Tag Archives: FreshDirect

Lawsuit in the News


Bronx Residents Protest $130M Subsidies For Online

Law360, New York (September 07, 2012, 4:06 PM ET) — A group
of South Bronx residents on Thursday challenged the legality of some of the
nearly $130 million in subsidies made to online grocer FreshDirect LLC for its
planned 500,000-square-foot shipping facility, as well as the constitutionality
of its sublease at the site.

In an amended complaint filed in New York
state court, two community groups known as Friends of Brook Park and South Bronx
Unite and a group of individual residents allege that the city and Empire State
Development Corp. overstepped their authority in approving.

See the entire article here:
Aerial view of the Harlem River Yard in the Bronx.
Harlem River Yards

South Bronx Residents File Suit to Stop FreshDirect’s Move

South Bronx Residents File Suit to Stop FreshDirect’s Move
Seek Comprehensive Analysis of FreshDirect’s Affect on Health, Environmental and Quality of Life
Bronx, NY, June 13, 2012 – Residents and community organizations from the South Bronx filed suit today at Bronx Supreme Court aiming to halt FreshDirect’s move to public waterfront land at the Harlem River Yards in the South Bronx, a relocation that would use $130M of public money.
The lawsuit seeks to compel defendants to conduct a comprehensive analysis of how FreshDirect’s move would adversely affect the environmental health and quality of life of South Bronx residents, as is required by law. The move would, among other things, add thousands of diesel truck and car trips every day to a community that is already over-polluted and that has very high rates of asthma and other negative health conditions associated with exposure to pollution. 
In addition, the plot of land FreshDirect wants to occupy is across the street from a 420-unit apartment complex and adjacent to hundreds of additional residential units and small businesses, developed in response to successful rezoning efforts over the last fifteen years.
The cumulative effects of the proposed FreshDirect move would be devastating. The Harlem River Yards already house a 5,000 ton-per-day waste transfer station, as well as enormous hubs for FedEx and the New York Post, and a fossil fuel power plant. This despite the fact that the land is owned by the State and as such, supposed to be used to the benefit of the public.
“We are not New York’s dumping ground,” said resident Mychal Johnson, who serves on Community Board 1. “Our asthma rates are at five times the national average. We need jobs, but we also need to breathe.”
Defendants, including New York City Industrial Development Agency, New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York State Department of Transportation, Empire State Development Corporation, Harlem River Yard Ventures, UTF Trucking, and FreshDirect, failed to hold a public hearing before announcing the move and failed to discuss the proposed 500,000 square-foot project with the local Community Board.
“Enough is enough,” said Harry Bubbins, Director of Friends of Brook Park, “we have too much pollution here. We need what other communities have: green space, waterfront access, mixed use development with affordable housing, local commercial enterprises, and green jobs.”
South Bronx residents and community organizations, including La Peña del Bronx, Pueblo en Marcha, Friends of Brook Park, and South Bronx Unite, have joined together to file this lawsuit with representation from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and pro bono co-counsel Schindler, Cohen & Hochman, LLP.
“The Fresh Direct project has been improperly forced upon the South Bronx.  The City excluded the community from its decision-making processes and systematically understated the Project’s environmental impacts in an effort to avoid public scrutiny of the harms this project will create,” said Christina Giorgio, attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “This is unacceptable and irresponsible for a project that would add at least 3,000 cars and diesel trucks every day into a community already plagued by asthma and high pollution.”
“None of those involved with this plan live here,” said resident Monxo Lopez, “our neighborhood is energized and taking charge of its own development and destiny.”
In addition to the lawsuit, City Council Member Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Arroyo, State Senator Serrano and U.S. Congressman Serrano have joined local residents and called for a moratorium on all new development, including FreshDirect, until an analysis is undertaken of the current uses of the land on which FreshDirect proposes to move and the effects such uses have on the community.
About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) advances equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Through community lawyering, NYLPI puts its legal, policy and community organizing expertise at the service of New York City communities and individuals. NYLPI’s partnership with the private bar strengthens its advocacy and connects community groups and nonprofits with critical legal assistance. NYLPI is the recipient of the 2010 New York Times Awards for Nonprofit Excellence.
About South Bronx Unite
South Bronx Unite is a coalition of South Bronx residents, organizations, and allies.

Follow us at www.southbronxunite.com

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.

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.

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.

A great NYT article featuring Mychal Johnson

To wander the industrial prairies that edge the Harlem River in the Bronx is to discover an archaeological dig of government subsidies and unfilled promises.
Here, between the peeling steel girders of the Willis Avenue and Robert F. Kennedy Bridges, Mychal Johnson, a lithe, goateed and good-humored Mott Haven resident and community board member, sweeps his arms at grass rising waist-high out of rail pilings, and at the massive green wall of a waste plant.
Soon, FreshDirect, the deliver-groceries-to-your-apartment company, is to build a sprawling, taxpayer-subsidized plant here, with 130 delivery trucks rumbling about day and night.
“This was supposed to be where railyards changed the city’s transportation,” Mr. Johnson says. “Now we’re going to have trucks pouring more pollution into a neighborhood with the worst asthma rates in New York.”
In the early 1990s, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo gave the Galesi Company a sweetheart of a 99-year lease to control these 104 acres, the Harlem River Yards. The governor promised a world-class train yard that would create 5,000 jobs and give the city cleaner air. None of that happened. Galesi, however, found a land of promise. The company had leased the acreage at one-third the going rate. And public agencies poured in tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to place rent-paying companies on Galesi’s land.
Now FreshDirect steps into this gilded breach, holding a $127.8 million fistful of cash and tax breaks. City and state officials often describe FreshDirect, which will lease its land from Galesi, as “iconic.” Certainly its owners tug at public subsidy programs with the assurance of a farmer sitting before a swollen dairy cow.
Not long ago, FreshDirect got a $2 million subsidy to build in Queens. Then the company batted its eyes at New Jersey, and officials there dangled a $100 million subsidy package. This seemed more a feint than a threat, as FreshDirect would have been on the wrong side of the clogged Hudson River tunnels from its customer base. But New York officials tumbled over themselves getting to the bargaining table.
Before we go further, let me make an admission. I’ve called FreshDirect, particularly when our boys were young and schlepping them to the supermarket promised a cacophonous experiment in emotional meltdown. I don’t doubt there is a market for bringing groceries to the harried.
City officials faced a difficult choice. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has tried to steel himself against the siren song of corporate welfare. He risked second guessing, should FreshDirect, with about 2,000 working-class jobs, depart.
As for the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., this deal made a small-town booster of him. He signed an unenforceable memorandum in which FreshDirect talks of, maybe, reserving 300 jobs for Bronx residents. His staff members tossed up a Facebook site: “Bronxites for FreshDirect.” Alas, those who are posting appear mostly to be opposed, perhaps because FreshDirect refuses to deliver in much of the Bronx.
Mr. Diaz was undaunted; he framed the question for the naysayers: “Do we say no to the potential of 3,000 jobs?”
That’s the wrong question. The company has promised to create 1,000 jobs over the next 10 years. And the city can exact no penalty for failure. Should FreshDirect fall short, it faces no requirement to repay the subsidies.
Jason Ackerman made his bones at a now-defunct investment house before founding FreshDirect. He is very 21st century, talking of locavores and freshness and supporting farmers. His warehouses tend more toward the early 20th century. If you haul 50-pound boxes in the 38 degree chill of the warehouse, you can make $8.75 an hour; ride the trucks, and haul boxes down sidewalks and up stairs, and you get $8, along with whatever tips are tossed your way.
Local 805 of the Teamsters made unsuccessful runs at organizing the warehouse workers. In the last effort, just before the certifying election, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a surprise audit of FreshDirect. The company checked its files for Social Security cards and — surprise! — found many workers without documents. Between 100 and 300 left.
The company insisted it had nothing to do with the audit.
There are those, not the least South Bronx residents, who wonder if America’s densest city should so richly encourage a business that pays little and logs tens of thousands of pollution-belching hours to make deliveries. They could use parkland instead. City officials wave off such objections as beside the point.
As for Mr. Ackerman, he is buoyant. He wrote the cover letter to accompany his application for the subsidies.
“We are proud to support New York, through employment, service and good will!” he wrote. “We are New Yorkers!”
How grand. Imagine if his company paid for that pleasure.

Harlem River Working Group Meeting (Emergency Change of Location due to FreshDirect Decision)

Please join us at the HRWG meeting (see details below). Both Senator Serrano’s chief of staff and Councilmember Foster’s chief of staff will be attending!
We have changed our meeting to a place in Community Board 1 due to the situation that has been occurring around FreshDirect.
The Emergency Change of Location
Harlem River Working Group Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2012
6-8 pm
East Side Settlement House Cafeteria
201 St. Ann’s Avenue
(at the corner of 137th Street – 1 block from Brook Avenue)
Directions: Take the 6 Train to Brook Avenue Stop.
NOTE:  5pm, HRWG members may want to meet at the corner of 132nd and St Ann’s Avenue to discuss the Highbridge Yards Site and walk to the site of the Proposed Greenway connector at 132nd and the Amtrack Bridge.
Please send other agenda items for the meeting ASAP.
Thank you for your understanding about the last minute changes!!

…with love for our hood in truth always…