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, firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 810-0562Harry Bubbins, email@example.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:
Council Member Viverito blog post:
Background on Mr. Galesi:
Leaked documents with relocation cost comparison: