FreshDirect and the Bronx: Thumbs up or thumbs down?

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 2/24/2012, 12:12 p.m.
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"As the unionization campaign was gaining steam several years ago, ICE initiated an audit of the legal statuses of FreshDirect employees, causing around 200 workers to leave; many believe this action was an attempt to squash the organizing drive. FreshDirect has reportedly also refused toenter into a neutrality agreement with Local 805 to allow the organizing efforts to proceed without interference."

The AmNews contacted Diaz's office for a response to the criticism but didn't receive anything as of press time.

During a public hearing in lower Manhattan two weeks ago, a few immigrant workers who had managed to move up in the ranks at FreshDirect said that the firm had been great to them and they wished the opposition would let them do the same. The hearing also raised concerns about truck traffic going through neighborhoods that already have some of the highest rates of asthma in the city and waterfront use. It doesn't help matters that the only Bronx neighborhoods that FreshDirect delivers to are Riverdale and Woodlawn, which are more affluent, predominately white enclaves.

While FreshDirect promises to deliver to more Bronx neighborhoods, no company members were available for a response to community concerns or Mark-Viverito's.

However, the community has organized, against all odds, to try and stop FreshDirect's construction. On, there's a petition available--courtesy of South Bronx Unite Stop FreshDirect--that citizens can sign in protest of FreshDirect.

"We, the concerned residents of the South Bronx, stand united in opposition to the proposal to relocate FreshDirect to the Harlem River Yards in the South Bronx," states the manifesto. "We believe that the plan to utilize our public lands without community input demonstrates a total lack of cooperation and consideration with the constituency that will be directly and adversely impacted by the proposal."

Some of the grievances include insufficient environmental analysis of the land in the Harlem River Yards, greenway and waterfront access, lack of FreshDirect delivery to non-affluent Bronx neighborhoods and no alleged penalizing of the company if it doesn't hire Bronx residents for permanent jobs. FreshDirect said around 400 of their current employers call the Bronx home.

None of this is of much a concern to Bloomberg, who praised the agreement.

"Making sure that companies like FreshDirect can grow and invest in New York City is a key part of our strategy to rebuild and diversify our economy," said Bloomberg in a public statement. "A thousand new jobs at the Harlem River Yards is great news for the Bronx and a welcome boost to our city's economy."

But at what cost to the redheaded stepchild of the fiveboroughs?