I recently moved to Crown Heights. FreshDirect delivers to my apartment, and I was offered a promotion to try the online grocery service that has become popular since starting to serve New York in 2002.
I placed a couple orders — but stopped after I read about the deal the company made with the city in February to build a new facility in the South Bronx.
Why? Because it’s a bum deal for the city I love.
In this sweetheart agreement, FreshDirect will receive $127.8 million in tax subsidies and funds from the city and state to construct a 500,000-square-foot warehouse. Reportedly, if City Hall and Albany hadn’t pitched in, FreshDirect would have likely left its current home in Long Island City for (gasp) New Jersey.
And yet, gallingly, FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman has said the business doesn’t have plans to deliver to the very neighborhood, Mott Haven, where it will build a new base of operations for its more than 100 delivery trucks.
“We have always felt that the Bronx has not wanted our service, and we’ve seen over time no natural request for our service,” Ackerman told WNYC this winter.
But if our tax dollars are going to bolster FreshDirect, shouldn’t we all be invited to the table?
Many of the residents of the Bronx rely on bodegas or ancient supermarkets for their groceries. According to this year’s County Health Rankings & Roadmap report on New York State by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bronx is the least healthy county in the entire state. The report takes into account statistics such as employment and mortality rate, as well as access to healthy food.
FreshDirect’s dozens of trucks, emblazoned with images of ripe vegetables, glistening cuts of meat and other delicacies, will be cruising in and out of a neighborhood that, in my estimation, it could do far more to help.
There’s another duplicitous aspect to this deal: City Hall claims that FreshDirect’s move to the South Bronx will create about 1,000 jobs in one of the most impoverished areas in the city.
What economic development officials are much more hesitant to discuss, however, is that the company is not contractually required to create a specific number of jobs. Without concrete thresholds for job creation, what incentives will FreshDirect have to keep its promises?