Amazon deal is dead, but residents still want say in Newark airport development

Amazon deal is dead, but residents still want say in Newark airport development

It’s been nearly a month since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey scrapped a deal with Amazon to build a cargo hub at Newark airport, and the groups that rallied against the plan say they still want to be involved in what comes next.

In July, the Port Authority announced it ended negotiations with Amazon to finalize a 20-year agreement to erect a 250,000 square foot cargo facility and bring 1,000 jobs. Officials cited “outstanding issues” that negotiations hadn’t resolved, but did not elaborate.

Last week, Kevin O’Toole, chair of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners told reporters the agency was working on a new plan for the area “that’s going to work with the community leaders and the community folks to make sure they are comfortable with the plan.”

It’s not clear yet whether the agency is negotiating with other bidders for the project or will send out another request for proposal. Spokespeople for the Port Authority did not respond to emailed requests to clarify the process.

Activists who spent 10 months opposing the deal — clamoring for additional environmental protections and better working conditions — say they haven’t yet heard from the Port Authority, but they’re still calling for transparency and a redevelopment plan that would limit emissions. Newark airport straddles the New Jersey cities of Newark and Elizabeth, communities that are already heavily polluted. One in four children in Newark suffer from asthma, according to Rutgers University.

“The public, we are the ones suffering,” said Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, executive director of the Weequahic Park Association in Newark, a park conservancy. “We do bear the brunt of a lot of these polluting industries. So we want to make sure that it’s done the best way possible and that it does benefit the community and it works towards zero emissions because it is totally possible.”

A coalition of immigrant groups, unions, and environmental nonprofits protested the Amazon deal for months, arguing the community didn’t have a chance to weigh in on the $432 million plan. In January, they sent a letter to the Port Authority demanding community hearings on the plan; a traffic and noise assessment of the project; benchmarks for reaching zero emissions; the hiring of workers who live within a 10-mile radius of the airport; and standards they said would prioritize worker health and safety.

Chloe Desir, an environmental justice organizer with the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, said she wants whatever new deal the Port Authority is negotiating to be transparent and inclusive of community demands.

“If we didn’t keep tabs on this thing, we wouldn’t have known about it,” she said.

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