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Two City Council members ask state to delay South Bronx deal for FreshDirect pending property audit (Daily News Article)

Two City Council members ask state to delay South Bronx deal for FreshDirect pending property audit 

FreshDirect deal remains controversial

Two City Council members are demanding more information related to a new headquarters for FreshDirect at the Harlem River Rail Yard.


Two City Council members are demanding more information related to a new headquarters for FreshDirect at the Harlem River Rail Yard.

The food fight over FreshDirect is still raging.
Two months after the Bloomberg administration approved $82 million in subsidies for the company to move to the South Bronx, two City Council members have asked the Cuomo administration to halt the deal.
Melissa Mark-Viverito and Maria del Carmen Arroyo want Albany to delay the move pending an audit of the Harlem River Rail Yards, the state-owned, privately-controlled waterfront site where FreshDirect plans to build its new headquarters.
“We need greater transparency,” Mark-Viverito said Tuesday.
The city, state and the Bronx have already committed about $120 million to the online grocer, with some caveats, but the Cuomo-controlled Empire State Development Corp. has yet to approve an additional $9 million. It expects to vote on the grant this summer.
“We are concerned that this property has been and continues to be used in a manner that is causing severe harm to the residents of the South Bronx and that undermines nearly two decades of rezoning and development,” the councilwomen wrote in a May 3 letter to Joan McDonald, state Department of Transportation commissioner.
When Harlem River Yard Ventures leased the site from the state DOT in 1991, the company vowed to develop a new rail system that would reduce local truck traffic.
But Mark-Viverito and Arroyo claim it has done the opposite, inking subleases with heavy truck users such as FedEx, the New York Post and now FreshDirect.
The DOT said it will respond later this month.
Garbage trains do leave the site by rail, noted Mychal Johnson, a community activist who has opposed the FreshDirect move.
The result is a neighborhood clogged with polluting trucks and stinky trains full of trash from other parts of the city, he said.
The 99-year lease held by Harlem River Yard Ventures was at one point slammed by a state controller as a sweetheart deal.
The company declined to comment. It collects about $500,000 per month from its subleases but pays just $43,000 per month in rent to the state, Mark-Viverito and Arroyo wrote.
They claim the city Industrial Development Agency relied on an outdated environment impact statement when it judged the FreshDirect plan. The 1993 statement was put together before rezonings that generated new housing and made the neighborhood less suitable for industry.
Furthermore, Mark-Viverito believes FreshDirect could remain in Long Island City, Queens.
Mayor Bloomberg and others argued subsidies were needed to keep the growing firm from bolting to New Jersey.
But in its application for Garden State subsidies, the growing firm described a Queens expansion as a cheap, viable option.

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:


Council Member Viverito blog post:


Background on Mr. Galesi:


Leaked documents with relocation cost comparison:


Joint letter with Counselmembers Mark-Viverito and Arroyo – Harlem River Rail Yard Letter to NYSDOT


Because of all the hard work by all of us in so many ways, we have just received a joint letter from New York City Councilwomen Maria Del Carmen Arroyo and Melissa Mark Viverito to the NYSDOT asking for and audit of the lease to the Galesi Group’s for the Harlem River Rail Yards and a moratorium on all present development until a revue can be completed.

See the letter here:

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
Harry Bubbins, Friends of Brook Park, cell: 646-648-4362
Mychal Johnson, Bronx Community Board 1 Member and Resident, cell: 212-810-0562
Residents of the South Bronx fighting FreshDirect proposal to move to their neighborhood
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.
Wednesday, March 21st, 4:30 p.m.
Verdi Square Park, 72nd and Broadway
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

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