South Bronx Unite and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Applaud Congressman José Serrano and New York Empowerment Zone Board’s Rejection of $3.5M FreshDirect Subsidy

In the Face of Certain Defeat by the NYEZ Board,
FreshDirect Withdraws Application for $3.5 Million in Subsidies to Relocate to the South Bronx

Today, FreshDirect’s proposed move to the South Bronx suffered a serious setback when it had to withdraw its $3.5 million request via the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) for funding from the New York Empowerment Zone (NYEZ) Board.  The withdrawal occurred amidst strong community opposition and after FreshDirect learned that the Board planned to vote “no” and reject the application.
In comments made at the Board meeting after the withdrawal had occurred, Board Member and Congressman Jose E. Serrano made clear that he would have voted “no” on the proposed package today, and would do so at any time in the future if BOEDC should decide to resubmit FreshDirect’s application for funding.   Even though the BOEDC and FreshDirect quietly removed their application from the agenda, at the meeting Congressman Serrano, who represents South Bronx residents living in the Empowerment Zone, voiced his strong objections to FreshDirect’s application to receive funds through the Empowerment Zone program and BOEDC’s overall track record as administrator of the Empowerment Zone program in the South Bronx. Congressman Serrano also stated that there’s a new era underway with Mayor-elect de Blasio, who has labelled the proposed subsidies for FreshDirect a “mistake” that is exemplary of the all too common large, unaccountable corporate handouts that fail to deliver on promised “economic development” and fail to pull areas like the South Bronx out of poverty.
In response to this morning’s outcome, Christina Giorgio, Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said, “We are pleased that Congressman Jose E. Serrano has sided with the community and blocked FreshDirect from receiving the requested $3.5 million subsidy package.  Empowerment Zone funds are to be invested in businesses committed to improving the quality of life for local residents.  FreshDirect, with its thousands of daily truck trips and its low-wage jobs, clearly misses the mark and the Congressman Serrano was right to reject the application.”
Mychal Johnson, South Bronx resident and member of South Bronx Unite, added, “This is an important victory in our effort to ensure that the community’s voice matters and real environmental and economic justice are served.  It is simply irresponsible to offer public grants, loans and tax breaks for a project that would have such negative health impacts in the South Bronx.  We are proud and supportive of Congressman Serrano for hearing the community’s concerns and acting in its best interests. It is time to put a stop to this project and to consider how our publicly-owned waterfront can be put to the benefit of Bronxites through inclusive planning and projects that promote the public’s health and economic well-being.”
The New York Empowerment Zone (NYEZ) is one of nine empowerment zones (EZs) established by the Clinton Administration in 1994 to revitalize distressed communities by
using public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment. The designation was accompanied by a federal grant of $100 million and matching grants from New York State and the City of New York of $100 million each, creating a total investment pool of $300 million. The proposed FreshDirect relocation has yet to receive other key approvals.  In addition, the New York State Appellate Court recently heard arguments on a lawsuit challenging, among other things, the City’s failure to require a full environmental impact assessment even though the project would bring more than a thousand diesel truck trips everyday into an increasingly residential community that suffers from high asthma rates.



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