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Mount Pleasant Adjusting to the Benefits and Realities of Amazon Facility

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Xavier Marcus, one of Amazon’s more than 150 on-site employees at the new warehouse and distribution center on Route 9A in Hawthorne.

More than two months after Amazon’s opening, the Town of Mount Pleasant and nearby residents are working to adjust to any impacts caused by the more than 150,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center on Route 9A in Hawthorne.

Last Friday, Amazon provided a tour of the facility for local elected and business officials and local media that opened in late January. It provided an insider’s view of the process from placement of the order to delivery that brings as many as 50,000 packages a day to residents and businesses throughout Westchester County and a small number into Fairfield County, Conn.

Currently employing a little more than 150 employees, the busiest time for the operation is overnight, said Arjun Kulshreshtha, a senior station manager at the Hawthorne location. He said that virtually all deliveries are within a 45-minute drive of the warehouse.

While the flow of packages going in and out of the facility is rather consistent, the beginning of the week typically sees the busiest time, Kulshreshtha said.

“Mondays are usually the busiest just because businesses (were) closed on the weekends, we get all the people from the businesses out on Monday,” he said. “So Monday is a little bit busier, but other than everything else is pretty much the same.”

The Hawthorne facility is considered a distribution center, the last of two or three stops for a package before it is delivered to its recipient, Kulshreshtha explained. Once an order is placed, the vendor of the merchandise sends their order to a fulfillment center. Until the new fulfillment center opened recently in Fishkill, Dutchess County, the closest one to Westchester was near New Haven, Conn.

The fulfillment center is where orders are packaged into Amazon boxes and sent to the next stop, which could be a resource center or the distribution center like the new Hawthorne facility.

In Hawthorne, overnight crews make sure the packages are loaded onto one of as many as 59 vans that can be sent out in up to five separate waves, usually starting at about 10:15 a.m., Kulshreshtha said. Typically, a van driver that heads out at that hour will return sometime in the evening, usually between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., he said.

While the rise of online shopping has had its impact on many retail establishments, Marsha Gordon, president of the Westchester Business Council, said technological advances have naturally impacted the business community. But advances have always forced certain businesses and business owners to adapt or find another way to operate while creating new opportunities.

“This is 150 great jobs, good-paying jobs that will also come with opportunities and benefits and real (career) ladders,” Gordon said. “This is the evolution of business. We realize the implication to other businesses, but it also creates other jobs, it creates jobs for other businesses, the drivers as well as all the people working here – and they pay taxes.”

Glendowlyn Thames, manager of economic development and public policy for Amazon, said the average national wage for Amazon workers is currently $20.50 an hour. But the company provides other opportunities for full-time workers, including access to benefits such as health insurance coverage and a matching 401(k) from the first day on the job.

Arjun Kulshreshtha, a senior station manager at Amazon’s new Hawthorne location, on the floor of the new warehouse and distribution center.

After 90 days, employees can take advantage of educational opportunities provided by Amazon to work toward their bachelor’s degree at one of 18 public colleges in the CUNY or SUNY system in New York, Thames said.

One of the employees in Hawthorne, Xavier Marcus, is earning his college degree online while working full-time as a sortation associate. Marcus started shortly after the facility opened. Flexible and plentiful hours as well as a chance for advancement has made it an attractive place to work, he said.

“I wanted to work while earning my education, and Amazon is the perfect place for that,” said Marcus, who lives less than 10 minutes away in Elmsford. “They give you consistent hours, you get time off, and just a lot of options that can really fit your schedule.”

Impact on Community

While there are many advantages of having Amazon in Mount Pleasant, there are residents and even some officials who are wary of potential impacts on the surrounding roads, along with the safety considerations from hundreds of vans leaving and returning to the site every day.

Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said so far, the facility has not caused many problems on the area roads. Amazon has been in communication regularly with the town trying to fit into the community, likely because of the heavy scrutiny the project has endured, particularly post-approval.

Because the bulk of the vehicles leave after 10 a.m. and return well after the end of the evening rush hour, that has helped minimize impacts on the area roads, he said.

“They’ve been very forthcoming,” Fulgenzi said of Amazon. “They’ve been a good neighbor.”

Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva said the facility was built with a 570-van capacity, but currently there are only about 200 vehicles at Amazon’s disposal. Last week, Oliva said some of the drivers are in unmarked white vans contracted from another provider because the company currently doesn’t have enough of its own vans on site.

For some, a concern has been that many of Amazon’s workers must use mass transit to get to work. Oliva said an estimated 30 to 40 percent of its drivers arrive at the site by public transportation, potentially creating a hazard as many people have been spotted walking along roads without sidewalks to get to and from the warehouse.

The new Amazon facility on Route 9A in Hawthorne.

On Mar. 4, a 62-year-old man walking along Route 9A a short distance south of the site, was struck and killed by a vehicle. The victim was not an Amazon worker.

Nearby resident Domenick Vita said pedestrian safety is one of the issues he and his neighbors along Belmont Road, Pythian Avenue and other nearby streets have continually raised.

“This is an area where we’ve had some concern about it in the past,” Vita said. “We would like it if (the town) would please ask Amazon or tell Amazon or dictate to Amazon that they need to take care of their people and arrange some way for the people to come and go to and from the mass transit. They’re a huge employer, they are attracting people that use mass transit, which is great, but they need to create something that fills that gap.”

Vita said there have been some vans that have gone around the temporary barriers along Belmont Road, which has been closed off to through traffic, along with West Stevens Avenue in Hawthorne that is the subject of a traffic study.

Drivers ignoring the closure must be addressed, he said, but, so far, he does not have firsthand knowledge of a significant negative impact on traffic in the area.

“But we do expect it from this point to ramp up at Amazon, but no one has notice whether there are more cars,” Vita said.

Amazon has said that they expect the workforce to remain at its current 150 on-site employees, increasing to more than twice that number during Amazon Prime week in July and during the holiday season from about Thanksgiving to Christmas.


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