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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

NYC’s ‘last-mile’ delivery warehouses may face regulation

By Vaseline May30,2024

Brendan Parker, deputy director of Red Hook Farms, said he regularly smells the exhaust coming from the line of delivery trucks leaving the Amazon warehouse, across the street from the nonprofit’s sprawling Columbia Street farm in Brooklyn.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in traffic around the site,” Parker said, noting the steady stream of vehicles laden with goods heading to nearby communities. “You see forty vans driving away in the space of two minutes.”

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has been beset by complaints from local residents about pollution, pedestrian safety and other dangers associated with such last-mile e-commerce warehouses. Now the government is promising to tackle the problem.

In a recent letter to City Council President Adrienne Adams, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer pledged that the government would support future legislation to reduce pollution associated with e-commerce warehouses and propose other rules to limit the creation of new facilities .

The potential changes would represent the city’s most significant regulation of the facilities yet. They have proliferated since the surge in e-commerce during the pandemic, with little oversight from city officials.

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Environmental justice advocates cite data showing that e-commerce warehouses, called “last-mile” facilities because they represent the last leg of direct deliveries, are concentrated in lower-income communities of color that are already overburdened by air pollution . traffic and other environmental damage.

A January report from the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund found that 1 in 4 New York state residents live within a quarter mile of a 50,000-square-foot mega-warehouse. City council members, environmentalists and neighbors say the number of such facilities has grown, especially in Red Hook, Sunset Park, parts of Williamsburg and the South Bronx.

The Adams administration agreed to the new warehouse rules as part of negotiations for the mayor’s larger commercial real estate plan, called the “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity,” according to the letter to the Council President and other Council documents . The initiative is the retail and business component of Adams’ sweeping, three-part “City of Yes” plan to update the city’s zoning rules to allow for more housing, invest in renewable energy and make it easier to do business to do in the city. .

Last week, the Council approved the “Economic Opportunity” package, which includes 18 changes to zoning rules. Councilors and the government say regulations for last-mile warehouses will follow.

In her letter, Torres-Springer promised that the mayor’s team would introduce a bill this year to allow the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to regulate air pollution from vehicle traffic at a specific warehouse. She also wrote that the Department of City Planning would propose changing zoning rules to require a special permit for last-mile warehouses. She said the department would publish a draft on the scope of the proposal by the end of March 2025.

The new special permitting process would give the Council the final say in approving last-mile storage sites, Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. said. of the South Bronx, chairman of the land use commission. Such a permit could also require an environmental review for last-mile facilities to ensure they do not negatively impact nearby traffic, pedestrian and traffic safety or air pollution, said Council Member Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook represents.

Salamanca said he and other council members would have opposed the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity plan if the government had not agreed to regulate last-mile warehouses. “It’s getting to a point where you have to use your right to vote to get the city’s attention,” he said. “There just wasn’t any interest in it, and I felt like this was a do or die thing. This was the opportunity, the perfect opportunity.”

Casey Berkovitz, a spokesperson for the city planning department, said in a statement that it was “too early” to provide details about the warehouse and special permit proposals. He added that the department “will work with stakeholders and experts … on any potential policies.”

The Adams administration’s commitments come after Avilés and 28 other council members — a majority of the 51-member Legislature — sent Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning, a letter in early April calling for more regulation of burden- mile warehouses.

“We have been struggling for three years now,” says Avilés. “And it’s good to finally see some real commitments.”

Two years ago, she and a group of environmentalists called the Last-Mile Coalition proposed changing the city’s zoning rules to require special permits for last-mile warehouses. Their proposal would ban warehouses within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, nursing homes, public housing complexes and other similar warehouses.

Following Council approval of the mayor’s “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” plan, the City Planning Commission and Council must vote on the proposal again. It is expected that both authorities will give the plan a final green light, Salamanca said.

He, Avilés and environmentalists said they would keep a close eye on whether the Adams administration meets the deadlines set in Torres-Springer’s letter.

Alok Disa, senior research and policy analyst for EarthJustice, a national environmental organization that is part of the Last-Mile Coalition, said he would also look forward to the technical details of the city’s upcoming policy. “The devil can be in the details,” he said.

Still, Disa said, “It may be the biggest step forward in last-mile regulations in any municipality that I have encountered across the country.”

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