No Welcome Mat for FreshDirect in the Bronx

FreshDirect is hoping to start construction on new headquarters in the Bronx. (Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons License)

FreshDirect’s plan to build new headquarters in the Harlem River Rail Yards in the Bronx has a good and a bad side.

The good news is that FreshDirect, one of the largest online grocers, will create close to 1,000 new jobs in the Bronx, the borough with the highest unemployment rate in the city (13.4 percent).

The bad news is that with the arrival of this business, truck traffic will rise in an area where more than 10,000 heavy vehicles already pass through on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Bronx has the highest rate of asthma in the nation. Studies show that the illness affects 20 percent of children in Mott Haven, where FreshDirect plans to move.

FreshDirect has help from the city, which offered the company a $127 million package in cash and tax breaks, so that it would move to the Bronx instead of New Jersey. However, the company has come up against opposition from the community.

To stop FreshDirect from moving into Mott Haven, South Bronx Unite sued the food business in court and is currently waiting for a judge to hand down a decision.

“We want the judge to order FreshDirect to carry out an environmental impact study on the project and how it will impact the community, since the last time they did such a study was in 1993,” said Monxo López, one of the leaders of South Bronx Unite.

Latinos make up 70 percent of Mott Haven’s population.

“At the Harlem River Rail Yards, they were supposed to build train terminals to remove garbage from the city by rail, with the goal of reducing truck traffic, but it was never done,” said López.

Mychal Johnson, a member of Community Board 1, said the arrival of FreshDirect will not only bring a thousand trucks to the neighborhood every day, but will also take away a plot that could be used for green spaces.

Kathleen C. Schmid, the city’s attorney, said that they had fulfilled the legal requirements for an environmental impact evaluation, “and in it they considered recent changes in the neighborhood.” The lawyer pointed out that “in fact, the area was once considered for a wholesale florist business, which would have lead to more traffic.”

Laurie Blom, the attorney for FreshDirect, added that the company included the increase in employees in the traffic calculations, but asserted that some staff members would not be working at the Bronx site.

FreshDirect plans to start construction this year, with the aim of opening its new headquarters in 2014.

One Comment

  1. I read about this from a flier near my job downtown where the South Bronx Unite coalition was giving them out. What a waste of our money, I work in a supermarket and we do not get these tax breaks and cash. It goes from our pockets to the rich company profits, it is crazy and must be stopped. Nevermind all the pollution! Boycott Fresh Direct !

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