Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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.com for more information.

Boycott FreshDirect

Be on the right side of this!

FreshDirect plans to use $130 million in subsidies to occupy public waterfront land in the South Bronx, imposing 2,000 daily vehicle trips through a community already facing asthma rates five times the national average. This company is a parasite on the public: they use public dollars to aggravate public streets with noise, exhaust, and waste.

      • Plans to share space with four massive waste processing plants
      • Plans to build on top of documented Ranachqua settlement and burial ground
      • 2,000 vehicle trips every day through “Asthma Alley” in the South Bronx
      • 380 tons of solid waste per month (Not counting the delivered boxes!)
      • Loud, inefficient, idling trucks overburdening city streets
      • Extortion of public funds by pitting NY against NJ when they have space to expand
      • Refusal to pay living wages to workers
      • Refusal to guarantee any jobs to residents of the South Bronx
      • History of discrimination and unfair labor claims
      • Blocking of public access to the waterfront
      • Refusal to deliver to the neighborhoods they will pollute most
New Yorkers deserve better, 
especially when virtually every rent-paying local grocery store will deliver!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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 | Stop FreshDirect is a alliance of South Bronx residents, organizations, and allies. Follow us on

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thank you Mychal for representing our community tonight

Tune in tonight - BronxNews @ 9pm

South Bronx Unite will be appearing on BronxTalk on TONIGHT 3/12 9pm ET,  to discuss the film, Battle for Brooklyn and FreshDirect.

The show is live on Cablevision's channel 67 & Verizon Fios channel 33 each Monday night at 9pm.

Please pass the word and call in if you can.

If you want to ask a question, here is the number. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Updating our URL

We have a new url in the works and are updating out website, thus some of our links are not working. If you need specific info email us at southbronxunite@gmail.com

Thanks for your support!

- South Bronx Unite

Fresh Direct deal: another sellout

Fresh Direct deal: another sellout
By Karen Argenti

To the editor: 
In response to the FreshDirect article in The Riverdale Press, this has nothing to do with the company.
The problem with this Bronx move is that it is another sellout. We are all too familiar with this concept, as it was first used in a gross attempt to build a filter plant in Van Cortlandt Park. A filter plant does not belong in a park.
After that, the sellout was for the new Yankee Stadium, also in a park. A major league baseball field and its adjacent 10,000 parking spots should not displace the community’s well-used park. 
For some time, the neglected Harlem River Waterfront has been salvaged for projects that don’t fit anywhere else. An MTA car washing garage does not belong on the waterfront and affronts the eyes of the boating public in a place that was once the recreational center of the city.
Concrete companies, railroad storage areas and other construction dumping areas abound — all NYC leases or sales. The use of the real Gateway to the Bronx at the Harlem River Yards (between the Willis Avenue Bridge and the RFK Triboro Bridge) should be a welcoming icon, not filled with warehouses. This area is not only on the waterfront, but is also across from a great waterfront park on Randall’s Island.
Sad that we have forgotten about creative planning.


Monday, March 5, 2012

For Immediate Release - Battle for Brooklyn at Bronx Documentary Center

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ed Garcia Conde 917.532.7504 themayor@welcome2melrose.com
                Lily Kesselman 917.532.7884 lily@lilykesselman.com

March 5, 2012
Join South Bronx Unite Stop Fresh Direct; Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn; and Good Jobs New York for a screening of the award-winning documentary Battle for Brooklyn at Bronx Documentary Center.

Thursday, March 8 at 7:00pm
614 Courtlandt Avenue (@ 151st St.)
Bronx, New York 10451
(close to the 2 or 5 train at 3rd Avenue—149th)

Battle for Brooklyn (93 minutes) follows the story of reluctant activist Daniel Goldstein as he struggles to save his home and community from being demolished to make way for a professional basketball arena and the densest real estate development in U.S. history.

The film will be followed by a Q&A featuring the filmmakers; Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein; Good Jobs New York’s Bettina Damiani; and South Bronx Unite Stop Fresh Direct. The discussion will explore how mega economic development deals that seem isolated are connected by grassroots struggles that affect us all. Panelists will discuss the seven-year battle over Forest City Ratner’s eminent domain abuse at Atlantic yards and the current burgeoning struggle against the city’s proposal to help move FreshDirect, the online grocer, from Queens to the Bronx waterfront, where activists have long been trying to establish a greenway. Both are campaigns against destructive, undemocratic, and publicly subsidized land deals bolstered by spurious promises of jobs that, as “Battle for Brooklyn” proves, never seem to materialize.

Bloomberg Drama Is Delivered Again

Here's an article posted by Grubstreet!

The Fresh Direct Bronx-Bloomberg Drama Is Delivered Again

Playing favorites to Fresh Direct?

Who would have thought smoked almonds and a carton of overpriced cantaloupe could create such a big sociological divide, but now another writer is speaking out in the never-ending saga about Fresh Direct's unfair wages and alleged discrimination – a problem only magnified Michael Bloomberg's unabashed adoration of the company, as evidenced by his huge handouts and continued public support. The topic is as heated as their hot, fresh salsa (two for $5
Playing favorites to Fresh Direct?
dollars this week!). [Alter Net]

Click here for the full article

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 City: Fresh 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 greenñeld 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.

How FreshDirect Delivers Misery Along With Your Groceries--And How Workers and the Community are Fighting Back

How FreshDirect Delivers Misery Along With Your Groceries--And How Workers and the Community are Fighting Back

The upscale grocery delivery service pays less than $9 an hour, has faced discrimination complaints, and is a union-buster--so why is New York giving it a handout?
Photo Credit: erostend via Flickr
New York City, like most of the country, is hurting for jobs—good jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits so that people can support their families. Yet billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., is about to hand over $129 million in public money, through tax exemptions and direct subsidies, to FreshDirect, a grocery delivery service that is notorious for underpaying its workers, has faced multiple accusations of discrimination and has been accused of using all sorts of shady tactics to block its workers from joining a union.
FreshDirect has made its home for years in Long Island City, Queens, but now claims to need a bigger facility. After New Jersey's governor Chris Christie waved a $100 million package of subsidies and tax breaks at the grocer, New York's politicians felt the need to win its allegiance back. New York Times reporter Michael Powell wrote of the plan, “The deal puts the welfare in corporate.”
FreshDirect, which mainly delivers to affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, advertises fresh and local groceries, ready-made meals, and other attractive options to busy, middle-class urban consumers. But its delivery drivers and warehouse workers make less than $9 an hour, and the company, co-founded and headed by a former investment banker, Jason Ackerman, has no plans to deliver its products to the South Bronx community where it wants to build its 500,000-square-foot taxpayer-funded facility. New York City Public Advocate Bill deBlasio recently used the firm as an example in arguing that the city should require a stricter code of conduct for companies that receive public assistance. Currently, he wrote, “we essentially end up subsidizing some owners of big businesses to mistreat workers, keep profits for themselves and suppress fair bargaining.”
Mayor Bloomberg and borough president Diaz claimed in an op-ed that “FreshDirect is a true New York success story, growing over the last decade from a small startup to a company with almost 2,000 employees. Small businesses are the backbone of our city; when they grow, we want them to grow here in the five boroughs — not in the suburbs or in another state.”
But local activists and the company's own workers aren't sure they'll see any benefits from the move, whether in jobs or in access to better food—certainly not enough to outweigh the negative impact on their neighborhood from the company's trucks streaming in and out. While the company's workers struggle for fair treatment, South Bronx residents are organizing to protest the move.
South Bronx resident and community board member Mychal Johnson told AlterNet that the residents are tired of having their problems ignored while the city showers cash on corporations. “The South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the nation, continuously dumped on with all the worst New York City has to offer.”
Taking Advantage of the Bronx
Currently, FreshDirect will only deliver to the wealthier, northwestern Riverdale and Kingsbridge sections of the Bronx. Ackerman, WNYC recently reported, claimed “We absolutely would be in the Bronx,” except for the fact that “we've always felt that the Bronx has not wanted our service.” He also said that while negotiating the tax break and subsidy package that would keep the company in New York, the question of whether FreshDirect would deliver to the neighborhood that will house the company never came up.
Part of the problem for the community is that FreshDirect, which sells organic and local produce as well as more familiar brand-name groceries, doesn't accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) benefits, upon which 66 percent of South Bronx residents depend to feed their families. Even some food trucks and carts accept these benefits, so residents argue that FreshDirect is perfectly capable of taking them if it wants to.

Are subsidies to keep firms in NY worth it? (Crains Article)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Have you seen this yet?! What you may not know about FreshDirect

What You May Not Know About Fresh Direct from Olivia Smith on Vimeo.
Controversy is growing over Fresh Direct’s planned move to the Bronx. The online grocery store received almost $130 million in tax credits and cash incentives from New York state to relocate. But lost in all this is what you may not know about Fresh Direct and its impact on the environment. Olivia Smith reports.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mychal's NYMTC Testimony

Mychal Johnson at the Harlem River Rail Yards

Mychal Johnson also testified at today's hearing. Thank you for a job well done!

New York Metropolitan Transit Council
March 1, 2012
Statement of Arthur Mychal Johnson
My name is Arthur Mychal Johnson.  I am a resident and homeowner in the South Bronx, and I am a member of Community Board 1 and the Economic Development and Land Use Subcommittee. 
I have come here today to identify a very serious problem we have with one of New York State Department of Transportation’s properties.  The property, owned by the State of New York under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, is a 94 acre waterfront lot in the South Bronx known as Harlem River Yards.  The property was leased for 99 years in 1991 to a private developer, Harlem River Rail Ventures, Inc. (having an office c/o the Galesi Group, Building 6, East Road, Rotterdam, New York, 12306), for the purpose of increasing utilization of rail freight services and reducing truck traffic congestion.

One Final Environmental Impact Statement was approved, purporting to cover all possible developments on the land over the full 99 year period.

Over the last 21 years, Harlem River Rail Ventures has failed to develop the intermodal rail terminal, which was the centerpiece of the policy behind the Department of Transportation’s lease of the land.  During that same 21 years, however, the community has been forced to endure severe health hazards as a result of poor air quality caused by uses of the Harlem River Yards.

In the South Bronx, we have an asthma epidemic.  Asthma hospitalizations are five times the national average; asthma deaths are three times the national average; and it is estimated that 1 in every 5 children in the South Bronx has asthma.

Harlem River Yards currently 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 located within a 1/8 mile radius.  And, Fresh Direct has just received more than $100 million in public subsidies to relocate to the Harlem River Yards, adding upwards of 2,000 daily vehicle trips through the neighborhood.

The cumulative effect of such facilities is staggering.

The industrial and heavy manufacturing uses on Harlem River Yards are also inconsistent with the surrounding area, which has been repeatedly rezoned over the last 21 years to foster residential and commercial development, explore community access to the waterfront, which Harlem River Yards blocks, and to turn the area into a “Gateway to the Bronx”.

In 1997, a five-block area adjacent to the Harlem River Yards was rezoned as a mixed use district. The new zoning was a catalyst for strengthening the area’s emerging antique businesses and for revitalizing the residential character of this historically mixed use neighborhood.  As a result of the rezoning, approximately 42 rowhouses were rehabilitated, 36 new residential units were created or reactivated on upper floors of buildings, 50 lofts in a former piano factory were converted, and new ground floor retail and exhibit spaces were opened.

Then in 2005, building on the success of the 1997 rezoning, New York City Council rezoned a further eleven blocks surrounding the area for mixed use, this time including a focus on improved waterfront access.

The New York City Department of City Planning began examining options for waterfront access for residents cut off from the waterfront because of Harlem River Yards, and included the area in the agency’s Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.  In response to the rezoning, a new 419-unit residential development adjacent to the Harlem River Yards was built in 2010 and is now occupied.

The current usage of Harlem River Yards is no longer compatible with the change in the area’s residential composition.  Severe risks exist for even higher asthma rates and other related health conditions.

Therefore, I request that the Department of Transportation place a moratorium on all new development at Harlem River Yards, including with respect to Fresh Direct’s proposed development, and conduct a thorough review of the current uses of the land, as well as the cumulative effects of such uses on the residents of the South Bronx, taking full account of the socio-economic makeup of the neighborhood and the disproportionate impact on the poorest congressional district in the country.

Lily's NYMTC Testimony

The wonderful Lily Kesselman testified at todays New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) annual meeting. Below is her testimony.

Good morning!  My name is Lily Kesselman and I’m a resident of the South Bronx. 

I come to you to voice concerns from residents in Mott Haven – also known as Asthma Alley.  I’m also a student at Farm School studying urban farming and food justice.

According to the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems Robert F Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Bronx county has one of the highest asthma rates in the United States and rates of death by asthma in the Bronx are 3 TIMES the national average; hospitalization rates are 5 TIMES higher and in some neighborhoods it is estimated that 20% of ALL children have asthma. Within NYC the disparity in asthma hospitalization rates is pronounced – one study shows hospitalization rates in Bronx County and East Harlem are 21 TIMES high than those in affluent parts of the New York. 

Bronx County has the highest pediatric asthma hospitalization rates in the New York area.  Asthma has been linked to numerous pollutants including carbon monoxide, and a particularly dangerous particulate exhausted exclusively from diesel engines.  The South Bronx residents are in a critical situation – we need to REDUCE traffic, congestion and these appalling statistics. 

The Harlem River Rail Yard Ventures lease was designed to “Reduce Congestion from Truck Traffic” by completing an intermodal rail system, which they have not.  Since the lease took effect, the Harlem River Rail Yard Ventures has not taken one single action to reduce congestion; they continue to sublease land to business that that block public access to the waterfront and bring in thousands of trucks through our streets each day.

And now they want to bring in FreshDirect.  This “deal” was never brought up for discussion at Community Board 1.  This “deal” is funded by taxpayers. This “deal” is detrimental to The South Bronx. This “deal” is literally killing New Yorkers.  This "deal" gives not only taxpayer money in the millions but taxpayer land to corporate entities for private profits. 

I was at the State of the Borough with Ruben Diaz Jr., who stated that FreshDirect will purchase 10 electric trucks with a “WISH” to convert all trucks someday with no promises, all funded with public money and no recourse if their “Wish” is not fulfilled.  No recourse.  None. They can buy whatever trucks they want, pay whatever wages they want and not repay a dime.  And the company say they will purchase these trucks fro, Smith Electric, has not even built it's factory in The South Bronx yet but is another recipient of Tax breaks and incentives from New York Taxpayers. 

At the moment current Harlem River Yards tenants rack up 42,000 truck trips per month and the FreshDirect proposal would add 30,000 diesel truck trips and 60,000 vehicle trips through this neighborhood each month.  Further, the NYS DOT’s tenant, Harlem River Yards Venture, will not accept the offer from the EDC for an easement that would allow the footbridge to be completed and allow residents to walk to Randall’s Island.  Since the Harlem River Yards lease was signed, the areas surrounding the site have been rezoned for residential use and the area has been included in the NYC Comprehensive Waterfront plant – but this, along with The Greenway – can not be completed due to the Harlem River Rail Yards Ventures.

The NYS DOT has committed $10 million dollars in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding for the first year offering vouchers of $20,000 per vehicle.  How about using funds to create spaces that combat  asthma and give all taxpayers and residents access to this public land that belongs to New Yorkers?  This land belongs to New York State, meaning residents should have access to this land and should have a voice in how it is used.  Why does New York State fund a private company with both public property and public land for the benefit of just a few business owners? And why must South Bronx residents have to suffer the life long physical consequences of asthma to the benefit of Fresh Direct?  

And why should Bronx residents be forced to live with an eyesore of a factory built along a scenic waterfront property when every other neighborhoods enjoys city funding to develop these areas as recreation and residential oaisiss? 
Also, I am the daughter of a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians in the Northwest Coast. The Department of Transportation is aware that the land consisting of the Harlem River Land Yards is historically significant containing evidence of a Ranchqua Village and burial ground. The DOT acknowledges that artifacts of the Ranchqua Village may be present beneath the 15 feet of fill that now covers portions of the site. It is unconscionable that the DOT would allow and  fund Fresh Directs 500,000 sq ft facility on top of this native American settlement ultimately destroying archaeological evidence of the village and burial ground. This property needs to be protected and studied.  These artifacts concern all people and we have the right to explore this land.

We want the NYSDOT review the lease conveniently written by the Harlem River Rail Yards.  We want the Harlem River Rail Yards Ventures to be forced to comply with an easement giving residents access and enabling the completion of the walkway.  We want The Greenway. We want Fresh Direct out and we want to bring in sustainable business and families – not be forced out of our waterfront property by publicly funded corporations.