Mott Haven community refrigerator in danger of being shut down

The Mott Haven community fridge is in danger of being evicted.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Zauderer

In September, two middle school teachers launched a community fridge in Mott Haven, which aimed to help south Bronx residents gain access to healthier food options.

But now Daniel Zauderer and Charlotte Alvarez’s act of service is in danger of being shut down.

The refrigerator, which sits outside Chicky’s Mini-Market at the intersection of East 141st Street and St. Anns Avenue, has successfully fed many people during the pandemic. But last weekend, Zauderer spoke with the new owner of the bodega and agreed to sit down with the landlord and current owner to discuss the fridge.

Shortly after that phone call, Nina, the wife of the current owner, called Zauderer and said the fridge must go because it is holding up the change in ownership. Zauderer said that he was completely caught off guard.

“I think the bodega has pitted themselves against the community,” he said.

While he was told there would only be two days before the fridge would be thrown out, it’s still in its current location and a turkey drive will be held in front of it on Thursday.

Once Zauderer found out that the new owner wanted the fridge tossed, he launched a petition, which has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures in just a few days.

“The reason I started this petition was my effort to show this new ownership how much community support we had,” Zauderer explained. “It’s not about shaming the business. We’re not trying to take away business from a business. We’re trying to provide a service for people in need.”

The community refrigerator is located outdoors and provides community members with 24-hour, no-questions-asked access to fresh food, according to its founders. It operates with a “take what you need, give what you can” philosophy and is stocked by a grassroots network of community partners, maintained by a team of local volunteers and provided with ongoing funding by the Bronx Community Foundation.

According to Zauderer, the incoming owner is ducking his calls and has not explained why the fridge is an issue. Nina told him that some people are leaving empty boxes of food nearby, which she said is causing a problem.

Zauderer stressed that the fridge was purposely put there because it is located near a bus stop, a Citi Bike Sharing Station, six schools, eight religious places of gathering and thousands of apartments, most of which are subsidized or NYCHA public housing.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to moving,” Zauderer stated. “But we’re not going to move to a subpar location so the bodega can sell beer, cigarettes and coffee.

The Bronx Times could not get in touch with the new owner of Chicky’s Mini-Market.