Labor unions and environmental activists are celebrating the end of a deal between Amazon and the Port Authority to build a massive cargo hub at Newark airport.
At a Friday press conference, a coalition of nonprofits chanted “shame, shame, shame, our communities are not a game,” claiming victory after a 10-month fight opposing the 250,000 square-foot cargo facility. They’d said it would spew pollutants and emissions in an already polluted area and could displace union jobs that better protect workers.
The airport straddles the cities of Newark and Elizabeth.
“We have to push back on these corporations who think they can come into our community and pollute our communities,” Kim Gaddy, founder and CEO of the South Ward Environmental Alliance in Newark, said. “One in four children in this city have asthma right now. We don't need more trucks. Look around — they’re everywhere.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced on Thursday it and Amazon had agreed to pull out of negotiations to finalize a 20-year lease.
“Unfortunately, the Port Authority and Amazon have been unable to reach an agreement on final lease terms and mutually concluded that further negotiations will not resolve the outstanding issues,” Port Authority’s chief operating officer Huntley Lawrence said in a statement. The agency declined to elaborate on why the deal fell through in an email on Friday.
Immigrant groups, unions and activists spent months protesting Amazon’s $432 million plan to redevelop two air cargo facilities on 23 acres at Newark airport, which the company estimated would create 1,000 jobs. They said Amazon wasn’t willing to commit to labor and environmental standards the communities sought, and walked away.
But Amazon spokeswoman Maria Boschetti said the decision to end talks was shared with the Port Authority. She said the company was disappointed it was unable to finalize a deal.
“Despite this outcome, we value our relationship with the Port Authority and we’re proud of our robust presence in New Jersey, and look forward to continued investments in the state,” she said.
The Port Authority initially approved its partnership with Amazon last August, but community groups said they didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in. They criticized the deal as secretive and fast-tracked.
We are setting a new standard: Corporations coming into our communities must guarantee good jobs, clean air and be accountable to working-class people
“We are setting a new standard: Corporations coming into our communities must guarantee good jobs, clean air and be accountable to working-class people,” George Boada, a lifelong Elizabeth resident and member of Teamsters Local 863 and Joint Council 73, said.
A report by New Jersey Policy Perspective and Rutgers professor Carmen Martino found Amazon accounted for 57% of serious injuries in New Jersey’s warehouse sector in 2021, but only made up 47% of employment in that industry. The injury rate for workers also increased by more than 50% from 2020 to 2021 — from 3.8 per 100 workers to 5.8 per 100 workers — the report said. Amazon operates 53 facilities in the state.
Some elected officials had also opposed Amazon’s plans, including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, 10th Congressional District Rep. Donald Payne and 1st District Rep. Donald Norcross.
Christian Rodriguez, an organizer with the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, said residents do need jobs, but want better working conditions than what Amazon offers.
“We know that we didn’t need any more abusive employers,” Rodriguez, a former Amazon worker, said Friday. “[Those are] the jobs that take the most out of us.”
The article has been updated.