FreshDirect chose the MOST EXPENSIVE option!

Unbelievable!  FreshDirect not only identified and has the ability to stay and expand in Long Island City, a move to the Bronx represents the highest cost option!

“To meet its long-term space requirements, Fresh Direct has identified three primary options:

Long lsland CityFresh Direct has identified a lot adjacent to its Borden Avenue facility which the Company could purchase and develop. The lot would accommodate a new 96,000 square foot expansion facility, which, combined with the extension of one or more of its recently leased facilities would provide the necessary capacity to accommodate the
planned growth
. While operating from multiple facilities creates inherent inefficiencies,  this option provides for the least amount of business disruption and lowest employee attrition. Further, this option requires the lowest level of capital investment, allowing the Company to deploy those resources to other areas of the business operations.

Harlem River Yards, Bronx: The Company is considering a green site in the Bronx for the construction of a new 325,000 square foot facility, plus additional mezzanine space. Under this scenario Fresh Direct would consolidate all of its Long Island City  operations into the new Bronx facility. While new construction on this site represents the
highest cost option, requiring significant upfront capital
, it achieves two of Fresh Direct’s primary occupancy objectives by delivering highly efficient operating space with limited business disruption and employee attrition.

Secaucus Road, Jersey City: Fresh Direct also is considering a new construction project in New Jersey. The Company has narrowed its search to a single site facility on Secaucus Road in Jersey, where it would construct a new facility of approximately 400,000 square feet.  As with the Bronx option, the full Long Island City operations
would be relocated and consolidated into this new facility. While this option achieves the desired operational efficiencies, it results in the highest level business disruption and employee attrition, and requires significant upfront capital investment.

How FreshDirect Delivers Misery Along With Your Groceries–And How Workers and the Community are Fighting Back

How FreshDirect Delivers Misery Along With Your Groceries–And How Workers and the Community are Fighting Back

The upscale grocery delivery service pays less than $9 an hour, has faced discrimination complaints, and is a union-buster–so why is New York giving it a handout?

Photo Credit: erostend via Flickr
New York City, like most of the country, is hurting for jobs—good jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits so that people can support their families. Yet billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., is about to hand over $129 million in public money, through tax exemptions and direct subsidies, to FreshDirect, a grocery delivery service that is notorious for underpaying its workers, has faced multiple accusations of discrimination and has been accused of using all sorts of shady tactics to block its workers from joining a union.
FreshDirect has made its home for years in Long Island City, Queens, but now claims to need a bigger facility. After New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie waved a $100 million package of subsidies and tax breaks at the grocer, New York’s politicians felt the need to win its allegiance back. New York Times reporter Michael Powell wrote of the plan, “The deal puts the welfare in corporate.”
FreshDirect, which mainly delivers to affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, advertises fresh and local groceries, ready-made meals, and other attractive options to busy, middle-class urban consumers. But its delivery drivers and warehouse workers make less than $9 an hour, and the company, co-founded and headed by a former investment banker, Jason Ackerman, has no plans to deliver its products to the South Bronx community where it wants to build its 500,000-square-foot taxpayer-funded facility. New York City Public Advocate Bill deBlasio recently used the firm as an example in arguing that the city should require a stricter code of conduct for companies that receive public assistance. Currently, he wrote, “we essentially end up subsidizing some owners of big businesses to mistreat workers, keep profits for themselves and suppress fair bargaining.”
Mayor Bloomberg and borough president Diaz claimed in an op-ed that “FreshDirect is a true New York success story, growing over the last decade from a small startup to a company with almost 2,000 employees. Small businesses are the backbone of our city; when they grow, we want them to grow here in the five boroughs — not in the suburbs or in another state.”
But local activists and the company’s own workers aren’t sure they’ll see any benefits from the move, whether in jobs or in access to better food—certainly not enough to outweigh the negative impact on their neighborhood from the company’s trucks streaming in and out. While the company’s workers struggle for fair treatment, South Bronx residents are organizing to protest the move.
South Bronx resident and community board member Mychal Johnson told AlterNet that the residents are tired of having their problems ignored while the city showers cash on corporations. “The South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the nation, continuously dumped on with all the worst New York City has to offer.”
Taking Advantage of the Bronx
Currently, FreshDirect will only deliver to the wealthier, northwestern Riverdale and Kingsbridge sections of the Bronx. Ackerman, WNYC recently reported, claimed “We absolutely would be in the Bronx,” except for the fact that “we’ve always felt that the Bronx has not wanted our service.” He also said that while negotiating the tax break and subsidy package that would keep the company in New York, the question of whether FreshDirect would deliver to the neighborhood that will house the company never came up.
Part of the problem for the community is that FreshDirect, which sells organic and local produce as well as more familiar brand-name groceries, doesn’t accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) benefits, upon which 66 percent of South Bronx residents depend to feed their families. Even some food trucks and carts accept these benefits, so residents argue that FreshDirect is perfectly capable of taking them if it wants to.

“It really doesn’t fit their business model to say they accept food stamps, as they’re trying to service people who live in affluent areas,” Johnson said. “Their customer base is people who want to have their food delivered to their door, not people who need to have fresh food or good service or access to decent foods or variety or choice.”
The biggest argument for building FreshDirect’s facility in the Bronx is, of course, jobs. But Johnson pointed out that the company has only promised to create 1,000 jobs over 10 years, and that it’s promised only 30 percent of those jobs to South Bronx residents. That’s only 300 jobs for a borough with a 14-percent unemployment rate and 39 percent of its residents living in poverty.
Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Union Local 805, which has been working to organize FreshDirect’s current workers, thinks the money could be much better spent actually helping the South Bronx. “Why do we have little trucks that leave instead of getting big trucks that come in with food for supermarkets here?” she asked.
Johnson agreed. “We definitely need more choices and better, healthier choices, but give that money to incentivize that kind of business to come here rather than giving one business $129 million. You could get a lot more impact by diversifying and giving it to a lot of businesses,” he said.
John C. Liu, the city comptroller, opposed the deal, saying, “For the cost of this benefits package the city could give 4,385 students full four-year scholarships to CUNY or hire 1,458 new teachers or pay for 350,000 GED test-prep programs or launch a micro-lending program for minority and women entrepreneurs.”
Part of the anger at FreshDirect’s move comes from the fact that residents feel completely shut out of the process. The decision was announced without any meetings with the community board, of which Johnson is a member. “It never came before the land use subcommittee, it never came before the full board, we only heard about the plan when it was announced, then two days later there was a public meeting at the IDA office, in the financial district,” Johnson, a member of the board, said. “Nothing happened in our community, where residents of this area could voice their concerns about how this would affect them, until it was already a done deal.”
Sandy Pope, who was involved in a community fight over development at the Red Hook piers in Brooklyn, said during that fight there were numerous meetings in the neighborhood with the community board. When it came to the less-desirable real estate in the South Bronx, though, residents were left out of the loop, their input not considered.
Looking at FreshDirect’s sweetheart deal, Michael Powell noted that the company pays $48,000 a year (nearly twice what its average warehouse worker makes) to a well-connected lobbyist, Evan Stavisky’s Parkside Group. This year, with the move coming, Powell reported that the company added Steve Polivy of Akerman Seterfitt, giving him $17,825–so far–to lobby city politicians and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, a public agency, for subsidies for FreshDirect.
Pope contended that the company has never been viable without government aid—from the very start, it relied on subsidies and tax breaks from the city. Without taxpayer dollars and low pay for its workers, she said, the company wouldn’t still be in business. “As investors, the EDC, whoever is making these decisions, they’re not looking at the viability of this company,” she said.
But Bronx borough president Diaz is all in, even setting up a Facebook page for “supporters” of the move. Yet that might not be working out the way he thought it would. One of those “Bronxites for FreshDirect” says “this is ridiculous!!! further low wage jobs, pollution and gentrification!! no to fresh direct! what are u thinking mr borough president!” Another says “If they won’t deliver to me (12 blocks away from proposed site) I don’t want them here. The insult makes me want to spit out of sheer disgust as to how we are a 2 class city.”
“I think they’re using us,” Josephina Colon, a South Bronx resident, told AlterNet.
Exploited Workers
Even if FreshDirect does bring 300 new jobs to the South Bronx, what kind of jobs will they be?
FreshDirect’s current workers barely make a living. Nearly 40 percent of the company’s employees make less than $25,000 a year. For hauling boxes in the refrigerated warehouse in Long Island City, workers get $8.75 an hour; drivers make $8 and the chance of being tipped—but since the company already charges a $5 delivery fee and requires customers to pre-pay by credit card, tips are anything but a sure thing.
Local 805 has been struggling for years to organize the FreshDirect workers, who Pope points out make about 20 to 25 percent less in wages and benefits than other non-union workers in the city. The company, though, has used every trick in the book to block the organizing drive.
Public Advocate deBlasio wrote in 2010 that the workers make only two-thirds of what the average warehouse worker makes nationwide—this in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The healthcare package FreshDirect offers is unaffordable to most of its employees, Pope said. And in the past four years, the company has faced 27 discrimination complaints and nine unfair labor claims filed with city, state and federal agencies.
“We spent 2010 and 2011 working on pressuring FreshDirect to just agree to neutrality, no card check, just an expedited election,” Pope told AlterNet. The maintenance workers led the way in the union fight, but, Pope said, at the last minute the company moved workers into the maintenance unit, stacking the vote against the union. Still, even with all the company’s pressure, they only lost the union election by a single vote.
Low-wage jobs like the ones FreshDirect provides often leave workers dependent on public assistance to pay their bills. So taxpayers end up on the hook both for the subsidies and tax breaks given to the company to keep it from leaving town, and then on the back end, paying for workers who can’t afford health insurance but still get sick, or can’t afford to feed their families without SNAP and WIC benefits The Bronx already has plenty of working poor residents struggling to get by. Will 300 more low-wage jobs change anything?
Pope remains convinced that the company is only viable because the government keeps it afloat. “You’ve got a company that has not yet proven they can operate without subsidies, with an underpaid workforce with no benefits. What if they actually had to pay people even minimally OK wages and benefits?” she asked.
Immigration Raids and the Chill Factor
In the midst of the Teamsters’ organizing drive at FreshDirect, a surprise Immigration and Customs Enforcement audit was announced, checking the low-wage employees for immigration documents. According to Pope, about 300 workers were driven off by the immigration check.
Pope suspects the company called in an audit in order to break up their organizing drive. It wouldn’t be the first time ICE has conveniently arrived just in time to shut down workers’ attempt at forming a union.
Under the Obama administration, silent ICE audits have replaced worksite raids as the method of choice for cracking down on undocumented workers. While there are consequences and penalties against the employer, it’s the employees who bear the brunt of the impact as they are the ones out of a job. “If you’re an employer in a facility being unionized, an ICE audit is basically a gift in disguise because firing undocumented workers turns into an act of compliance with the law, as opposed to busting a union,” Carlos Jimenez, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union, said.
It’s hard to prove for sure what triggers an investigation, he noted, because they tend to target low-wage workplaces, which tend to have a concentration of undocumented workers, and also tend to be a focus for labor unions attempting to organize workers. The raids, while on the surface not clearly connected to a union drive, don’t actually make conditions better for the workers who do remain. “It’s not like employers start treating their employees any better once they verify they’re all documented,” Jimenez pointed out. “In fact the raids probably have the opposite effect; the people who remain might start to associate the firings with their efforts to make improvements at work. And undocumented workers at other facilities might fear that if they try to form a union, the same thing will happen to them.”
That’s certainly been the case for FreshDirect. After the raid, Pope noted, the workers have been less likely to speak out. “They just felt like anything could happen,” she said.
Greenwashing and High-Tech Cred
FreshDirect was ranked as one of New York City’s “top startups” in 2010, valued then at $300 million, but despite its high-tech gloss relies, as we’ve seen, on a decidedly low-tech business model—low-paid warehouse workers loading lots of trucks that are driven by low-paid workers to the doorsteps of, for the most part, harried middle-class Manhattan and Brooklyn residents. The sleek 21st-century image of a green web-based company delivering local food (at premium prices), fresh produce, supporting local farmers, using recycled boxes, relies on a fleet of trucks that still run on diesel (despite years-old promises to replace them with biodiesel and electric vehicles).
The (non-binding) promise FreshDirect made to the Bronx is that it will convert, within five years, to a completely green fleet of trucks, but Bronx residents don’t believe it. A website set up to oppose the company’s move and attendant subsidies argues, “FreshDirect would exacerbate asthma rates among a community already facing asthma hospitalizations at five times the national average. FreshDirect would add upwards of 2,000 diesel truck trips per day through a residential neighborhood. The same public land set to house FreshDirect already holds a FedEx hub making over 1,400 daily truck trips through the neighborhood, the New York Post printing and distribution center, and a 5,000-ton-per-day waste transfer station, one of four waste transfer stations within a 1/8 mile radius of the proposed site.”
Pope said that larger trucks delivering groceries to local stores around the city have to observe stricter rules after a Department of Transportation study on how to reduce pollution, but by subsidizing FreshDirect, the city is now encouraging the propagation of little trucks all over the city. In 2009, then-attorney general (now pro-FreshDirect governor) Andrew Cuomo came to a settlement with FreshDirect that included $50,000 in fines for violating anti-idling laws after city residents complained about the trucks idling and releasing pollutants in their neighborhoods. And as far back as 2007, the company promised to switch to biodiesel and plug-in electric vehicles—promises that have so far not come to pass.
“We’re giving them $10 million to buy trucks from Smith Electric, they’re saying within five years that they’re going to convert their entire fleet,” Johnson commented. “If they didn’t do it in 2007, why would they now? It’s just telling us fairy tales.”
Johnson also pointed out that the Harlem River Yards land where the FreshDirect facility will go was supposed to be used to reduce traffic by developing a rail line. The land is owned by the New York State Department of Transportation, and has been leased for 99 years to Harlem River Yard Ventures, which is owned in turn by real estate developer Galesi Group. Yet there has been no development on the land since it’s held the lease—the only thing that’s happened, Johnson said, is that the Bronx residents can’t access their waterfront.
Despite claims that the area is non-residential and thus wouldn’t disturb the community or add to the air quality problems, Johnson said there are 400 housing units nearby, and that the whole area has been rezoned as a mixed-use area so that residents can live and work in the same spaces.
The biggest problem with the FreshDirect move, Johnson said, is that none of the promises the company had to make to the city are binding. And while officials might talk tough about recouping subsidies if the corporation doesn’t come through, Michael Powell pressed the president of the public Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation as to whether she’d ever done so before. The answer was no.
New York City residents, like people around the country, continue to struggle with a rough economy, stagnant wages and rising cost of living. Do they really need to hand out millions in deals to corporations that, despite a shiny quasi-progressive reputation, are just perpetuating a race to the bottom on wages, exploiting workers and relying on corporate welfare to rake in the profits?
Mychal Johnson and Bronx residents think not. “Enough is enough, that’s why we’re standing up.”
Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

Have you seen this yet?! What you may not know about FreshDirect

What You May Not Know About Fresh Direct from Olivia Smith on Vimeo.
Controversy is growing over Fresh Direct’s planned move to the Bronx. The online grocery store received almost $130 million in tax credits and cash incentives from New York state to relocate. But lost in all this is what you may not know about Fresh Direct and its impact on the environment. Olivia Smith reports.

Mychal’s NYMTC Testimony


Mychal Johnson at the Harlem River Rail Yards


Mychal Johnson also testified at today’s hearing. Thank you for a job well done! 

New York Metropolitan Transit Council
March 1, 2012
Statement of Arthur Mychal Johnson

My name is Arthur Mychal Johnson.  I am a resident and homeowner in the South Bronx, and I am a member of Community Board 1 and the Economic Development and Land Use Subcommittee.

I have come here today to identify a very serious problem we have with one of New York State Department of Transportation’s properties.  The property, owned by the State of New York under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, is a 94 acre waterfront lot in the South Bronx known as Harlem River Yards.  The property was leased for 99 years in 1991 to a private developer, Harlem River Rail Ventures, Inc. (having an office c/o the Galesi Group, Building 6, East Road, Rotterdam, New York, 12306), for the purpose of increasing utilization of rail freight services and reducing truck traffic congestion.

One Final Environmental Impact Statement was approved, purporting to cover all possible developments on the land over the full 99 year period.

Over the last 21 years, Harlem River Rail Ventures has failed to develop the intermodal rail terminal, which was the centerpiece of the policy behind the Department of Transportation’s lease of the land.  During that same 21 years, however, the community has been forced to endure severe health hazards as a result of poor air quality caused by uses of the Harlem River Yards.

In the South Bronx, we have an asthma epidemic.  Asthma hospitalizations are five times the national average; asthma deaths are three times the national average; and it is estimated that 1 in every 5 children in the South Bronx has asthma.

Harlem River Yards currently holds a FedEx hub making over 1,400 daily truck trips through the neighborhood, the New York Post printing and distribution center, and a 5000 ton per day waste transfer station, one of four waste transfer stations located within a 1/8 mile radius.  And, Fresh Direct has just received more than $100 million in public subsidies to relocate to the Harlem River Yards, adding upwards of 2,000 daily vehicle trips through the neighborhood.

The cumulative effect of such facilities is staggering.

The industrial and heavy manufacturing uses on Harlem River Yards are also inconsistent with the surrounding area, which has been repeatedly rezoned over the last 21 years to foster residential and commercial development, explore community access to the waterfront, which Harlem River Yards blocks, and to turn the area into a “Gateway to the Bronx”.

In 1997, a five-block area adjacent to the Harlem River Yards was rezoned as a mixed use district. The new zoning was a catalyst for strengthening the area’s emerging antique businesses and for revitalizing the residential character of this historically mixed use neighborhood.  As a result of the rezoning, approximately 42 rowhouses were rehabilitated, 36 new residential units were created or reactivated on upper floors of buildings, 50 lofts in a former piano factory were converted, and new ground floor retail and exhibit spaces were opened.

Then in 2005, building on the success of the 1997 rezoning, New York City Council rezoned a further eleven blocks surrounding the area for mixed use, this time including a focus on improved waterfront access.

The New York City Department of City Planning began examining options for waterfront access for residents cut off from the waterfront because of Harlem River Yards, and included the area in the agency’s Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.  In response to the rezoning, a new 419-unit residential development adjacent to the Harlem River Yards was built in 2010 and is now occupied.

The current usage of Harlem River Yards is no longer compatible with the change in the area’s residential composition.  Severe risks exist for even higher asthma rates and other related health conditions.

Therefore, I request that the Department of Transportation place a moratorium on all new development at Harlem River Yards, including with respect to Fresh Direct’s proposed development, and conduct a thorough review of the current uses of the land, as well as the cumulative effects of such uses on the residents of the South Bronx, taking full account of the socio-economic makeup of the neighborhood and the disproportionate impact on the poorest congressional district in the country.

Lily’s NYMTC Testimony

The wonderful Lily Kesselman testified at todays New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) annual meeting. Below is her testimony.
Good morning!  My name is Lily Kesselman and I’m a resident of the South Bronx. 
I come to you to voice concerns from residents in Mott Haven – also known as Asthma Alley.  I’m also a student at Farm School studying urban farming and food justice.
According to the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems Robert F Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Bronx county has one of the highest asthma rates in the United States and rates of death by asthma in the Bronx are 3 TIMES the national average; hospitalization rates are 5 TIMES higher and in some neighborhoods it is estimated that 20% of ALL children have asthma. Within NYC the disparity in asthma hospitalization rates is pronounced – one study shows hospitalization rates in Bronx County and East Harlem are 21 TIMES high than those in affluent parts of the New York. 
Bronx County has the highest pediatric asthma hospitalization rates in the New York area.  Asthma has been linked to numerous pollutants including carbon monoxide, and a particularly dangerous particulate exhausted exclusively from diesel engines.  The South Bronx residents are in a critical situation – we need to REDUCE traffic, congestion and these appalling statistics. 
The Harlem River Rail Yard Ventures lease was designed to “Reduce Congestion from Truck Traffic” by completing an intermodal rail system, which they have not.  Since the lease took effect, the Harlem River Rail Yard Ventures has not taken one single action to reduce congestion; they continue to sublease land to business that that block public access to the waterfront and bring in thousands of trucks through our streets each day.
And now they want to bring in FreshDirect.  This “deal” was never brought up for discussion at Community Board 1.  This “deal” is funded by taxpayers. This “deal” is detrimental to The South Bronx. This “deal” is literally killing New Yorkers.  This “deal” gives not only taxpayer money in the millions but taxpayer land to corporate entities for private profits. 
I was at the State of the Borough with Ruben Diaz Jr., who stated that FreshDirect will purchase 10 electric trucks with a “WISH” to convert all trucks someday with no promises, all funded with public money and no recourse if their “Wish” is not fulfilled.  No recourse.  None. They can buy whatever trucks they want, pay whatever wages they want and not repay a dime.  And the company say they will purchase these trucks fro, Smith Electric, has not even built it’s factory in The South Bronx yet but is another recipient of Tax breaks and incentives from New York Taxpayers. 
At the moment current Harlem River Yards tenants rack up 42,000 truck trips per month and the FreshDirect proposal would add 30,000 diesel truck trips and 60,000 vehicle trips through this neighborhood each month.  Further, the NYS DOT’s tenant, Harlem River Yards Venture, will not accept the offer from the EDC for an easement that would allow the footbridge to be completed and allow residents to walk to Randall’s Island.  Since the Harlem River Yards lease was signed, the areas surrounding the site have been rezoned for residential use and the area has been included in the NYC Comprehensive Waterfront plant – but this, along with The Greenway – can not be completed due to the Harlem River Rail Yards Ventures.
The NYS DOT has committed $10 million dollars in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding for the first year offering vouchers of $20,000 per vehicle.  How about using funds to create spaces that combat  asthma and give all taxpayers and residents access to this public land that belongs to New Yorkers?  This land belongs to New York State, meaning residents should have access to this land and should have a voice in how it is used.  Why does New York State fund a private company with both public property and public land for the benefit of just a few business owners? And why must South Bronx residents have to suffer the life long physical consequences of asthma to the benefit of Fresh Direct?  
And why should Bronx residents be forced to live with an eyesore of a factory built along a scenic waterfront property when every other neighborhoods enjoys city funding to develop these areas as recreation and residential oaisiss? 
Also, I am the daughter of a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians in the Northwest Coast. The Department of Transportation is aware that the land consisting of the Harlem River Land Yards is historically significant containing evidence of a Ranchqua Village and burial ground. The DOT acknowledges that artifacts of the Ranchqua Village may be present beneath the 15 feet of fill that now covers portions of the site. It is unconscionable that the DOT would allow and  fund Fresh Directs 500,000 sq ft facility on top of this native American settlement ultimately destroying archaeological evidence of the village and burial ground. This property needs to be protected and studied.  These artifacts concern all people and we have the right to explore this land.
We want the NYSDOT review the lease conveniently written by the Harlem River Rail Yards.  We want the Harlem River Rail Yards Ventures to be forced to comply with an easement giving residents access and enabling the completion of the walkway.  We want The Greenway. We want Fresh Direct out and we want to bring in sustainable business and families – not be forced out of our waterfront property by publicly funded corporations.

What You May Not Know About Fresh Direct (Video)

What You May Not Know About Fresh Direct from Olivia Smith on Vimeo.
Controversy is growing over Fresh Direct’s planned move to the Bronx. The online grocery store received almost $130 million in tax credits and cash incentives from New York state to relocate. But lost in all this is what you may not know about Fresh Direct and its impact on the environment. Olivia Smith reports.

The Brian Lehrer Show – Feat. Ruben Diaz Jr.

Listen to Ruben Diaz Jr. on the Brian Leher Show, the BP mentioned that the community had an opportunity to provide input on the FD plan on at least two occasions. The first was the IDA hearing after the announcement was made two days later in Manhattan.  The other, he claims was made by EDC to the Community Board which is FALSE!!!!

The community board was not consulted.

Listen Here!

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.

…with love for our hood in truth always…