This past Wednesday September 25th, in a surprise community board meeting which was not announced to the public, Community Board 1 not only rejected the minutes of July’s chaotic meeting on FreshDirect but voted overwhelmingly to REJECT the company’s request for a much needed land use modification.
Sources report that Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito – thought to possibly be the next Council speaker as Christine Quinn steps down due to term limits – called District Manager Cedric Loftin just minutes before the meeting to question him as to why not only was the meeting date changed at the last minute but as to why it was not made public in clear violation of how community boards are to operate.
Some of the reasons for rejecting the request are, but not limited to:
“…overutilization of adjacent street systems, excess bulk and density on the Harlem River Yard and interference with the predominant public purpose of the lease to reduce traffic.”
The aforementioned are at the very crux of why we do not support this deal. FreshDirect has been consistently downplaying the impact of the truck traffic and pollution in our already congested neighborhood.
Before the meeting, the board had received minutes laced with factual errors and omissions on July 10th’s meeting – which erupted in chaos – and were asked to approve them as is.
According to South Bronx Unite, the organization opposed to FreshDirect’s move to our waterfront using millions in tax payer subsidies and of which I am a part of, the following serious omissions were noted in the minutes sent to CB1 members:
* Video evidence of the meeting that directly contradicts the currently drafted written record. See video here
* The exclusion of public testimony from the currently drafted written record, including the testimony of South Bronx Unite member and Mott Haven resident Corrine Kohut, as well as Julio Pabon.
* The exclusion of (i) the name and description of the motion presented by Board Member Michael Brady (READ MICHAEL BRADY’S MOTION HERE) , (ii) the inaccurate statement that Mr. Brady’s motion was not seconded, when it was indeed by Board Member Linda Ortiz and (iii) the absence of mention that the District Manager refused to distribute to board members the written motion of Mr. Brady.
* The inaccuracies of describing and tallying two votes that evening of which few Board members understood the subject of the matter on which they were voting or refraining from voting.
* The select exclusion of discussion and comments by several Board Members, including Wally Nash, John Johnson and Linda Ortiz, among many others, as well as the exclusion of the community feedback
As you can see, all the omissions and inaccuracies were quite deliberate in silencing community opposition to the project which overwhelms any local support for the project.
South Bronx Unite also mentioned that, “Fresh Direct must make a similar but more rigorous application for a land use modification to the State Empire State Development before the project can move forward. The public will have an opportunity to comment on that application at a public hearing as required by state law.”
Having attended June (which was FreshDirect’s FIRST time coming to the community since the deal was announced 16 months prior – very telling of how concerned they are NOT for the community) and July’s CB1 meeting where FreshDirect came to make their case to the Board, I can attest that not a single member living in CB1 came to testify in support of the company’s move to the Bronx.
It is safe to say conservatively that 95% of Bronxites in attendance in those meetings were (and still are) against the deal.
In a press release Mychal Johnson, former CB1 member who was kicked off the board for his strong opposition to the dirty deal by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, said, “I’m happy to see that the action taken by the Board reflects the concerns of the community.”
This officially places Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr in a very difficult situation. He now stands for a deal filled with cronyism between Bloomberg and his Ackerman buddies at FreshDirect – a deal with staggering community disapproval – and the very constituents he was elected to serve.
It places Díaz between an outgoing mayor and the candidate for the next Mayor, Bill de Blasio who as of last week was ahead in the polls by a whopping 66% over his contender, Joe Lhota who only 25% of those polled by Quinnipiac said they’d vote for.
Let’s not forget – because Bill de Blasio won’t if elected as next mayor of New York City – that Ruben Diaz, Jr supported Bill Thompson during the primaries earlier this month.
De Blasio as you may already know has recently been highly critical of the sweetheart deal saying that “Fresh Direct would never have gotten more than $100 million in government subsidies to stay in New York City if he ran City Hall, Bill de Blasio said Thursday. The Democratic mayoral nominee said his administration would remove subsidies from large companies such as Fresh Direct and “give them to smaller companies.”
We have reached out to Ruben Diaz, Jr’s office but as of this moment we have not received an official statement on the latest vote.
In February of 2012 when the sweetheart deal was announced as a done deal, the community rose up in opposition against a deal we were never consulted on regarding the use of our public lands – instead, the administration along with FreshDirect assumed that they can continue to dump on the Bronx and we’d accept it without a fight.
Since then, the opposition has snowballed to over 40 community based organizations representing a cross section of our borough while those in support of FreshDirect have only been able to muster roughly 5 or 6 organizations to back them up.
How can one go against the deafening roar of the people who reject this deal? The community has spoken, repeatedly, that this is a bad deal and our elected officials MUST listen to the will of the people. If not, then what is the point in electing them in if they’ll cave into cronyism and corporate pressure.