Earlier this month, city and state leaders announced that popular grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct, would relocate to a new water-front location in the Bronx. But several residents want this space for other uses such as a “green space”, and feel left out of the deal.
BY ACACIA SQUIRES
There’s one hundred acres in the South Bronx where the Harlem River flows through tall grass. Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced that Fresh Direct, the online grocery delivery company, will relocate to this waterfront plot. Customers across the city rely on Fresh Direct. But some Bronx residents feel they’ve been left out of the plan.
The city’s call for public comment came two days after the news of Fresh Direct’s move. Industrial Development Agency – or the IDA ran the meeting and attendees wished they had been consulted sooner. Bronxites showed up in force for the meeting even though it was a Thursday morning in far-away lower Manhattan.
They’re angry about extra pollution from the company’s delivery trucks, which don’t even deliver to the neighborhood it will soon call home. Also there is no guarantee any of the estimated 1,000 jobs will go to Bronx residents.
Bronx native Harry Bubbins says there’s an even older grudge about this land, “The entire waterfront, 100 acres of Port Morris, is owned by the public through the New York State Department of Transportation. And Mario Cuomo, the current Governor Cuomo’s father, signed off on the most absurd lease agreement ever.”
Bubbins is referring to a contract the state signed twenty-one years ago to change the site into a modern rail yard. A local real estate development company, the Galesi Group, was contracted to get the job done, but that never happened. People are angry that Fresh Direct is coming instead.
Harry Bubbins is working in a community garden he founded called Brook Park, close to the proposed site. Two families with young daughters stroll up to him. He cuts up an apple and shows the girls how to feed the garden’s hens without getting pecked. Bubbins and other members of Brook Park want to turn the Fresh Direct site into an active waterfront like those in other communities, but so far the Fresh Direct plan is going ahead.
The company declined an interview for this story, but stated in an email, “We are pleased with the IDA’s approval.”
Some Fresh Direct customers think the move could be a good one. Williamsburg resident Amanda Ferri compares her deliveries to Christmas morning, “You get all these boxes dropped off at your house, and you unwrap them individually, and there are different compartments of little containers and it’s great!”
Ferri thinks that the 127 million dollar subsidy is a lot, but wonders what it will pay for, “How many jobs does Fresh Direct provide to the city? It might be worth in the long tail if they can continue to grow and create jobs.”
Not everyone is so sure about that. New York City Comptroller John Liu voted against the plan. He estimates that each of the 1,000 proposed jobs would cost the city 90,000 dollars each. Harry Bubbins, and other activists, are seeking legal representation before Fresh Direct moves forward.
[Correction: The original photo caption incorrectly read " a recent deal to sell" land to Fresh Direct. We regret this error.]