With Amazon reportedly eyeing up to 1 million square feet of space within Sunset Park’s Industry City for a new storage and shipping facility, locals are split on what the tech giant’s presence could mean for the largely working-class, immigrant community.
One longtime resident said the neighborhood doesn’t need the type of no-skill labor that Amazon’s factories employ, and that what Sunset Park really needs are more high-paying, skilled manufacturing jobs.
“What do distribution centers give?” asked Adrian Roman, a Sunset Park resident and a member of a community organization called El Grito. “Those are low paying jobs. They don’t really help the community.”
Amazon distribution facilities have provided residents in other communities throughout the city with thousands of jobs, but not all employees have spoken highly of the work. A disgruntled employee at the Staten Island fulfillment center told the New York Times in March that the company cracked down on an attempt to unionize, in addition to forcing employees to work long hours with few breaks, although a subsequent Times investigation disputed some of those claims.
But the Staten Island employee is not alone: In the last few months, Amazon’s poor working conditions have become an international focus. On July 15, workers across the U.S. and in five countries went on strike to protest the company’s low wages and dangerous working conditions. Sunset Park’s Councilman Carlos Menchaca echoed those complaints when responding to the potential Amazon facility in Industry City.
“If Industry City is serious about being a good neighbor and having Sunset Park’s best interests in mind, it will not do business with companies that are aiding in the terrorization of immigrants or treats its workers like robots,” he said on Thursday.
Roman also worried about Amazon’s use of facial recognition technology, which the company has pitched to police departments so that cops can find suspects. Since a large portion of Sunset Park is undocumented, Roman feared that such technology could put residents at risk of deportation.
But others see the potential Amazon expansion in Brooklyn as a sign of progress. The company already has a local presence, renting a space in Sunset Park’s Liberty View Plaza right next to Industry City. And many say that distribution center’s jobs are already part of the ecosystem of Sunset Park’s working waterfront.
“It’s going to be a huge plus,” said Jeffery Citron, a real estate lawyer, who has seen the positive impact of tech companies on New York’s economy.
“A distribution facility has to have blue-collar jobs,” he added. “That could be great for the surrounding community.”