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Teamsters Assist Neighborhood Save Park From Being Turned Into an Amazon Warehouse

cleveland park protest

Picture Credit score: Teamsters/Lengthy Island Progressive Coalition

For about 7,000 children in Freeport, Lengthy Island, Cleveland Avenue Area is the one inexperienced area round. Spanning about 9 acres, it serves as an athletic subject for the native college district and a public gathering spot. It’s been empty for over 20 years, and it lets neighboring residents get daylight, recent air, and train. 

However in July, Freeport tried to promote the land to develop a last-mile supply warehouse. Freeport mayor Robert Kennedy promised jobs and financial growth, in addition to the renovation of a park additional downtown, however residents say that’s not what they need. And now, the Worldwide Brotherhood of Teamsters is concerned. 

“The union members are the group members, and the union and group need to work collectively,” stated Dave Carew, a UPS driver with Teamsters Native 804. “What we learn about a combat, we’re going to ensure all people is aware of.”

Freeport residents who oppose the warehouse, in addition to the Teamsters, stated they think the warehouse was for Amazon—and at first, it was. Within the city’s preliminary information of the sale, one Freeport resident’s testimony reads, “The sale and use of the property for the brand new Amazon warehouse on the Cleveland Avenue property would offer an estimated annual tax income of round $700,000.” It continues, “The brand new Amazon facility would additionally present an estimated 300+ jobs for the world which is sorely wanted.” 

“They took this land from the folks and offered it to a developer, and first that they had Amazon in because the developer,” Carew defined. “They wished to promote, I consider, for $39 million to Amazon, after which all people type of received wind that it was going to be an Amazon facility. So then they introduced on this different group referred to as the Panattoni Group. They construct warehouses as what’s referred to as ‘on spec’—there’s no actual finish person on it. They’ll lease it to whomever. They got here in with a proposal $10 million greater than Amazon did.”

The Panattoni Group didn’t reply to a request for remark. An Amazon spokesperson declined to say whether or not the Panattoni Group growth could be utilized by Amazon.

City corridor conferences began in the course of the summer season, discussing the rezoning of the park to an industrial web site. By the top of July, the mayor and trustees had voted to promote the park for $49 million to PDC Northeast LPIV, LLC, a Delaware company managed by the Panattoni Group. They allotted $10 million to scale back resident property taxes and the remaining $39 million would go to Freeport’s reserves. 

Residents stated the sale was executed unexpectedly and improperly. “There have been no group conferences, that are required by state regulation—or if there have been, the general public was not correctly notified,” stated Kiana Abady, a group chief with the Lengthy Island Progressive Coalition, in a cellphone name with Motherboard. “We got here collectively, we went to all of the city halls, and we demanded that the Mayor hearken to us. However he really proceeded with the sale of the property.”

Abady was already doing intense group organizing when the Teamsters received concerned to help her trigger. “We had been organized to make sufficient noise on our personal that they seen us,” she stated. “It’s nice! Being an aggressive organizer may be very arduous and it’s all volunteer work. They had been in a position to assist fund a few of our efforts and share across the group.” 

Collectively, they requested New York Lawyer Basic Letitia James to research the legality of the sale—and James filed a lawsuit quickly blocking it in August. 

The event was initially deliberate as a last-mile Amazon warehouse, in accordance with city information. Many residents locally had been sad with that. Final-mile warehouses are harmful in residential communities, or industrial zones subsequent to residential communities. 

“It erodes the standard of life,” stated Demos Demopoulos, the Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Joint Council 16. “Congestion, air pollution—they reside out within the suburbs as a result of they wish to get away from the congestion and the dashing round. That’s all going away.”

Antoine Andrews, a second UPS driver with Native 804, stated, “The visitors, as it’s, places our youngsters at  danger. Most residents in these areas complain concerning the security of their kids and the security of themselves. It could take away from the wildlife, and the recent air in these areas—it’s simply going to be gone.”

Different union members had been involved that the event was taking place in a predominantly minority group. “Why does this need to be in a Black and brown group?” stated Anthony Rosario, a UPS driver with Native 804. “It’s been stated that they’ve loads of warehouse area in industrial areas to make use of, however it’s actually one of many final greenspaces in Freeport.” 

cleveland park

Cleveland Park. Picture Credit score: Kiana Abady

Motherboard has beforehand reported on efforts by the Teamsters across the nation to protest new Amazon warehouses and tax breaks for the corporate, saying that it’s eroding working situations and usually damaging to communities. Significantly on Lengthy Island, the Teamsters have efficiently stopped Amazon warehousing developments in Westbury and Islip, and pushed again in opposition to tax breaks for a warehouse in Syosset.

However Teamsters say the Lengthy Island drawback remains to be rising. “The exponential development of Amazon’s warehousing, it’s ridiculous,” Carew stated. “In 2016, there wasn’t one Amazon warehouse on Lengthy Island. Proper now there’s 12. That’s a mannequin all throughout the nation.”

Members had been additionally adamant that any jobs promised by Amazon when it builds a brand new facility are unreliable and harmful. 

“They will enhance jobs at a 150 p.c turnover price,” Carew stated. “Take into consideration that. They’re promising X quantity of jobs, however conventional Amazon warehousing has a 150 p.c turnover price. That is astounding. After which you are going to get fired since you’re not working quick sufficient. I receives a commission $41.52 an hour—at Amazon, an individual will get paid $17 an hour. Is {that a} good job? I get advantages. I get a pension. Amazon will not be going to provide them that in any respect.” Motherboard has beforehand extensively reported on the situations at Amazon’s warehouses. 

Andrews echoed Carew’s considerations. “These are dangerous jobs that will doubtlessly be created,” he stated. “Amazon employees are usually not being skilled correctly. I’m a UPS driver myself, and Amazon employees, all of us do the identical factor. They’re getting half of what we’re getting as UPS employees. It’s unfair and unjust. It’s about equality.”

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy promised in July {that a} new facility would deliver an extra 320 jobs to the village inhabitants of round 44,000 folks. However some Teamsters members say it’s unlikely these jobs would go to Freeport employees. They pointed to the warehouse in Syosset whose tax breaks they protested final yr—Amazon was getting tax breaks to have the ability to rent new employees, they stated, however had solely been relocating employees from a warehouse that closed down lower than 10 miles away. 

“We came upon that Amazon, in different areas of Lengthy Island, wasn’t holding up its finish of the deal,” Abady stated. “Why wouldn’t it for Freeport? What makes us so particular?”

Neighborhood opposition—with Teamster help—has been vehement over the previous a number of months, and has even reached Gov. Hochul’s desk. A invoice proposed to the State Senate would enable Freeport to alienate the land of Cleveland Ave Park, that means the varsity district that makes use of it as an athletic subject would not have any jurisdiction. That may make the sale and potential growth of the land a lot simpler. The invoice has handed each the Senate and the Meeting, and is ready on Gov. Hochul’s signature. However the organizers are hoping for a veto. 

“All of us had a gathering with Kathy Hochul’s employees,” Rosario stated, referring to the proposed invoice. “We had an extended dialog about why that is essential to us, to labor, and to communities. What we received is that she would wait till after the election to do something.” 

The destiny of Cleveland Ave Park is now solely in Gov. Hochul’s arms, union members say. However they’ve continued to rally in help of the communities across the park. 

“That is a kind of governments that thinks the group can’t converse for itself, and may’t combat for itself,” Abady stated, referring to the Freeport Village authorities. “However we stood up and we stated, ‘No, we’ll combat again.’ And we did.”

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