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At odds in Fresh Direct battle

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Three Bronx environmental groups have joined the opposition to Fresh Direct’s relocation to the Harlem River Yards.

Sustainable South Bronx, Greenworker Cooperatives and the Bronx Council on Environmental Quality have all put out statements backing the South Bronx Unite Coalition, a local group that has led the campaign against Fresh Direct and filed a lawsuit seeking to force the company to conduct a new environmental impact study before moving to the Bronx.

In supporting the coalition, Sustainable South Bronx is going up against its founder Majora Carter, a paid consultant to the on-line grocer. Carter was hired to recruit local advocacy group to support the Fresh Direct move.

All three organizations focused on the increased truck traffic the relocation would bring.

“It’s well known that South Bronx residents suffer from overwhelmingly high rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity stemming from pollution-producing industrial facilities and, perhaps most significantly, the truck traffic passing through the South Bronx’s streets en route to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, the country’s largest food distribution center,” representatives for Sustainable South Bronx said.

The Bronx Council’s statement also focuses on the lost opportunity to create a greenway on the Harlem River waterfront if Fresh Direct moves in.

The impact study has been a major gripe of South Bronx Unite and the elected officials who represent Port Morris and nearby neighborhoods. They contend that the full study completed in 1993 is out of date, and fails to recognize the growing residential character of parts of Port Morris.

A spokesperson for FreshDirect said “the company commissioned a thorough environmental review consistent with its obligations under the law. That analysis showed that the FreshDirect facility will generate far fewer truck trips and result in less traffic than the traffic that was anticipated and approved in 1993 for the Harlem River Yard.”

In a statement on its web site, Sustainable South Bronx said it “...applauds the efforts of the South Bronx Unite coalition. The campaign and its organizers have been instrumental in mobilizing South Bronx residents and facilitating the re-envisioning of a working waterfront – one that is mutually beneficial for both South Bronx residents and industry.”

Although the group partially supports the deal to provide nearly $130 million in taxpayer subsidies to the company, it does call for a new environmental impact study and asks that Fresh Direct to keeps its promise to hire local workers.

“Given the environmental challenges already faced by the South Bronx, it is imperative that when a large company opens a new facility — especially when that company relies on a truck-based system to transport its products — an environmental impact study must take place,” it stated. “As advocates for the South Bronx, we at Sustainable South Bronx find it unacceptable that Fresh Direct’s move to the South Bronx has not been subject to an environmental impact study and that the company has refused to conduct such a study.”

The group said that besides the enviromental impact study, it supports South Bronx Unite’s push to ensure that Fresh Direct hires local residents – with living wages.

Green Worker Cooperatives said it opposes the city subsidies given to the privately owned company, calling “The Fresh Direct giveaway ... another example of the kind of ‘economic development’ strategy that has turned the South Bronx into a home for low-wage employers and dirty industries.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394
Updated 10:48 am, April 8, 2013
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