Dear Mayor De Blasio, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, New York City Council members:
The Center for Disease Control has just published a study in the April 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine citing a deep connection between a rise in incidents of childhood leukemia and pollution in high traffic areas — traffic pollution which already exists in the South Bronx that contributes to children having 8 times the national rate of asthma.
Can we afford FreshDirect with thousands of more truck trips barreling through our roads in the South Bronx, worsening the traffic situation? Is the empty promise of jobs worth the risk of exposure to our children — a company with dubious labor practices where they are currently being sued by their own drivers? Do we sacrifice our future over corporate greed and over $130 million in tax breaks and subsidies?
Even if FreshDirect converted their entire fleet to electric, the thousands of truck trips through our neighborhood would still clog traffic and let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road are not hybrids or electric.
According to USA Today, “The review found that children diagnosed with leukemia were 50% more likely to live near busy roads than children without leukemia,” said Vickie Boothe, a CDC health scientist and lead author of the Journal article.”
While the study found a link between traffic pollution and childhood leukemia it did say that a cause and effect relationship has not been found.
The CDC is calling for more comprehensive studies to be done so that these findings can be confirmed but in the meantime they suggest that the public be informed and educated on the findings:
“As many people reside near busy roads, especially in urban areas, precautionary public health messages and interventions designed to reduce population exposure to traffic might be warranted.”
And this past Saturday, that is exactly what members of South Bronx Unite did: over a hundred people held a peaceful rally and march to the proposed FreshDirect location, calling for Mayor De Blasio and the city to stop FreshDirect’s move and allow a full environmental review to be done.
Nine peaceful protesters were arrested but quickly released yet it sent a strong message to the city that the South Bronx and the Bronx as a whole, will not continue to be a dumping ground for corporate sweetheart deals that do not benefit the community.
The community of Mott Haven, Port Morris, the South Bronx and the rest of the Bronx have come together to oppose this deal and have even come up with a comprehensive waterfront plan that would provide much needed access to our waterfront.
Interestingly enough is that the proposed FreshDirect site is directly next to the southernmost portion of the Special Harlem River Waterfront District Plan (with plans of thousands of new residential units) any sort of industrial development where FreshDirect intends to plop down completely illogical.
I ask the city and state, once again, why our government is refusing to conduct a new environmental impact study on the proposed move of FreshDirect to our neighborhood?
The last EIS done was 20 years ago before the area was rezoned from industrial and manufacturing to mostly residential in 1997. That initial rezoning was so successful that it was expanded to a larger area in 2005.
In 2009, directly to the north and directly adjacent to to the second Port Morris Rezoning, the 30 block Lower Concourse Rezoning was officially adopted changing the zoning from mostly industrial and manufacturing to residential as well. The Department of City Planning said in their introduction to the rezoning of the area:
The proposed actions will transform a waning industrial waterfront area and the lower Grand Concourse into a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community with new housing, waterfront open space, and an array of retail services.
Since then, thousands of new residents have moved into the area including at the 400+ unit, 3 building development, Bruckner By The Bridge a development which also is adjacent to the Harlem River Yards.
Given all this information, it would be criminal to not only allow FreshDirect to move into a neighborhood that is no longer industrial but to do so without a new comprehensive environmental impact statement which takes into account the 3 rezoned areas and the new plan for the Special Harlem River Waterfront District which is directly adjacent to the site.
Myself, South Bronx Unite, and over 50 community based organizations have said no to this project and we urge you to listen to our voices. We are not a minority voice as FreshDirect and borough hall likes to refer to us but we represent an overwhelming majority of Bronxites who demand better.