It seems like the cart was put before the horse.
When it was announced yesterday that FreshDirect will stay in New York City by moving from their cramped Long Island City facility to a state-of-the-art building to be constructed in the Bronx to the tune of approximately $130 million deal in city and state tax breaks, grants and subsidies as well as monies from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr’s office, some Bronx residents reacted with concern and anger.
“Why do we have to add more trucking to a neighborhood with the highest asthma in the state? Why do they get tax breaks when our residents pay the highest percentage of taxes?” said Lily, who lives in the neighborhood. She also goes on to state her concerns about FreshDirect snatching up prime Bronx waterfront property and how it will block access to the Greenway.
Her sentiments were echoed by others who feel that the administration ignores the residents of the Bronx and makes decisions without community input. How is it possible that all major media outlets trumpet this deal yet fail to analyze that a public community hearing has yet to occur?
LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
The hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, February 9th at 10am, furthermore exhibits how the administration of the city surreptitiously operates. This neighborhood – as is the rest of the Bronx – is a working class neighborhood where residents cannot afford the luxury of taking time off from work to attend such critical hearings concerning the ongoings that affect their daily lives. To say that it is unfair to do so is an understatement. The administration needs to step up their game and do what they’re elected to do: To serve their constituents.
$130 million is no chump change when doling out corporate welfare and as residents and taxpayers we need more transparency in the process and say how the monies will be used. We need the city to hold a meeting in OUR neighborhood which will be impacted by the deal at a time that is convenient for our residents. 6 or 7PM is ideal since the majority residents will already be home from work or school.
HAVE WE NOT LEARNED FROM OUR PAST?
Just last week it was reported that a recent sweetheart deal for $217 million was about to go bust – The Yankee Stadium deal for 9,000 space parking lot which hasn’t been able to make money and is on the verge of defaulting this year in what will be one of the worst financial disasters in city administration history in decades. In light of that recent fiscal irresponsibility it is imperative that the community has more input in the FreshDirect process. What will the deal do for our community besides place a fancy grocery delivery service – that caters to the affluent communities – in the poorest congressional district that ignores the poor and communities of color in the Bronx and will pollute our roadways and lungs with their army of delivery trucks? Do we not already have the distinct displeasure of having the highest asthma rates in the country? As Bronx resident, Ari Feliz, Vanguard at The X Collective says, “They are asking to build but yet they still hold discriminatory practices towards where and subversively to whom they deliver to… I can’t help but think of the Stadium deal in which the highest paid labor jobs went to contractors outside of the Bronx that employed non Bronxities, and only the low-wage jobs were reserved for our residents.” Ari makes an excellent point about the low-wage jobs which Good Jobs New York goes into more detail and states that, “nearly 40% of current Fresh Direct employees earn less than $25,000 a year”.
Good Jobs New York, an organization dedicated to empowering residents and connecting them with information on deals in the state, grass roots organizations and government agencies, wrote a good piece with 10 reasons why we should “Sour” on FreshDirect’s” mega deal which I posted below for you to read.
Will FreshDirect do good by the community it plans on becoming neighbors with? What of the much needed Bronx Greenway? Will we be able to compromise a deal that will not block the Greenway? Only time will tell if they will take the role of good neighbor vs. a community scourge. Let your voice be heard and attend the hearing if you can and spread the word. The Industrial Development Agency Public Hearing will be held Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 10AM at 110 William Street in Downtown Manhattan.
To read some of the readers’ opinions, check out yesterday’s article.
From Good Jobs New York:
Why You Should Sour on Fresh Direct’s Proposed $80 Million City Subsidy for Expanding at Harlem River Yards in The Bronx
Let your voice be heard: Industrial Development Agency Public Hearing Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 10:00am 110 William Street in Lower Manhattan
- Fresh Direct has engaged in a greedy race to the bottom policy by pitting New York and New Jersey against one another for a subsidy package. In 1999, Fresh Direct agreed to a $6 million deal with the city to operate its Queens facility through 2025. Its success and need to expand is due in part to its NYC customer base, the city’s infrastructure including access to northern suburbs and its New York City based workforce. Why is Fresh Direct holding taxpayers over a barrel?
- The New York City Industrial Development Agency’s cost/benefit analysis is misleading because it does not take into account the existing subsidy package; Fresh Direct has used over $2.5 million in city subsidies.
- The neighborhoods surrounding the proposed facility are dubbed “asthma alley” because they have some of the highest asthma rates in the country. Fresh Direct relies on a legion of trucks to move its merchandise and to deliver its goods. Yet, the IDA documents don’t indicate plans for the company to utilize the existing rail at the site.
- According to the company’s application, numerous complaints have been filed with city, state and federal agencies regarding its labor practices.
- The company’s description of wages and employment is confusing and fails to provide taxpayers with enough information to gauge the quality of jobs either by salary or how many jobs would be part-time or full-time. Unless this information is provided more clearly, how can taxpayers be sure further investment in Fresh Direct is wise?
- The proposed site at the Harlem River Yards in The Bronx is owned by the state, but there are no details on its provisions. How can we be sure this won’t be a sweetheart lease?
- Ironically, Fresh Direct only delivers to the northwestern Riverdale and Kingsbridge sections of the Bronx ignoring the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site. Will neighbors and low-income employees at the company only have access to Fresh Direct food from local soup kitchens?
- The company’s business practices of delivering exclusively to the far Northwest Bronx neighborhoods and refusing to accept Food Stamps not only ignores Bronxites who can’t afford their food, but subjects residents to a massive fleet of asthma-producing trucks driving through their neighborhoods everyday without getting a direct benefit.
- There is no expectation that Bronx residents will be hired or will be paid enough that they won’t have to rely on a variety of taxpayer subsidized safety net programs: Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized child care, etc. According to employment reports, nearly 40% of current Fresh Direct employees earn less than $25,000 a year.
- The company plans to only purchase 12% of it machinery and equipment for the new facility locally (New York City and New York State.)