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Lawmakers Urge Regulation of Sunset Park, Red Hook's E-Commerce Warehouses

Supporters say the bill prevents corporations from clustering mega-warehouses in low-income communities of color and advances New York’s climate mandates.
Amazon warehouse in Red Hook. Photo: Google Street View.

The ElectrifyNY coalition, lawmakers and environmental justice advocates joined forces this week to speak out in support of the Clean Deliveries Act.

The bill, introduced by New York Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (NY-District 12) and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes (NY-District 51), establishes a review program for certain warehouse operations and requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a study regarding zero emissions zones. 

Unlike traditional warehouses, e-commerce warehouses are larger, some equal in size to 15 football fields, supporters noted in a news release. The warehouses operate 24/7, and some span multiple stories — concentrating emissions and other impacts onto communities where logistics facilities tend to be sited and onto the workers who support this industry.

"They require hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vehicle trips per day, including a large number of large heavy-duty and diesel trucks," according to the release. "The trucks emit pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, which contribute to poor air quality and negative health effects in surrounding communities."

The situation worsens local air quality, increasing the risk of asthma, heart attacks and premature deaths, they said.

The vehicles are also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide, which is blamed for heating the planet and exacerbating climate change. 

They said the role of mega-warehouses has grown thanks to the pandemic and the increase in online purchasing from e-commerce sites. 

"For far too long, our working-class communities of color have felt the harshest impacts -- on their environment and their health -- from the mega-warehouses in their neighborhoods," said State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. "That’s why I introduced my bill to add a tax to online deliveries from last-mile trucking facilities like these, and why I’m proud to support The Clean Deliveries Act here today."

The Clean Deliveries Act includes the following key provisions: 

  • A review of emissions from all e-commerce warehouses exceeding 50,000 sq. ft.
  • An air emissions reduction and mitigation plan requiring warehouse operators to minimize pollution by implementing one or more of the following: 
  1. Acquiring zero-emission vehicles & charging infrastructure 
  2. Installing solar panels and/or batteries on-site 
  3. Considering alternative transportation modes for incoming or outgoing trips where appropriate 
  4. Paying additional fees 
  • Enhanced protections for warehouses operating in disadvantaged communities or that impact schools and similar facilities 
  • A permit requirement for new warehouse developments or those proposing significant modifications 
  • Ongoing reporting requirements related to truck traffic and emissions mitigation measures 
  • Zero-emission zones study on the feasibility, benefits, and costs of implementing low and zero emissions designated areas for air pollution and congestion hot spots within New York State 

"We have fought hard to improve our air quality by enacting the nation-leading CLCPA, fighting fossil fuel power plants, and pushing for more electrification, but we cannot allow those to be stymied by the proliferation of e-commerce warehouses," said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. "We need action now, and that's why I'm introducing the Clean Deliveries Act to ensure we live up to our environmental commitments."

Sunset Park and Red Hook, like many working-class communities of color across the State of New York, have been the sites of increasingly large last-mile warehouse facilities, said Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes. 

"Our communities experience real worsening effects from these facilities in the form of pollution, posing health risks, safety, as a result of traffic violence, and natural disasters, as we face a future of climate catastrophe," Mitaynes said. "And yet, these effects are not recognized because either the trucking emissions are not sufficiently monitored or because regulations to oversee these facilities have not been effectively implemented.”

“I’m grateful to have steadfast allies in the Electrify NY Coalition in our fight to rein in last-mile facility pollution,” added Councilmember Alexa Avilés. “The Clean Deliveries Act delivers transparency for Red Hook and Sunset Park, frontline neighborhoods in this campaign for equity. Our people deserve to know the extent of the effects of these facilities on their health and quality of life.”

ElectrifyNY is a statewide coalition of advocates for "environmental justice, public transportation, social justice, and good jobs fighting for a clean, equitable electric transportation future for New York."


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