Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman Kevin O’Toole appeared to address the public regarding the possibility of an Amazon Air Hub at Newark Airport as the public’s concerns grew about the proposed project. Certain elected officials have dubbed “secret talks” with the e-commerce giant.
O’Toole stated in a press conference held on Thursday when the Board of Commissioners held its regularly scheduled meeting. A variety informed the Board of speakers about the issue. Amazon has to meet specific criteria before the project is ever approved.
The controversial project has faced protests since the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Board of Commissioners voted last august in favor of negotiations with Amazon to construct a 250,000-square-foot
Amazon Air Hub
Amazon Air Hub at Newark Airport in the first quarter of next year.
The Board’s opponents have criticized the Board’s decision to include the item on its agenda last year in what was believed at times as a last-minute decision, not having enough time to address community concerns regarding traffic, pollution, and work.
“The truth lies in that Port Authority, after a procedure, has awarded the contract, and there are certain requirements that come with it,” O’Toole said during the press event. “We have written to Amazon that if the conditions are not fulfilled, there won’t be a partnership. We’re waiting for a response from Amazon. Therefore, I’m guessing that we’ll hear something shortly from them. If there’s no response to any agreement within my four cornerstones of what I believe are fair labor harmony and other aspects, I’m assuming that we will not be able to move forward. If they do have the capacity to comply with what our criteria were, and I’m speaking, then they can be moved forward.”
O’Toole declined to provide further details on the specific terms set for Amazon beyond environmental and labor issues. He said, “they are essential for us.”
Amazon beyond environmental and labor issues
The Board received input from residents and others who urged it to think about the effects of the construction on the environment and jobs in the area and include the local community in the discussions.
New Jersey residents raised traffic and pollution issues they believe the hub could bring to the event.
However, the subject of labor was about the kind of jobs the hub might create.
“As you’ve heard, the warehouse distribution industry in New Jersey is booming,” Megan Chambers, co-manager of the Laundry Distribution and Food Service Union, spoke to the Board. “It’s more than just growing. It’s placing a huge burden on the residents of communities across the nation and causing much tension and stress. I’m sure within your community, and in the majority of communities, residents have experienced this. The massive increase in warehouses throughout New Jersey has come along with low-quality jobs, low-quality jobs, and dangerous work, which is documented.”
Irene Tung, a senior researcher at The non-profit National Employment Law Project, looked at census data to release a report on Thursday. The study revealed 124 percent turnover in counties where Amazon facilities have a strong presence. As per Tung’s study, it’s a 72 percent turnover rate among warehouse employees within New Jersey counties where there aren’t any Amazon facilities.
The elected official, comprised of 12, expressed their concerns with a note sent to the Board on June 20urging officials of the Port Authority to slow talks with Amazon and address concerns of the community.
“Residents and employees should be able to influence how corporations can enter into our communities to ensure they do not pollute our air or cause excessive noise, traffic, or make global warming more severe,” the letter read. “We should be able to have an input to ensure the local workforce is employed and have a say in the workplace and get paid a living wage and have good benefits. We ask you to stop the secret talks with Amazon and include us in the conversation.”
The letter was written by Rep. Donald Payne (D, N.J.), New Jersey Senator Joseph Cryan (D), Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D), Assemblywoman Angela Knight (D), and Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese, as well as other elected officials from the local area.
The letter follows one issued earlier in the season by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Elizabeth’s Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, also urging community concerns to be considered and heard in the Port Authority.
Amazon has not responded to a request to comment Friday regarding the letter or whether the company is discussing with local groups about the hub, it is planning to build.