Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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.

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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