Mott Haven residents rally over relocation of Fresh Direct headquarters

South Bronx residents rallied during a vote by the Industrial Development Agency on a proposed $80 million New York City subsidy package to on-line grocer Fresh Direct to move to the Mott Haven neighborhood in the South Bronx.
Photo courtesy of Ed García

After Fresh Direct announced plans to relocate its headquarters to an 18-acre parcel at the Harlem River Yards, critics of the deal are weighing in.

On Tuesday, February 14 at an 8:45 a.m. press conference local residents rallied at the Industrial Development Agency’s vote on the proposed $80 million New York City subsidy package to go to Fresh Direct to move their central headquarters to the Mott Haven neighborhood.

“Without public hearings or notification last Tuesday, city, state and Bronx officials announced a nearly $130 million subsidy package for Fresh Direct to leave its Queens facility and expand its operations at the Harlem River Yards in The Bronx,” said a press release sent by Bettina Demani, Project Manager for Good Jobs New York.

“The proposed project would bring more diesel truck traffic to our already high asthma-inflicted communities and, despite misrepresentations made to the media, fails to guarantee any new jobs, much less living wage jobs, for south Bronx residents. South Bronx residents demand equitable and environmentally sustainable economic development proposals that are developed democratically and that create jobs at a living wage,” she added.

In advance of the vote, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and Fresh Direct reached an agreement on best practices to address a number of the concerns that have been raised since the relocation was made public.

The “memorandum of understanding” between the three groups includes agreements on local hiring, vendor referrals, expanding Fresh Direct’s services to new Bronx neighborhoods, accepting EBT benefits, and decreasing the company’s reliance on fossil fuels through the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.

“I am very excited that Fresh Direct will make the Bronx its new home, and that we have come to an agreement with the company that will ensure their commitment to the Bronx for decades to come. Fresh Direct’s decision to stay in New York City, right here in the Bronx, is a win-win for everyone. Fresh Direct is a real home-grown success that will now continue to grow, creating almost a thousand new jobs in our borough, which is not only a victory for the Bronx but also the entire city,” said Diaz.

Although some local residents are opposed, others, including the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, support the relocation of Fresh Direct.

In addition to the “memorandum of understanding”, Borough President Diaz’s office has also created a new Facebook group, “Bronxites for Fresh Direct,” designed to illustrate to the company just how many Bronx residents are willing to not only use their service, but have the technical capabilities to do so.

“Fresh Direct’s move will also provide additional opportunities for the members of my Chamber to interface with another growing Bronx entity that is in need of their products and services”, said Lenny Caro, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “We encourage the City of New York to move forward with their support and welcome Fresh Direct to the Bronx.

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