New York is drowning in packages

Noticing the increase in e-commerce delivery traffic, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio earmarked $38 million in the November 2021 budget to send these packages via the “blue highway” — by ferry instead of by truck. “One of the best ways to fight climate change is to get away from a society and economy dominated by big trucks,” he said in late 2021.[A]and that’s just the truth in New York and America today: the rule of the 18-wheeler. It’s top notch; it’s everywhere and it’s a danger to our future.”

Other attempts to reduce congestion in delivery trucks have emerged. There are cargo bikes, for example, and a potential $3 surcharge on each package delivered. Wardrobes are also a key player; they help solve the problem of the “last mile” – or last part of the delivery process – by centralizing delivery locations to save door-to-door effort. Amazon-exclusive lockers live in 7-Elevens, Rite-Aids, Whole Foods markets and Chase Banks. There are also locker services that cater to retail, such as Stowfly. The company’s cabinets can be found in a variety of locations, including smaller mom-and-pop stores. Stowfly CEO Sid Khattri says this approach solves two problems at once: centralizing e-commerce delivery while helping local businesses “generate additional revenue and traffic at a time when brick-and-mortar retail is dying.”

It’s helpful to step back and put the lot problem in historical context, says David Vega-Barachowitz, an associate at WXY, an architecture firm in New York. The problem of the city package is not only in congested streets or inefficient distribution of resources, he says. Instead, it’s another crisis of convenience, similar to when, in the 1950s, suburban shopping centers began to compete with city centers. “We live in a city whose main thing is to be able to walk out the door, get a carton of milk, go to the bookstore, go to the movies, etc.,” he says, “and the culture of convenience threatens all of that.”

Arthur Getman, director of analytics at the New York City Department of Transportation, agrees. “A lot of people who come to New York bring an ‘American Dream’ mentality,” he says, but here’s the problem: That dream is mostly based in the suburbs. The city simply doesn’t have the space for it — if everyone had it their House, their lawn, their car, i their things. With its public transportation, bike lanes, sidewalks, parks, and apartment buildings, New York was made to share.

As everyone from city planners to apartment building managers grapple with the rise of e-commerce, Holguín-Veras, after years of studying the data, can’t help but wonder: “Of all the purchases made, what percentage are truly urgent?”

Sarah Simon is a freelance multimedia journalist based in New York.

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