Friday, December 21, 2012

Who’s afraid of an environmental impact statement?

Let’s be clear. FreshDirect doesn’t care about the South Bronx.

Since its inception, the company never bothered to deliver here until it thought we’d be foolish enough to trade our health for its “fresh” service.

Its half-hearted promises about (part-time) jobs, a (partial) fleet of green trucks and a (partially) revised plan for occupying our waterfront are sugar pills it thinks will distract us from the pain it plans to inflict.

Unfortunately, too many of us have become too familiar with grandiose proclamations of bold opportunities for the South Bronx that quietly disintegrate after headlines fade, leaving only poverty, pollution and broken promises.

The South Bronx suffers an asthma rate eight times the national average. One in five of our children have asthma, and our asthma hospitalization rate stands at 21 times that of more affluent neighborhoods in our city. The cause is no mystery. A 2002 study in the South Bronx linked our asthma epidemic to the diesel truck-intensive industries and highways saturating and surrounding our neighborhood.

Yet FreshDirect wants to bring 938 more diesel truck trips through our residential streets every day and another 712 on weekends and pretend the benefit outweighs the harm.

Talk about jobs is equally disingenuous. FreshDirect does for jobs what they do for groceries: they move them around at a heavy cost to the public. The business model depends upon peeling customers away from others, forcing local grocers and bodegas out of business and eliminating jobs. How are we to know they’ll bring more jobs than they take?

Additionally, the $127 million subsidy FreshDirect seeks would support a salary of $93,000 per job they “promise” to bring, yet Bronxites can expect to land an $8/hr PT position because of FreshDirect’s unfair exemption from NYC living wage requirements as a result of their heavy lobbying.

The public land FreshDirect proposes to occupy is part of a lot that lines the entire South Bronx waterfront. The state Department of Transportation leased it to a developer 20 years ago to provide a public benefit. The developer, however, has collected $61 million in profit while delivering nothing more than health consequences to the community from subleases to a waste transfer station, a fossil fuel power plant and distribution hubs for both FedEx and the New York Post.

For these and other reasons, a broad coalition of residents, politicians, and businesses have joined together to oppose this deal.

Our Community Board passed a resolution disapproving of the process by which the FreshDirect deal was struck.

Four locally elected officials, including Councilwoman Mark-Viverito, Councilwoman Arroyo, State Senator Serrano and U.S. Congressman Serrano, have called for a moratorium on all new development, including FreshDirect, on this public waterfront land.

Councilwoman James has also sided against the deal, calling it an impermissible bailout of one company, a company that exists by leveraging subsidies to run hundreds, if not thousands, of others out of business.

Both the Bodega Association and the New York Association of Grocers have also come out against these enormous, unfair subsidies.

And South Bronx Unite, a group of concerned residents, has sued with the reasonable demand that a full environmental impact study be conducted before any development occurs, as is legally required.

Reasons for opposing FreshDirect’s attempt to move to Mott Haven are manifold, urgent, and clear.

The reasons they try to feed us for supporting them are malicious and slippery with misdirection. They even pay people from other communities to try to divide us.

These are pills we simply won’t swallow.