Amazon leases Red Hook warehouse as fears of unsustainable truck traffic rise

Red Hoek Point, where Amazon has leased space for a last-mile distribution warehouse.
Thor Equities

Fears of an impending truck-pocalypse are picking up speed in Red Hook, as Amazon plans yet another “last-mile” distribution center in the waterfront neighborhood.

The online shopping giant has inked a lease for 311,796 square feet at 280 Richards St., a property owned by Thor Equities marketed as Red Hoek Point, and expects to occupy the space next year, according to Commercial Observer.

The industrial space is expected to be used by the e-commerce behemoth as a “last-mile distribution center” — a type of warehouse made evermore necessary by the online shopping boom, where smaller vehicles are loaded with merchandise to be delivered directly to consumers on city streets. 

A number of other last-mile warehouses from other companies are also in the works in Red Hook, including nearby at 537-555 Columbia St., 640 Columbia St., and an enormous United Parcel Service facility adjacent to Valentino Pier.   

Plans for the Amazon facility come as Red Hook residents are pushing to change the truck routes through the neighborhood, which currently sends 18-wheelers barreling down Red Hook’s commercial corridor at Van Brunt Street, as well as past the neighborhood’s largest park on Beard Street.

The new warehouses could increase the number of trucks on Red Hook’s streets by unsustainable amounts, according to locals, who fear the lasting effects on the mixed-use neighborhood could be devastating.

“They are going to crush us,” said Jim Tampakis, a manufacturer of ship parts in Red Hook who has been at the forefront of organizing around the facilities. 

Tampakis has researched other last-mile facilities across the city — including Amazon sites in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, most of which were smaller than the coming Richards Street site — and found an average of one vehicle per minute leaving the facilities.

Neighborhood organizers have floated a number of other potential solutions to prevent an onslaught of box trucks and sprinter vans on the streets — including mandating that warehouses with waterfront property receive shipments by water, and rewriting the area’s truck route to bring larger vehicles through the Red Hook Container Terminal instead of local roads.

But, so far, no action has been taken, and Amazon, whose new facilities are being built as-of-right, could move into the Red Hook space as early as 2021.

In the meantime, local civic groups like Community Board 6 have pushed the Department of Transportation to conduct a truck study, but citywide budget cuts and the amount of time such a review would take are leaving locals weary.

“At the end of the day we’re talking about 2 million square feet of distribution places here, and we’re not used to having that kind of volume of traffic coming in,” said Tampakis.

Amazon, which is also planning a new East New York facility, declined to comment on how they would be using the Red Hook space. 

“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations,” said a company spokesperson. “However we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap.”