Today’s news:

Fresh Direct hiring block for 200 jobs

Bronx Times

Fresh Direct is bringing 200 fresh local jobs with its planned move to the south Bronx.

But the hiring plan could run afoul of a lawsuit against the city and Fresh Direct.

The on-line grocer said it will begin hiring over the next three months for various positions as part of its expansion move from Long Island City in Queens to the Harlem River Yards in Mott Haven.

The suit by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest argues that Fresh Direct cannot hire anyone because it has agreed to a total status quo of the project - including hiring and construction - until February, 2013.

Although the company has promised to take green initiatives - including converting to a fleet of low emission natural gas and electric trucks - local opponents involved in the lawsuit charge its current fleet will add to the local air pollution.

In September, NYLPI filed a revised lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of its sublease with the Harlem River Yard, on city-owned land.

•The state Constitution requires state land leases to have a public purpose/benefit, with the private benefit incidental to the public one.

•However, the public benefit noted in the Harlem River Yards’ original lease— an intermodal freight terminal – cannot occur with FreshDirect’s sublease.

•The city’s Industrial Development Agency’s environmental review — including zoning restrictions - prohibit the proposed project without key zoning changes.

•The legality of the proposed city subsidies to FreshDirect, which explicitly excludes retail.

Representatives for Fresh Direct said the “new jobs” are part of its effort to keep up with operational growth and customer demand.

FreshDirect now employs nearly 500 workers from the Bronx at its Queens operation.

The company hopes to create up to 1,000 new jobs – in addition to its current 2,400-member workforce – once its new state-of-the-art facility is fully operational.

“Fresh Direct continues to be a good neighbor to the Bronx, long before they break ground here, and this announcement is even more evidence of that,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “As this company grows, Fresh Direct is working to bring both job opportunities and expanded services to the people of this borough, showcasing their commitment to the continued growth of the Bronx. My office has a partner in FreshDirect, and together we will work to bring healthy food options and new jobs to the people of the Bronx.”

The new jobs Fresh Direct hopes to fill will include about 75 plant jobs, including sorting, shipping, and kitchen positions. Also, 125 transportation jobs, including delivery associates and drivers.

Hourly plant and transportation employees who have worked at the company at least six months earn on average $12.24 per hour.

Pay varies depending on the job. For example, new freezer workers earn between $11.25 and $12 per hour.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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