Amazon/Newark airport deal falls through, and activists are celebrating

By: - July 7, 2022 5:49 pm

Activists rally against a move to bring Amazon to the Newark airport. (Photo by Fran Baltzer for New Jersey Monitor)

A deal between Amazon and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a massive freight air hub at Newark Liberty International Airport has fallen through, after nearly a year of opposition from grassroots activists and lawmakers. 

It’s unclear why the controversial $432 million project — which would have revamped two buildings at the airport for a 20-year lease with the retail giant — is suddenly being scrapped. 

“Unfortunately, the Port Authority and Amazon have been unable to reach an agreement on final lease terms and mutually concluded that further negotiations will not resolve outstanding issues,” the agency said in a statement. 

An Amazon spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” they couldn’t reach a final deal “after months of good faith negotiations.” 

Since the plans were approved last August, the two-state agency and e-commerce giant defended the plan as one that would bring in 1,000 jobs and invest millions in the city. 

But since the tentative deal was announced, labor groups and environmental activists have united to fight Amazon’s expansion into the Garden State. Over the past 10 months, groups like Good Jobs Clean Air, Make the Road NJ, and Ironbound Community Corporation hosted monthly rallies and urged lawmakers to fight the agreement. 

“We’re incredibly happy,” said Maria Lopez of the Ironbound Community Corporation. “If they want to move somewhere, they should be ready to abide by the laws and expectations set by the communities that live there. Amazon wasn’t ready to do that, so they walked away.” 

Critics argued Amazon was unwilling to meet environmental requirements and had a poor track record in labor safety. They also blasted the plan as shrouded in secrecy from the start, with no chance for public comment ahead of the agreement. 

Opponents said the cargo hub would have worsened pollution in the already over-polluted Ironbound section of Newark and surrounding communities plagued by smog from highways, factories, and the airport. A majority of residents there are Black and Latino, who disproportionately suffer from health issues like asthma

While our communities fought for basic health and safety, Amazon was unwilling to comply with basic labor and environmental standards. This fight has shown us that when we come together and fight against corporate greed and environmental destruction, our communities win,” said David Leniz, an Elizabeth resident and Make the Road NJ member. 

A report released by the National Employment Law Project last month found turnover at Amazon warehouses exceeded 120% — meaning for each Amazon warehouse job, more than one worker quits or is let go. Another report by Rutgers University found Amazon’s serious injuries comprised more than half of all serious worker injuries in the state in 2021. 

Eventually, officials including Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined the fight, penning letters to the company asking them to reconsider the deal. Congressman Donald Norcross called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate Amazon’s working conditions. 

“Today, workers’ rights and dignity won in a battle against corporate interests, and I am so thankful to (the Port Authority) for siding with workers,” Cryan said on Twitter, commending the work of grassroots organizers. 

A spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy did not respond to request for comment.

Lopez doesn’t expect this to stop Amazon’s expansion into New Jersey, but she believes the company is starting to see “the writing on the wall.” She pointed to the successful unionization at a Staten Island warehouse and the failed headquarters planned for Long Island City in Queens. 

“They need to reconsider how to be better neighbors to New Jersey. We need industries to come who want to be a good neighbor and good employer, not come to exploit the people of New Jersey,” she said.

The Amazon spokesperson said they plan to invest more in the state and continue evaluating other locations.


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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.