas don’t require an environmental or public review, according to Rachel Spector, senior attorney at Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit group representing the coalition.
“There’s no notice, and then the next day there’s this massive facility going up,” she said.
The Real Estate Board of New York and the local chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate development group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The amendment’s backers include the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and its executive director, Eddie Bautista, along with other community groups in neighborhoods with last-mile warehouses, including El Puente in Williamsburg, The Point Community Development Association in the South Bronx, and the Red Hook Initiative.
"We want to make sure that these facilities are good neighbors," said Kevin Garcia, NYC-EJA's transportation planner.
Also among its supporters are Councilmember Alexa Avilés and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, who both represent Sunset Park and Red Hook, neighborhoods that the coalition says have seen a stark increase in these warehouses in recent years.
James Neimeister, Avilés’ communications manager, identified six last-mile warehouses in development clustered along the region's coastline, including three Amazon facilities, a UPS site, and a 1.3-million square foot distribution hub called Sunset Industrial Park. He said the councilmember’s office "very frequently" receives complaints about the warehouses and is pursuing "every available avenue" for regulation, including potential legislation.
Rebecca Weintraub, a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, confirmed that the coalition submitted its application. It will be considered officially filed once the applicants submit required fees.
The proposal will require an environmental review and public input from affected community boards and borough presidents before the City Planning Commission and City Council would vote on the measure.