Breaking News: FreshDirect Plans “Secret” Groundbreaking Ceremony in The South Bronx

One of the many community rallies against FreshDirect moving into the community.

One of the many community rallies against FreshDirect moving into the community.

#WeNeedToBreathe

It’s been almost a 3 year battle since FreshDirect sweetheart deal was announced as a done deal to dump a trucking and pollution intensive industry in the growing residential neighborhood of Port Morris directly impacting those living in the immediate area including Mott Haven.  The deal would bring over 1,000 trucks and trips a day adding to an area with 8x the national rate of asthma and now FreshDirect has hit a new low.

Word has been received that the company is planning a “secret” groundbreaking at the Harlem River Yards on Monday, December 22nd at 10AM so we are calling all those who have been fighting against environmental injustice and racism to join us on this date to rally against this move.

This is a slap in the face to the hundreds of residents who came out last month at Hostos Community College in the FIRST ever public hearing held in the Bronx with the Economic Development Corporation in the almost 3 years which this battle for environmental equality began.  A hearing where not one community resident or Bronxite supported FreshDirect — unless they were a paid employee.

This is a slap in the face to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which has made the very site which FreshDirect intends to pollute with its trucks, 500,000 square foot warehouse and fueling station on the waterfront, a priority in the Mott Haven – Port Morris Waterfront Plan.  The DEC is still receiving comments until today to determine to proceed with the community-designed project and help project our waterfront from dangerous industry as well as make it resilient in light of Superstorm Sandy and climate change.

This is NOT a done deal and still has several processes to go through for approval of monies so FreshDirect’s presumptuous move to hold a groundbreaking ceremony before shows how much disrespect they have for Bronx residents.

At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, December 22, FreshDirect plans to hold a secret “groundbreaking” ceremony at Harlem River Yard on St. Ann’s Avenue and East 132nd Street in the Mott Haven/Port Morris neighborhood of the South Bronx. The move aims to pave the way for the development of a 500,000 square foot diesel trucking operation to be built on public waterfront land in a neighborhood completed blocked from its waterfront and already oversaturated with diesel exhaust and industrial facilities. The company relied on a 21 year old environmental impact statement to assess the effect of the more than 1,000 diesel truck trips the company would make through the community every day.

FreshDirect is thumbing its nose at nearly three years of community opposition to the project. Just last month, hundreds of residents and local businesses and organizations testified in opposition to the project in the very first Bronx-based public hearing on the proposed $140 million subsidy package. Among those who submitted testimony were Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, South Bronx Community Congress, Community Connections for Youth, South Bronx Farmers Market, The POINT Community Development Corporation, Bronx Climate Justice North, Bronx Clergy Round Table, Latino Pastoral Action Center and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, as well as others from among the more than 50 organizations that support South Bronx Unite. Tellingly, not a single local resident testified in favor of the project.

FreshDirect’s planned ceremony takes place as historic city-wide actions challenge decades of unequal public policies in communities of color. Unprecedented acknowledgement of the racial divide in air quality is taking place across the nation right now, with The Washington Post writing that “blacks and whites actually breathe different air.”
Mayor de Blasio, who campaigned on promises to stop the FreshDirect deal and end the tale of two cities, has remained silent since taking office despite more than 400 phone calls and emails to his office by the community to stop the project.

It is nearly seven years to the day of when FreshDirect fired 85 immigrant workers and over a hundred fled just days before Christmas in 2007 following an immigration raid on the eve of a Teamster union vote of the employees. The company was alleged to have tipped off immigration authorities.

While FreshDirect is courting support from Bronx representatives (and will be sponsoring the Christmas parties of several State representatives from outside the district later in the week), City, State and federal elected representatives from within the district remain opposed to the project. U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano, State Senator José M. Serrano, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo have all called for a moratorium on all new development on the state-owned stretch of waterfront land, including with respect to FreshDirect, until a thorough analysis of the current uses and the disproportionate impact on the health of the community could be thoroughly studied and mitigated.

Mayor de Blasio, who campaigned on promises to stop the FreshDirect deal and end the tale of two cities, has remained silent since taking office despite more than 400 phone calls and emails to his office by the community to stop the project. Please call Mayor de Blasio again and ask him to make good on his campaign promises and to shut this deal down. His office can be reached at 212-788-2162 or via email at bdeblasio@cityhall.nyc.gov.

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