Some People Are Not Happy With FreshDirect's Move to the Bronx

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It started as a take-that-New-Jersey story -- but now it's become not-in-my-backyard.

Ah, land use battles in New York City!

The central character in this debate is FreshDirect, the online grocer looking for a new home, having outgrown its location in Queens.

Last week, news broke that the company has decided to re-locate from its Long Island City headquarters to the Bronx, instead of New Jersey, which offered Fresh Direct $100 million in public benefits.

The package that the city and state offered has incentives valued at over $100 million, the city announced in a release sent out last week. That includes $18.9 million in state tax credits, a $1 million loan, a $9 million capital grant, and from the city, $74 million in tax exemptions and $4.9 million in energy benefits. And much more!

As pols celebrate their success in holding onto local jobs -- and keeping them away from New Jersey -- there are some growing concerns from local groups and electeds about the neighborhood benefits and the lack of a sufficient public review process for this project.

Today, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district includes the potential site of Fresh Direct in the South Bronx, sent a letter to the NYC Industrial Development Agency asking that it slow down the approval process for the $74 million in financial assistance to give time for more community input. The agency has a vote scheduled for tomorrow.

Mark-Viverito is not necessarily opposing the project at this point, a rep from her office told Runnin' Scared, but is simply pushing for greater community discussion. The IDA did hold a public hearing on Thursday last week -- two days after the city announced the package that would retain 2,000 existing jobs and create nearly 1,000 new ones. The city says the construction of the facility will create around 684 construction jobs and an overall benefit of nearly $255 million for the city. (The city's Economic Development Corporation also notes that public notices were published a month in advance, the details of the assistance proposal have been available for weeks on its website, and the announcement last week noted that that approval was "pending.")

In her letter, the councilwoman -- who may be eyeing the City Council speaker seat -- asks the IDA to give local residents a chance to weigh in on the proposal. Among several issues, she cites labor concerns (possible union busting by the company) and health concerns (the South Bronx has high asthma rates and Fresh Direct would bring more delivery trucks to the area, though the city's EDC notes that the company will mitigate emissions through electric trucks).

Today, we caught up with one of the local folks who is flat-out opposed to Fresh Direct moving to his neighborhood.

Harry Bubbins, director of Friends of Brook Park, told Runnin' Scared that the site has great potential for a waterfront development that is accessible to the public.

"The community has had waterfront access and mixed-uses aspirations for decades," he said. "We want to entirely stop this -- it's a totally inappropriate use of taxpayer money."

Among many concerns, Bubbins said he would like to see a stronger, written guarantee of local job creation, though no amount of public process is going to change his mind: He is against the project entirely and sees it as a bad use of the parcel of land.

Still, the fact there has been very little input has made it worse, he said. "This... disrespects the communities here. It's the final straw."

Runnin' Scared left messages with Fresh Direct.

Kyle Sklerov, spokesperson with the city's Economic Development Corporation, said in a statement, "We welcome and appreciate all public comments, and look forward to addressing them at tomorrow's NYCIDA board meeting." He noted that the company's expansion in the Bronx would lead to job creation in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, at a time of high unemployment. "In all, this project would provide an economic benefit to the city worth hundreds of millions of dollars, far outweighing the investment that will allow this homegrown company to expand right here in New York City," the statement said.

[SamTLevin / @SamTLevin]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.


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Harry Turunen
Harry Turunen

Well no wonder why they are not happy,this transportation company did not choose what is the best from the.So sad about it.

h b
h b

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Community Members Unite to Stop FreshDirect’s Exploitation of the South Bronx

More at:

http://southbronxunitestopfres...

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/a...

Press Release: Community Members Unite to Stop FreshDirect’s Exploitation of the South Bronx

Email action here:

http://www.friendsofbrookpark....--

 BRONX, NY, February 13, 2012: Community residents and activists will rally Tuesday, February 14th at 8:45 AM outside of 110 William Street, to demand that the board of the New York City Industrial Development Agency vote to block FreshDirect’s sweetheart deal in the Bronx. The deal was suddenly announced last Tuesday, February 7th. Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. hailed the privately arranged deal as a win for everyone. FreshDirect is expected to receive a $130 million subsidy package from the city, the state, and the Bronx in exchange for its decision to relocate from Queens to the Harlem River Rail Yards along the waterfront in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx.

But local community members are upset about the adverse impact that FreshDirect’s relocation will have on the South Bronx. They have organized a group called SOUTH BRONX UNITE! STOP FRESHDIRECT! and find numerous aspects of the deal and how it is being portrayed disturbing, deceptive, and deleterious to the health and welfare of the South Bronx community.

 

“Fresh Direct has pledged to bring new jobs to the Bronx,” said Mychal Johnson of Community Board 1, “But they have no obligation to do so.  FreshDirect is not penalized if they fail to reach their job creation targets. There are no mandates or incentives to hire people from the South Bronx, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of New York City. Further, there is no guarantee that FreshDirect jobs would even be at a living wage.”  According to subsidy watchdog group Good Jobs New York <http: goodjobsny.org="" news-fresh-direct-spurs-border-war-new-jersey="" newsroom=""> , the city is failing to leverage the proposed subsidies for the creation of good jobs for people that need them. In addition, GJNY claims the IDA has  failed to provide taxpayers a clear cost/benefit analysis of the benefits expected to be awarded to the company.

“The way this went down was completely undemocratic,” said Mychal Johnson. “The Governor, the Mayor, and the Borough President announced this was a done deal before the public hearing, before the official vote, before there was any chance for public input. They decided to give FreshDirect $130 million dollars in taxpayer support, without any assessment of how this would affect the community. Worst of all, even with millions of dollars of subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives, there is no written guarantee of even one new living wage job for the South Bronx.”

 

The relocation is a “slap in the face to the people of the South Bronx,” said Rev. Ruben Austria, a faith leader and resident of Mott Haven. “We are in dire need of fresh food in this community, but FreshDirect won’t even deliver in the South Bronx. Yet they have no qualms about driving fleets of trucks in and out of our neighborhood every day, polluting the air our people breathe, while they bring their product to wealthier communities. They say there’s no demand in the South Bronx, but they make no provision to serve families using food stamps, who would gladly purchase affordable fresh food.”

The burden on the South Bronx angers Daniel Wallace, a neighborhood resident. "This project demands that the people of the South Bronx bear an inordinate amount of the costs of a deal from which we are guaranteed no real benefit. People in Manhattan get to eat fresh food; we get to eat more exhaust. As a South Bronx resident, it infuriates me that the people elected to represent our community's interests are instead allowing us to be saddled with another terrible deal. The way FreshDirect and our elected officials flouted the democratic process to complete this deal is a real sign of disrespect to me and the rest of the people who live in the South Bronx. They didn't even pretend like our voices matter."

 

“It’s unacceptable,” says Ivelyse Andino, a resident of the South Bronx. “We already have the highest rate of asthma in the country, the most concentrated health problems, including infant mortality and childhood obesity – and these things are the direct result of urban planning policies that utterly disregard the rights of poor communities of color. Now FreshDirect is going to bring in another 130 trucks driving through our streets every day, and produce 380 tons of solid waste each month – and there hasn’t even been a legitimate environmental impact study done.”

 

The worst part of the deal, say environmental activists like Harry Bubbins, is that the space FreshDirect will occupy is misused public land. The proposed site for FreshDirect at the Harlem River Rail Yards in the Bronx was supposed to develop freight service to reduce air pollution from truck traffic, expand the South Bronx Greenway, and give residents access to the waterfront. Instead, 1.9 miles of waterfront space will remain inaccessible to the public. "This gargantuan facility,” said Bubbins, “is clearly inappropriate for our waterfront and has sparked keen and widespread interest in the best use of this valuable public land.  We look forward to an aggressive inquiry by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman into the original lease between the New York State Department of Transportation and the Harlem River Rail Yards.  It seems they are in default, and a new community led public planning process needs to be initiated.  A more mixed use and diverse array of activities on the 100 acres foot print will yield more jobs, cleaner air and a better return for the tax payer investment than what is proposed with the lucrative backdoor deals proposed for FreshDirect to abandon Queens."

Despite the anger over the FreshDirect sweetheart deal, community members are optimistic. “We’re going to use every legal tool available to us to fight for our community,” said Corrine Kohut, an attorney and homeowner in the South Bronx. “We’re too well informed and organized to let this happen without a fight. Our elected officials and the public agencies that are supposed to look out for our interests aren’t going to get away with selling out the community anymore. We look forward to a community-led development plan that makes efficient use of nearly 100 acres of public waterfront land and incorporates sustainable development, living wage jobs, clean air and waterfront access for South Bronx residents.”

Email action here:

http://www.friendsofbrookpark.... http://www.friendsofbrookpark....646.648.4362PO Box 801South, South Bronx, NY 10454

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