- Consumer Reports worked with residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood to collect traffic and air quality data with outdoor sensors. They recorded outsize daily spikes in truck and van traffic on narrow two-lane streets, and logged many days with elevated particulate air pollution
- Armed with this environmental data, residents plan to press government officials for new rules to help rein in the spread of large e-commerce facilities
- Investigation is the latest in a series of reports by Consumer Reports and Guardian US
- “There’s a hidden cost of free, same-day delivery, and these communities are paying the price,” Consumer Reports says, urging Amazon to address traffic and pollution impacts in a new petition
NEW YORK, N.Y.—A new report published today by Consumer Reports (CR) and Guardian US investigates the unchecked growth of large Amazon warehouses in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, and their impact on air quality and traffic for the neighborhood’s 10,000 residents.
Amazon has opened two expansive facilities in the small waterfront neighborhood since 2021, and is expected to open a third later this year. A large majority of the neighborhood’s residents live in Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex.
As part of the investigation, Consumer Reports worked with community members to install a network of traffic and air quality monitors. In the seven months the sensors have been active, they have recorded outsize daily spikes in truck and van traffic on narrow two-lane streets, and logged many days with elevated particulate air pollution.
The new data helps fill an information gap. Federal, state and local governments don’t regularly collect, or even require the collection of, traffic data or air quality data for e-commerce facilities, the way they might for conventional factories and other industrial facilities.
And due to zoning rules that have not been updated since 1961, huge warehouses can be built in New York City manufacturing zones without special permission from the city or input from local communities, a dynamic that some state officials say could lead to disproportionate impact on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
“In 1961, warehouses were moderately sized, and they stored goods for long periods of time, so they generated little traffic,” said Kaveh Waddell, the investigative journalist at Consumer Reports who led the new reporting. “Last-mile facilities like Amazon’s Red Hook operations are very different. They’re massive. So far, they make up nearly half a million square feet of warehousing and parking space, which if laid flat, would fill six and a half football fields. And they generate a steady stream of delivery trucks and vans. Plus, several more Red Hook warehouses that are not yet open could eventually bring hundreds more trucks and vans to the neighborhood every day.”
Tiffiney Davis, co-founder and executive director of the Red Hook Art Project, said the traffic raises health and safety concerns. “As a community member and leader, I am always concerned about my family and neighbors’ well-being. We have trucks flying through our community, going down the wrong streets, putting everyone at risk. With asthma and other health issues rising in our communities, we have to ask ourselves how we are advocating for the things that are important for our community and our health. It is time for a change in the way we work with communities and who we allow to make the decision where we live.”
Armed with data from the new monitors, several neighborhood groups will be advocating for new rules governing e-commerce facilities in the city and state. One major proposal in the New York legislature is the Clean Deliveries Act, which would require warehouse operators to measure and offset the delivery traffic they generate, and to establish emissions reduction plans.
“It should not fall on community members to collect air quality and emissions data,” said Dylan Jaff, policy analyst on the sustainability team at Consumer Reports. “These are multi-million-dollar companies – even trillion-dollar companies – that are building these facilities, and they need to monitor and mitigate their impact on their neighbors. That’s why Consumer Reports is advocating for the Clean Deliveries Act in the state legislature.”
Jaff added: “There’s a hidden cost to free, same-day delivery. As these warehouses expand, it’s communities like Red Hook that are paying the price. We need some rules of the road for the sake of the health and safety of people who live in the shadow of these operations that are sprouting up in neighborhoods across the country.”
In the New York State Senate, the Clean Deliveries Act is sponsored by Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, who said, “The proliferation of last-mile warehouses is having negative economic, environmental, and public safety impacts on our neighborhoods. We would deliver a serious solution that would rein in these warehouses.”
In the New York State Assembly, the bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, who said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw skyrocketing rates of e-commerce shipments from companies like Amazon. While the billionaire CEOs of these companies have made egregiously large profits from fast shipments using fleets of large vehicles, the working people of my district have had to pay the price of their emissions. That may be in the form of medical bills from pollution-related health issues, reduced traffic safety, or environmental strain from natural disasters.
“Redlined neighborhoods like the Red Hook Houses in NYCHA are the first to feel these effects. The Clean Deliveries Act will allow us to tackle this ever-worsening environmental hazard by establishing emission reduction plans for mega-warehouses. This way, working-class people from overlooked neighborhoods don’t pay the price of extreme transportation emissions— large companies do,” AM Mitaynes added.
Consumer Reports is encouraging people across the U.S. to sign a new petition calling on Amazon to address the traffic, pollution, and noise impacts of its warehouses on communities, and to commit to cleaner vehicles.
Read the new investigation by Consumer Reports and Guardian US here.
About Consumer Reports
Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports (CR) has a mission to create a fair and just marketplace for all. Known for our rigorous research and testing of products and services, we also survey millions of consumers each year, and we advocate for consumer rights and laws for safer products, as well as digital rights, financial fairness, and sustainability. CR is independent and nonprofit, and we accept no ads.
About Guardian News & Media
Guardian Media Group (GMG), is the publisher of theguardian.com, one of the largest English-speaking news websites in the world. Since launching its US and Australian digital editions in 2011 and 2013, respectively, traffic from outside of the UK now represents around two-thirds of the Guardian’s total digital audience. Guardian US is renowned for its Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, and for other award-winning work, including The Paradise Papers. Guardian US has bureaus in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, covering the climate crisis, politics, race and immigration, gender, and more.