Two City Council members ask state to delay South Bronx deal for FreshDirect pending property audit
FreshDirect deal remains controversial
BY DANIEL BEEKMAN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 6:00 AM
FRANCES ROBERTS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
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They claim the city Industrial Development Agency relied on an outdated environment impact statement when it judged the FreshDirect plan.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.