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Court go-ahead for Fresh Direct

Bronx Times
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The courts giveth and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. taketh away.

In this case, a judge dismissed a lawsuit opposing home food deliverer FreshDirect’s planned move to the Bronx, while Diaz removed a vocal opponent of the plan from the local community board.

Borough leaders have touted the company’s move to the Harlem River Yards in the South Bronx, saying the project will create a thousand new jobs while also relocating another 2,000 jobs from its current Queens location.

But opposing local groups have charged bringing the fleet of delivery trucks to the asthma-choked South Bronx will only increase the problem. They claimed a 20-year-old environmental impact assessment on the site was outdated.

They also charged the firm is not entitled to the $127 million in subsidies that supporters argue are needed to keep FreshDirect from moving to New Jersey.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio recently issued a report criticized the subsidies, calling them wasteful and bad economic development policy.

Community Board 1 member A. Mychal Johnson has been among the most outspoken against the plan, joining with a coalition of local groups led by South Bronx Unite.

A member of the board for the past seven years, Johnson was not re-appointed for another term on the board in the latest round of board appointments by Diaz.

A source in the borough president’s office said that Diaz had invited Johnson and a small group of FreshDirect opponents to meet with him to discuss the issues, but Johnson declined to meet.

It would not be the first time in recent years that borough presidents have failed to reappoint members to boards because of differences over various projects or for other reasons.

Diaz last year dropped a dozen or so members from Community Board 9 in Soundview in an effort to oust longtime district manager Francisco Gonzalez. But Gonzalez survived an ouster vote.

Former Borough President Adolfo Carrion dumped X members from Community Board 4 in Highbridge for opposing several issues involving construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

Under the City Charter, community boards serve as advisory bodies to borough presidents, while also voting on planning and zoning issues.

Meanwhile, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann Brigantti-Hughes found that despite the opposing group’s argument, the city did conduct a thorough environmental review on FreshDirect building a 500,000-square-foot facility in Port Morris.

The court decision dismissing the lawsuit was welcomed by Diaz, FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman and Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.

“My office has, since day one, understood that this project is crucial to the future economic health and vitality of the Bronx,” said Diaz. He noted that in addition to FreshDirect’s hiring initiatives, the firm plans to convert to a “green fleet” of delivery trucks, expand their services to the entire borough and expand their services to EBT users.

“We’re very happy that the Court has recognized that the environmental review was proper and in accordance with the law,” said FreshDirect’s Ackerman. “We are eager to move forward with our plans to bring thousands of jobs to the Bronx and make it easier for people to get fresh food.”

“Our belief in the justice system has been reinforced by this decision,” said Cintron. “Now we can get to the serious work of bringing 3,000 much needed jobs to the Bronx as soon as possible.”

Updated 4:55 pm, July 9, 2018
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