When the pandemic gripped New York City, it propelled an enormous surge in online shopping that has not waned, even in a metropolis where stores are rarely far away. People who regularly bought online are now buying more, while those who started ordering to avoid exposure to the virus have been won over by the advantages.
The abrupt shift in shopping patterns has made New York a high-stakes testing ground for urban deliveries, with its sheer density both a draw and a logistical nightmare.
It has also highlighted the need for an unglamorous yet critical piece of the e-commerce infrastructure: warehouse space to store and sort packages and satisfy customer expectations for faster and faster delivery.
Amazon has spent the pandemic embarking on a warehouse shopping spree in New York, significantly expanding its footprint in the biggest and most lucrative market in the country.
can trim roughly 20 percent off delivery expenses compared with deliveries that originate in New Jersey.
“We are excited to continue to invest in the state of New York by adding new delivery stations,” said Deborah Bass, an Amazon spokeswoman, adding that the company’s goal was to “become part of the fabric of New York City by embracing the people, the needs, and the spirit of the community.”
Amazon’s rapid expansion in New York has also drawn more scrutiny to the treatment of its workers, an issue that the company has faced in other parts of the country. Amazon has sought to quash efforts by warehouse employees to form unions — including on Staten Island — and a high-profile battle is currently being waged in Alabama.
In New York, the attorney general has sued Amazon over conditions at two of its local warehouses, accusing the company of failing to properly clean its buildings and conduct adequate contact-tracing, as well as of taking “swift retaliatory action” to silence employee complaints.
An Amazon spokeswoman disputed the allegations and said the company cared “deeply about the health and safety” of its workers.
two years after it abandoned plans to build a gleaming new headquarters in Queens. A chorus of lawmakers and progressive activists had opposed granting one of the world’s wealthiest companies billions of dollars in government incentives that the giant retailer had won by making cities compete against each other.
But New York remains an alluring prize, and Amazon’s string of warehouses in the city puts it in a strong position to benefit from the huge spike in online shopping set off by the pandemic.
Pickups Technologies, a storage and logistics company.
Construction is underway or about to begin on new factories that will have roughly 8.7 million square feet of space in all, including a 1.2 million square-foot UPS site in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Three warehouses under construction will have multiple levels, which is common in Asia, and multiple loading docks that can be used by one company or divided among several. Amazon has signed leases at two of them.
The opening of warehouses has brought some economic benefits, leading to the hiring of thousands of workers — some part-time jobs start at $17.25 an hour — at a time when many city residents are jobless.
Mr. Cepeda is creating a homegrown distribution system of “mini-warehouses.” He has recruited more than 1,000 residents in Manhattan and Brooklyn who will get paid to use their apartments to store goods for retailers and send them out for delivery.
had a warehouse in the Bronx through Jet.com, a now-defunct shopping site it owned, but later vacated the property, which is now leased by Amazon. Wal-Mart — which has no stores in the city — uses warehouses in Pennsylvania to serve online customers.
Target, which started same-day delivery in the city in 2017 and has about two dozen stores in New York, has used its stores as mini-distribution hubs, in part because it is cheaper to fulfill an online order in a store than at an out-of-town warehouse.
Many smaller companies are feeling the pressure to expand their online and delivery operations.
Stop & Shop has hired hundreds of workers to increase its online grocery service in the New York area, including at a warehouse in nearby Jersey City.
Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, the butcher for many high-end restaurants, has spent more than $1 million on its online and retail sales operations, selling to shoppers on its website and through Amazon Fresh and ShopRite. That business made up as much as 90 percent of the company’s sales in 2020, up from 15 percent before the pandemic.
“Home delivery will be prominent for the next decade,” Mr. LaFrieda said. “It will be key to our success.”
The company has reconfigured its New Jersey warehouse to prioritize retail sales and designed new packaging for online customers.
While Amazon is laying the foundation for online dominance in New York, Mr. Gordon, the owner of several warehouses, said other retailers would also need to become more nimble to respond to the new ways people are buying. The e-commerce demands also place added pressure on warehouse workers and drivers to fulfill and deliver orders on time, as customers now expect.
“Just-in-time delivery and last-mile delivery is what it means,’’ Mr. Gordon said. “You need to be very close to your customer to provide the level of service that people now expect.”