Monday, April 14, 2014

Upcoming: South Bronx Environmental Justice Waterfront Bike Tour

Saturday, April 26th, 1-3 pm

Meet at Brook Park (between East 140th and East 141st Streets at corner of Brook Avenue)  

Join participants of all ages to visit sites along the community-planned Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan and learn 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, will highlight 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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

100 March, Nine Arrested in Protest of FreshDirect Relocation to South Bronx: Group Asks Mayor de Blasio to Drop Opposition to Environmental Lawsuit



Nine South Bronx residents were arrested when blocked from entering public brownfield land on the South Bronx waterfront, the proposed location of FreshDirect. Their intention was to plant detoxifying sunflowers.

Residents have filed a lawsuit in opposition to FreshDirect’s proposed relocation.

The lawsuit seeks a full environmental impact study of the proposed project.

Mayor de Blasio has the opportunity to drop the City’s opposition to the lawsuit, thus compelling the environmental review.

Those arrested include faith leaders, directors of local organizations and other South Bronx community leaders. They arrived at the Harlem River Yard as part of a march of more than 100.

The event was peaceful and exuberant. It included traditional Puerto Rican plena drummers, a mariachi band, giant puppets, local children playing cello, and an interfaith reflection.

FreshDirect, if allowed to proceed, would bring 1,500 additional daily truck trips through the South Bronx. This plan is a Bloomberg-era relic attempting to give the diesel-intensive grocer nearly $130 million in public subsidies to move to this public waterfront land. This community is already burdened by asthma hospitalization rates at 21 times that of other New York City neighborhoods.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SBU Receives 2014 Environmental Justice Award

Last Friday, March 14, 2014, South Bronx Unite and Bronx Council for Environmental Quality were presented with the 2014 Environmental Justice Award in recognition of the extenstive work against the proposed relocation of FreshDirect, the creative visioning of an alternative open space plan (the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan) and the seamless interconnection to broader environmental quality initiatives across the borough. The award was given by the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing more than 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the CUNY Research Foundation, following the Thirteenth Annual Nature, Ecology & Society Colloquium on “Our Environment in Transition” at which South Bronx Unite and Bronx Council for Environmental Quality presented on “An Expanding Circle of Green Justice: Public Participants Map Out a Sustainable and Resilient South Bronx Waterfront.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Green Beginnings for the South Bronx Waterfront

Community Action Against FreshDirect 
Saturday, March 22 | 12-2 pm 

Join residents, faith leaders, organizations and friends/allies for a community action on Harlem River Yards against the proposed relocation of FreshDirect to the South Bronx. Gather at Brook Park at noon to join in a march to Harlem River Yards for an interfaith reflection on the industrial facilities, waste transfer stations and trucking operations oversaturating the South Bronx and causing asthma rates eight times the national average. Participants will then have the option to plant sunflowers, renowned for detoxifying soil, along the brownfield waterfront.

Brook Park | 141 St/Brook Ave | 12-1 pm | Assemble at Brook Park and march to Harlem River Yards.

Harlem River Yards| 1-2 pm | Interfaith reflection on environmental injustice in the South Bronx and option to plant sunflowers to detoxify soil.

Friday, February 28, 2014

South Bronx Unite Testifies Before NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection

Today, A. Mychal Johnson and Dr. Melissa Barber will provide testimony on behalf of South Bronx Unite to the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection on Oversight of Air Quality Impacts, Measures and Mitigation in Environmental Justice Communities.
“The South Bronx community suffers from asthma rates eight times the national average and asthma hospitalization rates 21 times that of other New York City neighborhoods,” began Dr. Barber, Mott Hvaen resident recently cited by Bronx Times as one of the 25 most influential women in the Bronx. “Twelve years ago, the ‘South Bronx Environmental Health and Policy Study,’ sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the U.S. EPA, concluded that the solution to this problem was to reduce the already overburdened rates of truck traffic in the community and to provide for more open space.”
A. Mychal Johnson, Mott Haven resident and delegate to the Region 2 New York State Open Space Committee, continued: “In the case of the South Bronx, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Industrial Development Agency (IDA) have been acting to not only encourage but to heavily subsidize more diesel truck intensive businesses to relocate to the South Bronx from other parts of the city, the most egregious and recent example of which is the proposed relocation of FreshDirect’s trucking operation to the South Bronx waterfront. EDC and IDA staff oversaw and approved the company’s cursory environmental assessment that was based off of a 20 year old Environmental Impact Statement and concluded that a thousand additional daily diesel truck trips would not negatively impact local residents. But we, along with more than 50 South Bronx and other city-wide organizations, disagree and are supported by scientific findings of the harm this project would bring.”