New York City Commits To Regulating Last-Mile Warehouses Amid Calls To Address Growing Industry

Published on May 22, 2024, 5:56 pm
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Today, Councilmember Alexa Avilés, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and the Last-Mile Coalition gathered to commend the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) on the City’s commitment to regulating last-mile warehouses via a special permit process in conjunction with the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity. Read the full letter from Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer here.

For the past two years, advocates, community members, and elected leaders have sounded the alarm about the environmental impacts of last-mile warehouse clustering and await the next steps to establish a proper special permit process for these facilities. Deputy Mayor Torres-Springer’s letter of commitment responds to the Last-Mile Coalition’s zoning text amendment application from 2022 to create a special permit process for new last-mile warehouses. The Coalition’s proposal would seek to regulate the siting and operation of these facilities, including addressing the clustering, traffic congestion, and air pollution caused by last-mile warehouses.

Requiring a special permit for all new last-mile warehouses can mitigate the explosive growth and disproportionate concentration of these facilities in already overburdened low-income communities of color, which lead to pollution, traffic congestion, and unsafe streets. The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity (COYEO) identifies the rise of e-commerce as one of the key macroeconomic trends that necessitates this comprehensive overhaul. This requirement for a special permit for new last-mile warehouses complements one of the 18 proposals in the COYEO that seeks to establish micro-distribution facilities.

The City has also committed to establishing an indirect source rule to regulate the emissions caused by last-mile warehouses. When finalized, New York City would be the first city to implement such a program, complementing the special permit process by reducing the emissions from new and existing last-mile warehouses.

“Communities have called on the City to mitigate the environmental impacts of last-mile warehouses for some time now, and their requests have been heard. This is a step in the right direction and a piece of the puzzle to regulating the siting and operation of last-mile warehouses,” said Kevin Garcia, Senior Transportation Planner with the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “We look forward to working with the Department of City Planning to create a community-led special permit process that will tackle the traffic congestion and air pollution caused by last-mile warehouses.”

“This letter from Deputy Mayor Torres-Springer is a watershed moment for environmental justice communities across the five boroughs,” said Councilmember Alexa Avilés “As the local representative for Sunset Park and Red Hook, both of which are home to hundreds of thousands of square feet of last mile distribution facilities, the changes that the administration is committing to – a special permit, indirect source rule, among others – if enacted, would have the potential to provide desperately needed relief to our communities who have struggled with asthma, with congestion, and with air and noise pollution for far too long. Though these policies will take time, our aim is to ensure community members, advocacy organizations, and industrial businesses are at the table every step of the way.”

“This is a hard-won and well-overdue first step toward environmental justice for the working-class, immigrant communities of color that have for too long been harmed and overburdened by last-mile facilities,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Congratulations to Council Member Alexa Avilés, the Last-Mile Coalition, and many advocates who made this progress possible. I look forward to continuing to work together as we take a holistic look at the new norms of delivery in our city and how we best protect people from any related public health harms.”

“As Sunset Park residents tried to catch their breath from Covid, orange skies, and recurrent extreme weather events, we were stunned by the unannounced arrival of another threat to our health – the last mile distribution centers,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE. “The polluting truck traffic and inequitable clustering of these facilities, which can be built as-of-right in working-class communities of color, further deteriorate the environmental health and safety of our neighbors. Thanks to our tireless advocacy within the Last Mile Coalition and our partnership with elected officials, we are beginning to move planning and zoning power to communities in support of a just transition. We are looking forward to working with the Department of City Planning to develop, implement, and enforce strong regulations that deliver justice for Sunset Park and other communities most impacted by last-mile facilities.”

“Trucking associated with last-mile warehouses is a major contributor to poor air quality in communities around the city where these facilities are clustered,” said Alok Disa, Senior Research and Policy Analyst with Earthjustice. “We welcome the City’s commitment to advancing policies that will relieve air pollution from last-mile warehouses and ensure that going forward, there is a community-informed and equitable process for siting new facilities. Earthjustice looks forward to working with all partners toward a more clean and just goods movement system in New York City.”

“We applaud City Planning in recognizing the harmful impacts and inequitable growth of last-mile facilities that are overtaking our industrial business zones,” said Willis Elkins, Executive Director of the Newtown Creek Alliance. “Just as we have implemented regulation on other industries that create adverse health impacts for environmental justice communities, such as power plants and waste transfer stations, we must also do the same with new trends in industrial use. Requiring special permits for last-mile distribution sites is a major step in the right direction.”

“The proliferation of last-mile facilities underscores the urgency for addressing NYC’s antiquated zoning laws. While e-commerce thrives on convenience, it is essential to confront the disproportionate impact these facilities have on marginalized communities,” said Rami Dinnawi, Environmental Justice Campaign & Policy Manager at El Puente. “We welcome DCP’s commitment to regulate these facilities through updating zoning regulations, bolstering environmental enforcement, and embracing sustainable delivery solutions are crucial steps toward fostering environmental justice. Our policies and zoning must prioritize the health and dignity of all New Yorkers, ensuring that progress doesn’t deepen the divides of inequity.”


About The Last-Mile Coalition

The Last-Mile Coalition is a city-wide coalition of environmental justice and public health advocates fighting to regulate last-mile trucking facilities in New York City. The Last-Mile Coalition members include THE POINT Community Development Corporation, El Puente, NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance, UPROSE, Red Hook Initiative, Newtown Creek Alliance, and Earthjustice

Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.