All posts by southbronxunite

With love for our hood and truth always

FreshDirect does not belong in the Bronx

FreshDirect does not belong in the Bronx:
Online grocer will add 2000 daily truck trips through “asthma alley” and build on waterfront land documented as site of Native American burial ground
South Bronx residents continue to ask New York City and New York State residents to oppose FreshDirect’s publicly-funded relocation to public land on the South Bronx waterfront.  Documents withheld from the public by Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, but obtained recently through the Freedom of Information Law, demonstrate that our elected official are lying to South Bronx residents.
Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz talk about bringing jobs to the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the country with the highest unemployment rates in New York. They are lying to us.  FreshDirect is not bringing 2,000 jobs to the South Bronx; those are not new jobs, they are existing jobs and there was never a credible threat that FreshDirect was moving any of those jobs to New Jersey.  Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz tell us that FreshDirect has committed to hiring local residents, but their Memorandum of Understanding says in black and white that it is unenforceable and that it is not for the benefit of any resident of the Bronx or any other citizen.  Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz tell us that FreshDirect will bring 1,000 additional jobs to the South Bronx in the next ten years, but FreshDirect has no obligation to create a single new job; they get to keep every penny of the taxpayer’s $127.8 million even if they reduce their workforce.  Moreover, FreshDirect would be exempt from any local living wage mandates adopted by the city, 40% of its employees currently earn $25,000 per year or less, and FreshDirect’s abysmal record of labor practices includes 27 discrimination and nine unfair labor claims against the company in the last four years alone.
Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz tell us that FreshDirect will build on land that has been dormant for decades and imply that this public land would not otherwise be used or developed.  They are lying to us.  FreshDirect wants to build on part of a 94 acre waterfront plot of public land owned by the state of New York.  In the 20 years since the state leased this public land to a private developer, the Department of City Planning has rezoned the area surrounding the proposed FreshDirect site to promote profitable residential and commercial mixed use development of the 1.9 miles of South Bronx waterfront.  Further, the South Bronx has been included in the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan to increase our community’s access to the waterfront, connect us to the Randall’s Island and East Harlem Greenways, and otherwise maximize economic development potential.  The proposed site is directly next to existing and new residential developments and funding already has been approved to build a pedestrian connector from the South Bronx to Randall’s Island.  Further still, the proposed FreshDirect site contains a documented American Indian settlement, the Ranachqua Village and burial ground.  Rather than giving real assistance to our community by promoting sustainable development and preserving our heritage, Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz continue their pattern of using taxpayer money to relocate industrial and manufacturing companies from more affluent communities to the South Bronx.
The only honest statement that Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz make is that the FreshDirect project will have a major impact on the South Bronx.  The FreshDirct project will bring an extra 1,000 truck trips a day and 2,000 vehicle trips per day through the most congested traffic corridors of the South Bronx, a community nicknamed “asthma alley” because we have asthma hospitalizations five times the national average.  Offensively, the supposed purpose of leasing this public land to a private entity was to develop an intermodal rail yard to reduce truck traffic on New York City streets.  That turned out to be rubbish, literally.  Rather than building that rail hub, this developer subleased our land to a solid waste transfer station, whose trucks bring 3,000 tons of garbage per day through our community, and a FedEx hub that brings another 1,432 truck trips per day.
This misuse of our public land for private benefit is at our expense.  This abuse of our land is causing unconscionable levels of air, water, land and noise pollution, frustrating city planning efforts to sustainably develop our community, and continuing to block South Bronx residents’ access to our waterfront.  Adding insult to injury, FreshDirect does not and has never served our community, and there is no enforceable requirement or plan that they will ever do so.  Only an obscenely undemocratic process could lead to a plan like this.  Cuomo, Bloomberg and Diaz did not consult with the people of the South Bronx, did not consult with Councilwoman Melissa Viverito, and did not consult with Community Board 1 before announcing on February 7 that FreshDirect would receive public money to abandon Queens and move to the South Bronx.  The sole public hearing on this project was a complete sham; it took place in Manhattan and two days after the deal was announced.  Subsequent attempts to gain community support have been met with overwhelming disapproval.  Degrading the very people he is supposed to represent, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz created a Facebook page to “illustrate to the company just how many Bronx residents are willing to not only use their service, but have the technical capabilities to do so.”  The site was overwhelmed by opposition to the deal.
The people of the South Bronx demand better.
South Bronx Unite | is a coalition of South Bronx residents, organizations and allies.

South Bronx, Demanda Respeto!!!!!!


South Bronx, Demanda Respeto.



¡Díle “NO” a Fresh Direct!

El problema:
La compañía FreshDirect ha propuesto mudarse al Sur del Bronx desde su ubicación actual en Queens. ¿Qué significará este mudanza para nosotros, los residentes del Sur del Bronx?

  • Cientos de camiones más pasando por nuestro barrio que ya sufre de las tasas de asma más altas del país.
  • Promesas de empleos, pero ninguna garantía.
  • FreshDirect no se comprete a ningún salario digno para sus empleados.
  • Actualmente FreshDirect no acepta los cupones de alimentos (la tarjeta EBT), ni ofrece servicio a domicilio en el Bronx salvo los códigos postales de 10463, 10470, y 10471 (Riverdale y Woodlawn)
  • Con major planeamiento, los $120 millones en subsidios ofrecidos pueden crear más y mejores trabajos.

La alcaldía y presidente del condado del Bronx han ofrecido a FreshDirect más de $120 millones en subsidios provenientes de nuestras contribuciones de impuestos. ¿Por qué darle a una corporación nuestro dinero mientras se están cerrando nuestras escuelas? Hay mejores opciones: ¡Trabajemos juntos para un mejor acceso a la costa!

El propósito de FreshDirect es construir una fábrica enorme en Harlem River Rail Yards en la costa del Sur del South Bronx, ubicado al sur de la calle 132. En realidad, esta propiedad es pública y pertenece al Departmento del Transporte del Estado de Nueva York. ¡Un desarollo de uso mixto con vivienda asequible, espacios comerciales, educacionales, y  recreacionales con acceso al río sería mejor para todos!

¿Como se puede decirle “NO” a Fresh Direct en el Sur del Bronx?

  1. Contacta: Fiscal General del Estado de Nueva York Eric Schneiderman
Díle: “Pare a Fresh Direct. Investigue el contrato de Harlem River Rail Yards.”


  1. ¡Díle a todo el mundo!

South Bronx Unite in the News

In the last week we’ve made quite the splash! We will continue to Unite as a community to let our voices be heard. 

New York Times: In Bronx, FreshDirect and Land of Great Promises
Michael Powell – February 20, 2012
Bronx TimesMott Haven residents rally over relocation of Fresh Direct headquarters
Kirsten Sanchez – February 20, 2012
The Riverdale PressUnder the wire
Adam Wisnieski – February 15, 2012
Crain’sDid FreshDirect deserve more than $100M in tax breaks and subsidies?
February 15, 2012 (69% say no)
WNYCLiu Questions $100M Fresh Direct Subsidy
February 15, 2012 – 10:32 AM
New York Times: Criticism of FreshDirect Deal Is Off Base, City Officials Say
Charles V. Bagli – February 14, 2012
NY Daily NewsAn $83M ‘Direct’ deposit
Daniel Beekman – February 14, 2012
El DiarioProtestarán contra instalación de Fresh Direct en El Bronx
Jose Acosta – 2012-02-14
NBC New YorkSome Opposed to FreshDirect’s Planned Move to Bronx
Feb 14, 2012
The Village VoiceCity Panel Votes to Approve $128 Million FreshDirect Payoff (liveblog)
Neil deMause – Tue., Feb. 14 2012
Mott Haven HeraldCity approves FreshDirect subsidies
Joe Hirsch – 14. Feb, 2012
DNAinfo New YorkCity To Vote on Fresh Direct Deal Tuesday, Despite Pleas to Delay Decision Patrick Wall – February 14, 2012
GothamistFresh Direct’s Sweet Gov’t Subsidies Sicken Some In The Bronx
February 13, 2012
The Village VoiceSome People Are Not Happy With FreshDirect’s Move to the Bronx
Sam Levin – Mon., Feb. 13 2012
Crain’s New YorkOpposition to FreshDirect subsidy deal mounts
The New York ObserverFight Over FreshDirect Facility Continues
Hunter Walker – 2/13
News 12Protesters take to the Web against Fresh Direct
Feb 13, 2012
Mott Haven HeraldMott Havenites say ‘no deal’ to FreshDirect
Amora McDaniel – 10 Feb 2012
DNAinfo New YorkFresh Direct Deal Blasted by South Bronx Residents and Activists
Patrick Wall – February 9, 2012
New York PostDeal with the devil: Tax breaks with strings
Nicole Gelinas – February 9, 2012
Daily NewsBronx residents to weigh in on new Fresh Direct HQ
Daniel Beekman – February 08, 2012
News 12Plan to open Fresh Direct HQ in Bronx causes stir
Feb 8, 2012
NY1Bronx Residents Speak Out Against New FreshDirect Headquarters

A great NYT article featuring Mychal Johnson

To wander the industrial prairies that edge the Harlem River in the Bronx is to discover an archaeological dig of government subsidies and unfilled promises.
Here, between the peeling steel girders of the Willis Avenue and Robert F. Kennedy Bridges, Mychal Johnson, a lithe, goateed and good-humored Mott Haven resident and community board member, sweeps his arms at grass rising waist-high out of rail pilings, and at the massive green wall of a waste plant.
Soon, FreshDirect, the deliver-groceries-to-your-apartment company, is to build a sprawling, taxpayer-subsidized plant here, with 130 delivery trucks rumbling about day and night.
“This was supposed to be where railyards changed the city’s transportation,” Mr. Johnson says. “Now we’re going to have trucks pouring more pollution into a neighborhood with the worst asthma rates in New York.”
In the early 1990s, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo gave the Galesi Company a sweetheart of a 99-year lease to control these 104 acres, the Harlem River Yards. The governor promised a world-class train yard that would create 5,000 jobs and give the city cleaner air. None of that happened. Galesi, however, found a land of promise. The company had leased the acreage at one-third the going rate. And public agencies poured in tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to place rent-paying companies on Galesi’s land.
Now FreshDirect steps into this gilded breach, holding a $127.8 million fistful of cash and tax breaks. City and state officials often describe FreshDirect, which will lease its land from Galesi, as “iconic.” Certainly its owners tug at public subsidy programs with the assurance of a farmer sitting before a swollen dairy cow.
Not long ago, FreshDirect got a $2 million subsidy to build in Queens. Then the company batted its eyes at New Jersey, and officials there dangled a $100 million subsidy package. This seemed more a feint than a threat, as FreshDirect would have been on the wrong side of the clogged Hudson River tunnels from its customer base. But New York officials tumbled over themselves getting to the bargaining table.
Before we go further, let me make an admission. I’ve called FreshDirect, particularly when our boys were young and schlepping them to the supermarket promised a cacophonous experiment in emotional meltdown. I don’t doubt there is a market for bringing groceries to the harried.
City officials faced a difficult choice. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has tried to steel himself against the siren song of corporate welfare. He risked second guessing, should FreshDirect, with about 2,000 working-class jobs, depart.
As for the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., this deal made a small-town booster of him. He signed an unenforceable memorandum in which FreshDirect talks of, maybe, reserving 300 jobs for Bronx residents. His staff members tossed up a Facebook site: “Bronxites for FreshDirect.” Alas, those who are posting appear mostly to be opposed, perhaps because FreshDirect refuses to deliver in much of the Bronx.
Mr. Diaz was undaunted; he framed the question for the naysayers: “Do we say no to the potential of 3,000 jobs?”
That’s the wrong question. The company has promised to create 1,000 jobs over the next 10 years. And the city can exact no penalty for failure. Should FreshDirect fall short, it faces no requirement to repay the subsidies.
Jason Ackerman made his bones at a now-defunct investment house before founding FreshDirect. He is very 21st century, talking of locavores and freshness and supporting farmers. His warehouses tend more toward the early 20th century. If you haul 50-pound boxes in the 38 degree chill of the warehouse, you can make $8.75 an hour; ride the trucks, and haul boxes down sidewalks and up stairs, and you get $8, along with whatever tips are tossed your way.
Local 805 of the Teamsters made unsuccessful runs at organizing the warehouse workers. In the last effort, just before the certifying election, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a surprise audit of FreshDirect. The company checked its files for Social Security cards and — surprise! — found many workers without documents. Between 100 and 300 left.
The company insisted it had nothing to do with the audit.
There are those, not the least South Bronx residents, who wonder if America’s densest city should so richly encourage a business that pays little and logs tens of thousands of pollution-belching hours to make deliveries. They could use parkland instead. City officials wave off such objections as beside the point.
As for Mr. Ackerman, he is buoyant. He wrote the cover letter to accompany his application for the subsidies.
“We are proud to support New York, through employment, service and good will!” he wrote. “We are New Yorkers!”
How grand. Imagine if his company paid for that pleasure.

Harlem River Working Group Meeting (Emergency Change of Location due to FreshDirect Decision)

Please join us at the HRWG meeting (see details below). Both Senator Serrano’s chief of staff and Councilmember Foster’s chief of staff will be attending!
We have changed our meeting to a place in Community Board 1 due to the situation that has been occurring around FreshDirect.
The Emergency Change of Location
Harlem River Working Group Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2012
6-8 pm
East Side Settlement House Cafeteria
201 St. Ann’s Avenue
(at the corner of 137th Street – 1 block from Brook Avenue)
Directions: Take the 6 Train to Brook Avenue Stop.
NOTE:  5pm, HRWG members may want to meet at the corner of 132nd and St Ann’s Avenue to discuss the Highbridge Yards Site and walk to the site of the Proposed Greenway connector at 132nd and the Amtrack Bridge.
Please send other agenda items for the meeting ASAP.
Thank you for your understanding about the last minute changes!!

Take Action: Rally Before IDA Board Vote on Proposed Giveaways on 2/14



For Immediate Release-February 13, 2012
Mychal Johnson, Bronx Community Board 1 Member and Resident,
cell: 212.810.0562
Harry Bubbins, Friends of Brook Park (local environmental organization),cell: 646-648-4362


South Bronx Residents Oppose $130 Million Fresh Direct Subsidies
Rally Before IDA Board Vote on Proposed Giveaways


WHO:             South Bronx ResidentsWHAT:          A vote by the Industrial Development Agency on a proposed $80 million NYC subsidy package to on-line grocer FreshDirect to move to the Mott Haven  neighborhood in the South Bronx.

WHEN:          Tuesday, February 14th 8:45 am press conference in front of 110 William Street  9:00 am board meeting of Industrial Development Agency, 4th floor

WHERE:       New York City Industrial Development Agency,
110 William Street, Lower Manhattan

WHY:            Without public hearings or notification last Tuesday, city, state and Bronx officials announced a nearly $130 million subsidy package for Fresh Direct to leave its Queens facility and expand its operations at the Harlem River Yards in The Bronx. The proposed project would bring more heavy diesel truck traffic to our already high asthma-inflicted communities and, despite misrepresentations made to the media, fails to guarantee any new jobs, much less living wage jobs, for South Bronx residents. South Bronx residents demand equitable and environmentally sustainable economic development proposals that are developed democratically and that create jobs at a living wage.
For more information-

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

9:00 AM Monday, February 13, 2012

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

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, 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.”
Contact:  Harry Bubbins, Friends of Brook Park

(646) 648 4362.

 Mychal Johnson, Community Board 1
(212) 810-0562