Crucial Questions - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1737418

Crucial Questions

When Suffolk County announced recently that Amazon would, indirectly, be running a large warehousing operation at Gabreski Airport [“County Offers Amazon Tax Breaks For Giant Westhampton Warehouse,” 27east.com, November 4], all seemed copacetic. According to the plan, tractor-trailers would truck in Amazon stuff, have it sorted in the warehouse, and then have those goods delivered to homes, using Uber-like “gig” worker-drivers.

But as the facts have unfolded, the harmonious aspects of the situation have started to unravel, leading to questions. Why did Amazon decide to build the warehouse at Gabreski Airport rather than, say, at Shirley, where it has facilities? Or elsewhere?

To anyone familiar with Amazon’s business model, the answer is painfully obvious: Because at some point Amazon will want to supplement its trucking operation with an airfreight operation, flying in Boeing 737 freighter aircraft. Recall, Amazon’s signature service features next-day and two-day delivery of most items. One way to assure quick delivery of items, particularly high value-added items like cellphones, etc., is to bring them in by airfreight, which Amazon does regularly elsewhere.

Consider some additional, disturbing, logistical facts: A tractor-trailer has the cubic capacity of roughly two 737 aircraft. Amazon has said it will operate over 200 tractor-trailers a day into Gabreski. If 10 percent of that capacity were high value-added and/or time-sensitive stuff, that would be over 20 tractor-trailers, or about 40 equivalent 737 flights a day! Not predicting. Just sayin’.

These are hardly theoretical observations. There is an immense amount of value at stake. In any economic calculus, there are 50 warehouse jobs and some gig worker-driver jobs created, versus the diminution in value of 3,000 neighborhood homes in Westhampton, Quogue and East Quogue. The negative economic damage from the latter could be, literally, a hundred times larger than the positive aspects of the former.

But surely our local representatives have worked to protect the citizens’ interests of these three important villages?

This is unclear. When Jay Schneiderman was asked if there would be future Amazon commercial airfreight service, supplementing the trucking deal, he sloughed it off with a joke, saying he didn’t anticipate additional jet traffic, “other than Jeff Bezos coming in to check on things.” That sounds like a diversion, a smokescreen, or worse.

So, we now ask directly: Did any government negotiators ask Amazon to agree that there would be no airfreight service in the future? Is there a contractual provision in the warehouse deal that prevents Amazon from initiating airfreight service without the prior consent of the county or town?

These are important questions for officials that must be answered completely and accurately now — not in two years’ time, when Amazon informs the county that its trucking operation must expand to include commercial airfreight service.

Mark J. Schulte

Quogue

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