Monday, August 18, 2014

18 Bronx Politicians Express Concern About FreshDirect's Unfair Wages & Anti-Union Activity. Residents Ask: What About Health?

18 Bronx Politicians Express Concern About FreshDirect's Unfair Wages & Anti-Union Activity

Now urge them to equally advocate for the health of our community. Please help put an end to decades of dumping diesel truck intensive businesses
in the South Bronx!

Last week, in response to UFCW Local 2013, eighteen Bronx politicians wrote a letter to FreshDirect to express concern about unfair wages and anti-union activity.  See letter here.

This week, South Bronx Unite responded with a letter thanking them for urging FreshDirect to engage in fair wage and labor practices.  We also asked them to equally consider the negative impact of FreshDirect's proposed move on the health of South Bronx residents, who have been forced to fight against bad policy (for decades) causing severe environmental degradation and an alarming health crisis.  See letter here.

Below are the Bronx politicians that signed the letter.  If you are in their district, please call them, email them or set up a meeting with them to urge them to equally advocate for an end to decades of dumping diesel truck intensive businesses in the South Bronx.

Bronx Elected Officials

Senator Adriano Espaillat
5030 Broadway, New York, NY10034

Senator Jeff Klein
1250 Waters Place, Suite 1202, Bronx, NY10461

Senator Ruth Hassel-Thompson
959 E. 233rd Street, Bronx, NY10466

Senator Gustavo Rivera
2432 Grand Concourse, Suite 506, Bronx, NY10458

Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo
384 East 149 Street, Suite 301, Bronx, NY 10455

Assemblymember Michael Benedetto
3602 E. Tremont Ave. Suite 201, Bronx, NY 10465

Assemblymember Marcos Crespo
1163 Manor Avenue, Bronx, NY 10472

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz
3107 Kingsbridge Avenue, Bronx, NY 10463

Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj
1126 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, NY 10461

Assemblymember Carl Heastie
1446 East Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY 10469

Assemblymember Victor Pichardo
2175C Jerome Ave, Bronx, NY 10453

City Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo
384 E. 149th St., 3rd Ave., #300 Bronx, NY 10455

City Councilmember Andrew Cohen
Riverdale: 3636 Waldo Avenue 10463
Norwood: 3450 Dekalb Avenue 10467
R: (718) 549-7300; N: (718) 882-4000 x 353

City Councilmember Andy King
940 East Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY 10467

City Councilmember Annabel Palma
1041 Castle Hill Avenue Bronx, New York 10472

City Councilmember Ritchie Torres
573 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458

City Councilmember Vanessa Gibson
1377 Jerome Avenue Bronx, New 10452

City Councilmember James Vacca
3040 East Tremont Ave., #104, Bronx 10461

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tale of Two Cities Action Alert Update


On July 14th 2014, South Bronx Unite sent out an action alert to our email list.  In it we encouraged our members and allies to contact Mayor de Blasio, and ask him to put an end to the Bloomberg-era Tale of Two Cities FreshDirect deal that he campaigned against during his mayoral run.

It has been over one month and Mayor de Blasio has not yet responded to over 250 calls/emails asking him to stop the proposed $137M subsidy of 1,000+ daily diesel trucks trips through South Bronx Asthma Alley.

Instead, his office announced the monumental redesign of downtown Brooklyn - to include a 21 acre greenway connecting downtown to the Brooklyn waterfront.

The Tale of Two Cities will not change until we insist it changes.  If you have not yet contacted the Mayor, please do so today.  If you have not yet received a response, please call and email again (and ask 5 friends to do so as well.)

*   *   *

Action Alert to Mayor de Blasio – End Tale of Two Cities FreshDirect Bad Deal!

 For two and a half years, together we prevented (then) Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo from giving FreshDirect a single dollar of a (then) promised $127 million subsidy to move its trucking operation to a South Bronx waterfront flood zone, bringing 1,000 daily diesel truck trips through an overburdened community already plagued with asthma rates 8 times the national average.  In 2013, we voted a progressive administration into office to change the tale of two cities and reverse course on decades of double standards and hazardous dumping on the South Bronx.  We have patiently waited more than six months for our newly elected leaders to deliver on their campaign promises, but our community’s health can no longer afford to be a back burner issue.  So today, we are asking all of you and everyone you know to call, email, tweet and facebook the Mayor and tell him to stop the FreshDirect deal.  Ask him to back his campaign for change with action!

EMAIL Mayor de Blasio & Team (gmail, hotmail, yahoo users)
EMAIL Mayor de Blasio & Team (outlook users)
CALL Mayor de Blasio via his Dir. of Intergovernmental Affairs Emma Wolfe at 212.788.2162 and/or via his Director of City Legislative Affairs Jon Paul Lupo at 212.788.2971

“Mr. de Blasio railed against the city's economic development subsidies, singling out a $130 million tax break for FreshDirect to support creating low wage jobs - a deal he called a 'mistake.'" -Crains

“Fresh Direct would never have gotten more than $100 million in government subsidies to stay in New York City if he ran City Hall, Bill de Blasio said.” –NYP

"The FreshDirect deal - giving away $130 million in taxpayer money to support low-wage jobs, all in response to the company's empty threats -- was a mistake.  And it's a symbol of how upside down our economic policies have been.  By reforming New York's incentive programs, we will free up resources to support entire industries and small businesses in all five boroughs - and begin to reinvest in real pathways to economic opportunity..."  -Speech as Public Advocate

Also remind Mayor de Blasio that the FreshDirect project has changed in size and scope as well as in amount and type of subsidies. Allowing FreshDirect to receive an undemocratic gift of (now) nearly $140 million in subsidies to move its trucking operation to a waterfront flood zone in the South Bronx would mean: 

  • 1,000+ additional truck trips every day through South Bronx "asthma alley" where the community already suffers asthma hospitalization rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods
  • Allowing a company to rely on a 21 year old environmental impact statement to build in a community globally known for environmental injustice and despite a well-documented asthma epidemic linked to the diesel truck-intensive industries and highways saturating and surrounding the South Bronx
  • No living wage requirements attached to one of the largest corporate subsidies to be given in NYC history.
  • Rewarding an anti-union, anti-immigrant employer that is not right for the South Bronx, with a record of discriminatory and unfair labor practices and a lawsuit by workers against the company for $50+ million in unpaid tips and overtime.
  • Perpetuating back room deals with no community input.
  • Subsidizing a business model that parks diesel truck refrigerated warehouses on city streets for 14 hours a day that act as grocery depots across the city, especially in UES, UWS and Tribeca (instead of paying taxes like all other brick and mortar grocers.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Mott Haven Nine

Arrested for Protesting FreshDirect in the South Bronx, the Mott Haven Nine Appear in Court Today to Fight Charges

Update: We won.
Protest charges dismissed!

Read the Full Story Here.

"Our actions are reflective of our belief, to paraphrase Dr. King, that one who violates an unjust law is in reality expressing the highest regard for the law."
- Rev. Rubén Austria, Mott Haven Resident, Director, Community Connections for Youth
"How can the city and state give a company $128 million in subsidies when they refuse to even conduct an environmental impact assessment of what thousands of additional diesel truck trips would do to our children, our seniors, and all our neighborhood residents?"
- Mychal Johnson, Mott Haven Resident removed from Community Board 1 by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. after expressing his opposition to the FreshDirect deal
“Would New York give FreshDirect $128 million of our tax dollars to pollute public waterfront land in the West Village with up to 2000 diesel truck trips a day? No. This is blatant environmental racism.”
- Leah Kozak, Mott Haven Resident, Program Director, The Micah Institute, New York Theological Seminary
"Our new mayor, our public advocate, our speaker all ran on the platform of overturning Bloomberg era policies that put profits over people and favored corporations over communities. It's time for them to step up and use their authority to overturn this deal, the way they've put an end to other Bloomberg era disasters."
- Harry Bubbins, Mott Haven Resident, Director, Friends of Brook Park

Monday, April 28, 2014

Jane Jacobs South Bronx Environmental Justice Waterfront Walk

On Saturday, May 3, people from throughout the city came together for a waterfront walking tour of landmark sites throughout the Mott Haven-Port Morris neighborhood of the South Bronx as well as sites along the community-planned Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan. This dynamic walking tour highlighted local organizing campaigns against subsidies to diesel trucking companies like FreshDirect as well as the effects of policies that have perpetuated air quality degradation and unjust land use from fossil fuel power plants and waste transfer facilities that line the Bronx Kill waterway. Hurricane Sandy hit this flood zone during low tide, causing 3.5 foot flooding in the area, with forceful waves that ripped a pier from its concrete foundation. Learn about innovative solutions the community has offered as a counter to imminent climate change effects on this neighborhood.  This tour, organized and led by South Bronx Unite, was part of Jane's Walk NYC, organized by the Municipal Art Society on May 3rd and 4th, where thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets on 100+ walking tours throughout the city to engage in walking coversations in the spirit of Jane Jacobs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SBX EJ Bike Tour

Saturday, April 26th, 1-3 pm

Participants of all ages visited sites along the community-planned Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan and learned about local organizing campaigns against subsidies to the trucking company FreshDirect, pollution and unjust land use from polluting fossil fuel power plants and waste transfer facilities that line the Bronx Kill waterway. Hurricane Sandy hit this flood zone during low tide, causing 3.5 foot flooding in the area, with forceful waves that ripped a pier from its concrete foundation. The tour, organized together with Times Up, highlighted the community's vision for the public waterfront land.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Oral Arguments on FreshDirect Case

Bronx Supreme Court


The community effort to challenge FreshDirect’s proposed move to the South Bronx continues! Still before the Court is the legal claim challenging the New York State Department of Transportation’s (DOT) approval of the sublease of public land to FreshDirect in violation of the State Constitution because the FreshDirect project eviscerates the public purpose of this state-owned land. Originally, Judge Brigantti-Hughes dismissed the claim on the grounds that the complaint alleged no DOT involvement in the conveyance to FreshDirect. However, after the Judge issued her opinion, facts became available to us establishing DOT’s involvement in the conveyance, thus providing us with the opportunity to seek permission to amend our complaint and move forward with our constitutional claim. Oral arguments on Monday, April 7, 2014, addressed the new facts showing DOT's involvement in approving the FreshDirect project.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Appellate Decision on FreshDirect | Reinforcing the Tale of Two Cities‏

Appellate Division Defers to Bloomberg-era Approval of FreshDirect; South Bronx Unite Calls Decision a Disappointing Reinforcement of the Tale of Two Cities 

Claim Challenging DOT Approval of Waterfront Sublease Remains Open and Subject of April 7th Oral Argument; Group Also Considers Seeking Relief from Court of Appeals 

Further Hurdles Faced by FreshDirect Before It Can Break Ground 

Today, the Appellate Division ruled in favor of a Bloomberg-era Industrial Development Agency decision to provide $80 million in subsidies to Fresh Direct to move its trucking operation to a South Bronx waterfront flood zone without any living wage requirement and without any requirement to assess or address the environmental impact of an additional 1,500 daily diesel truck trips on the asthma-plagued community.

“This is a disappointing reinforcement of the tale of two cities,” said Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite. “Today, the courts told us that a 21 year old environmental impact statement is good enough for the people of the South Bronx, who suffer asthma hospitalization rates 21 times that of other New York City neighborhoods. We say it is not.”

“More than 50 organizations stand with us in opposing this project, and more than 1,000 people city-wide are boycotting this company because of its intentions for the South Bronx,” said Rev. Ruben Austria, also of South Bronx Unite who, along with eight others, was arrested last week when attempting to plant sunflowers on the proposed site in opposition to the project following a community parade of residents and religious leaders. Citing Dr. King, Rev. Austria explained, “One who breaks an unjust law openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Gavin Kearney, lawyer for the residents and Director of the Environmental Justice Program of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, stated “we're surprised by the decision of the Appellate Division given the strength of our claims and will be giving serious consideration to seeking relief from the Court of Appeals.”

Still open is the legal claim challenging the approval by the New York State Department of Transportation of the sublease of public land to FreshDirect, yet another diesel truck intensive business on the South Bronx waterfront. Oral arguments will take place on April 7th at the Bronx County Supreme Court.

FreshDirect faces numerous additional hurdles before it could break ground at Harlem River Yards. For example, in order for portions of an approximately a $50 million subsidy package to be awarded by the board of the Empire State Development Corporation, the state must hold a public hearing. In a sign of how difficult that approval could be, three months ago at the behest of board member and South Bronx Congressman Serrano, the Empowerment Zone board (housed at the ESDC) denied FreshDirect $3.5 million in subsidies. In addition, zoning regulations do not allow the project to proceed as proposed, requiring a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process to take place, along with related public hearings.

FreshDirect also faces setbacks that may impact its proposed move, including a class action lawsuit filed last week against the company by workers claiming that the company improperly withheld more than $23 million in overtime wages and tips. In addition, FreshDirect's sole international shareholder, UK grocer Morrison’s, will sell its share in the company following an 11% drop in profits.