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City Council Members Urge Audit of South Bronx Waterfront Lease and Moratorium on Polluting Developments like FreshDirect

City Council Members Urge Audit of South Bronx Waterfront Lease and Moratorium on Polluting Developments like FreshDirect

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE12:30 PM Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mychal Johnson,  mychaljohnson@gmail.com(212) 810-0562Harry Bubbins, h.bubbins@gmail.com(646) 648 4362
                                                                                                        South Bronx community residents and activists are excited about the recent letter signed by local City Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Maria del Carmen Arroyo calling for a moratorium on any development on the South Bronx waterfront, including the controversial FreshDirect proposal.

The entire southern shore of the Bronx is owned by the public under the auspices of the New York State Department of Transportation.  In 1993 an unprecedented 99 year lease was granted to the Galesi Group’s Harlem River Rail Yards Ventures, an Albany insider real estate firm that distributes political contributions to both major parties despite litigation from the South Bronx Clean Air Coalition.  Francesco Galesi was a member of the Audit Committee for Worldcom which signed off on years’ worth of cooked books that the misstated $3.9 billion in costs as revenue.
While mentioning a number of troubling concerns, the Council Members highlighted the potential impact on air quality and asthma. The cumulative effect of such facilities on air quality in the South Bronx, where we have an asthma epidemic, is staggering. Asthma hospitalizations in the South Bronx are five times the national average; asthma deaths are three times the national average; and it is estimated that one in every five children in the South Bronx has asthma.”
The letter further echoed longstanding concerns that were raised in two different audits in the past by the New York State Comptroller’s office. “Adding insult to injury, Harlem River Yard Ventures collects approximately $500,000 per month in rent from its subleases’, while paying only $43,000 per month in rent to DOT for the entire 94 acres.”
 The FreshDirect proposal relies on a 1993 Environmental Impact Statement for a community that has undergone numerous land-use changes and greenway initiatives and changes in the character of the area.

“They have not considered how the neighborhood has changed from 20 years ago.  We have rezoned the area and there is a brand new 400+ apartment complex right next to the proposed site. This is a budding residential area with new developments and loft conversions; it is not an industrial wasteland” said Mychal Johnson. “We need open space and waterfront access and real economic development.” 
The proposed relocation is a “slap in the face to the people of the South Bronx,” said Ivylese Andino, a 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.”

Furthermore, the contention that FreshDirect would move to New Jersey seems to have been a falsehood meant to extract an offer of greater public subsidies.  Leaked documents have revealed that, according to their own analysis, it is cheaper and possible for FreshDirect to remain in Long Island City. ”They did not share this information with the Governor and the Mayor,” said Harry Bubbins, director of a local environmental organization.”  We are confident that when they learn about the misleading statements, the package of public subsidies will be significantly lowered and an action plan for keeping FreshDirect in Long Island City (while saving tax payer resources) will be implemented.”

Council Members Viverito and Arroyo concluded by writing,  “Therefore, we request that the Department of Transportation audit the lease for this property, consider declaring an event of default, and explore the State’s remedies in the event of such default. We also request that the Department of Transportation place a moratorium on all new development at Harlem River Yards, including with respect to FreshDirect’s proposed development, until a thorough review of the current uses of the land and the cumulative effects of such uses on the residents of the South Bronx can be done, taking full account of the socio-economic makeup of the neighborhood and the disproportionate impact on the poorest congressional district in the country.”

Council Members Viverito and Arroyo Letter:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3KiqZzVHu8LV0hvODkteXVUOWM/edit?pli=1

Council Member Viverito blog post:

http://mmviverito.com/2012/05/07/melissa-and-council-member-maria-del-carmen-arroyo-call-for-better-use-of-the-harlem-river-rail-yard/

Background on Mr. Galesi:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/bal-wboard11,0,348796.story

Leaked documents with relocation cost comparison:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8qEdzX5fireVU8xcmpiNjlRdDZDRVNVSzhuQU9zZw/edit

Press Advisory | New Yorkers Say “Enough is Enough”: City-wide Boycott of FreshDirect to be Launched

 

PRESS ADVISORY  Photo Opportunity
For Immediate Release
New Yorkers Say “Enough is Enough”: City-wide Boycott of FreshDirect to be Launched
Contacts:
Harry Bubbins, Friends of Brook Park, cell: 646-648-4362
Mychal Johnson, Bronx Community Board 1 Member and Resident, cell: 212-810-0562
WHO:
Residents of the South Bronx fighting FreshDirect proposal to move to their neighborhood
WHAT:
Press conference to announce a city-wide boycott of FreshDirect.  Press conference held in the Upper West Side neighborhood that has been battling the violent noise levels caused by FreshDirect’s fleet of trucks for years.
WHEN:
Wednesday, March 21st, 4:30 p.m.
WHERE:
Verdi Square Park, 72nd and Broadway
WHY:
FreshDirect stands to receive nearly $130 million in public subsidies to move its headquarters to public waterfront land in the South Bronx, bringing upwards of 2,000 daily vehicle trips through a neighborhood with asthma hospitalization rates five times the national average. The company, by its own analysis, is able to stay and expand in its current Long Island City location, which would be less expensive than moving to the Bronx. The move to the South Bronx would entail building next to a waste transfer station and on land documented with evidence of a Native American settlement and burial ground. New Yorkers are dismayed that city, state and borough leaders would subsidize FreshDirect’s loud, polluting and excessively idling diesel trucks that overburden New York City streets, particularly given the company’s refusal to pay living wages and its history of unfair labor practice claims.
See www.boycottfreshdirect.nyc for more information.

The Facts – FreshDirect does not belong in the South Bronx

FreshDirect does not belong in the South Bronx

Public officials have misrepresented the details of the proposed move of Fresh Direct. South Bronx residents in “Asthma Alley” continue to ask New York City and State to oppose FreshDirect’s taxpayer-funded relocation.

First, FreshDirect would not bring a single guarantied job to the South Bronx. Despite what elected officials have said, the $127.8 million in public funds awarded to FreshDirect carries no mandate that they add any jobs or hire a single person from the South Bronx, a fact reaffirmed by the non-binding agreement between FreshDirect and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz.
Additionally, FreshDirect has a well-documented history of unfair labor practices and would be exempt from city living wage requirements.

Second, 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 5000 ton per day waste transfer station, one of four waste transfer stations within a 1/8 mile radius of the proposed site.

Third, FreshDirect plans to build on land documented to be a Native American burial ground and settlement. The owner of this historically significant site, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), acknowledges that artifacts of the Ranachqua Village and burial ground may be present.

Fourth, DOT’s twenty-one year-old agreement with a private developer is outdated and harming residents. The 1991 lease to Harlem River Yard Ventures (HRYV) was designed to “reduce congestion from truck traffic” by developing the rail system. While HRYV failed to follow through on this, surrounding areas have drastically changed: land bordering the site has been rezoned for residential use, significant residential development has taken place, and the area has been included in the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan. Despite local development and city planning, however, HRYV continues to sublease to companies that block public access to the waterfront and cause egregious levels of air, water, land, and noise pollution. The City, State, Borough and Fresh Direct all ignored these facts when crafting the proposed move to the South Bronx.

Fifth, FreshDirect will not provide food to the South Bronx. FreshDirect plans to use a handout from the Bronx to move to public land in the Bronx without providing any service to the
community they want to occupy.

Finally, architects of this deal ignored the democratic process and were not upfront with the public. Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Borough President Diaz announced that the deal was done two days before the sole public hearing on the matter. In doing so, they publicly demonstrated that community input was not important. Additionally, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has refuted the notion that they made a competitive offer to support a FreshDirect move across the Hudson.

South Bronx residents deserve better.

South Bronx Unite | is a alliance of South Bronx residents, organizations, and allies. Follow us on
www.southbronxunite.org

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.

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.

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.