Protesters oppose Newark Airport Amazon air hub deal in Port Authority’s first in-person meeting
Protesters hosted the Port Authority’s first in-person board meeting since the pandemic on Thursday to oppose an August 2021 deal to build an Amazon Air hub at Newark airport and demand authority to review the agreement.
Opponents reiterated their objections to Amazon leasing two buildings at Newark Airport to a 250,000 square foot global air cargo campus. The plan will hurt minority communities, cut well-paying union jobs, and increase air pollution and truck traffic in nearby neighborhoods. They also argue that last summer’s vote was done at the last minute with no opportunity for public comment.
About 75 protesters picketed the Port Authority’s headquarters at 4 World Trade Center and voiced their opposition in the authority’s first in-person meeting since going virtual during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Several speakers from community organizations in Newark and Elizabeth expressed concerns at the protest about how the air hub would affect surrounding communities.
“My issue is there’s a lack of transparency with the community…and what kind of impact they have on our air, which already has toxic pollution and all these trucks damaging our roads,” said Chloe Desir, company Ironbound community. organizer after speaking at the demonstration.
If the deal with Amazon goes through, she wants the authority “to have a conversation with us (the community) to improve the air and reduce emissions from trucks to and from the air hub.”
Several speakers expressed concern about the increased pollution inflicted on a neighborhood already plagued by air pollution and associated illnesses, such as asthma, from airport and port emissions.
“We can’t stand the pollution in our community anymore, our lives matter,” said Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Director of Clean Water Action and a Newark resident. “Amazon and the secret deal will kill more people. “We want more community benefits, we want clean air. We ask that you respect the people of Newark and Elizabeth.
Josh Kellermann, an organizer with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the crowd that Amazon needed to locate near population centers and needed local employees “more than we need.”
“They need this facility, the need for our public resources to grow, the Port Authority must not forget that,” he said. “They must give us good jobs and clean air.”
After the board meeting, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton spoke about the policies the agency has in place to protect workers.
“The Port Authority has a variety of regulations in place, ranging from minimum wage policies to the highest minimum wage policies at airports. There are multiple OSHA safeguards in the operations of the facility itself,” he said. “We intend to ensure that they are applied at all levels.”
Officials said the authority has a policy of bringing airport workers to a minimum wage of $19 an hour by 2023. Contractors are also required to use unionized construction workers and engage in dialogue with unions seeking to represent employees.
The deal would bring 1,000 jobs to Newark Airport under a 20-year lease of two buildings on the north side of the airport for a regional air cargo hub. As part of the lease, Amazon would spend $125 million to redevelop two 1990s period buildings into a new 250,000 square foot air cargo campus. The facility, which could open in the first quarter of 2023, is expected to employ people primarily from the communities surrounding the airport.
Since the vote, employees who work at the existing facilities have asked the authority and the board of commissioners what will happen to the unionized jobs they currently hold.
Community groups that have opposed the lease include Make the Road NJ, Clean Water Action, South Ward Environmental Alliance, Ironbound Community Corporation, and the Teamsters.
Amazon officials defended the deal and the proposal.
“As a company, we are always looking to invest in communities and recruit talented people to join our team,” Amazon spokeswoman Maria Boschetti said in a statement. “While the Newark International Airport lease remains subject to final negotiation, I can say that we are proud of the investments we have made in New Jersey so far and look forward to continuing our commitment to the airport. ‘State.”
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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].