The plan to open a new headquarters for online grocer FreshDirect in the the Bronx continues to draw a mixed reception from local politicians and community members. Today, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent a letter to the NYC Industrial Development Agency asking them to slow the approval process for the $74 million in tax exemptions being provided to the company as part of a $127.8 million package of grants, tax credits and other incentives from the City, the State, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. Meanwhile, Mr. Diaz and the BOEDC announced they reached an agreement with FreshDirect to address concerns of those opposed to the plan and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce issued a statement in support of the FreshDirect facility.
Proponents of the FreshDirect move argue it will bring jobs to the area and preserve 2,000 existing jobs that would have been lost if FreshDirect, which is currently located in Long Island City, left New York. Those opposed to the proposal have a number of concerns including; the facility’s environmental impact, the use of public funds, the company’s relationship to the community, the lack of input on the deal from local residents and the quality of jobs at FreshDirect. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation approved the package of incentives for FreshDirect after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie aggressively lobbied and offered a $100 million bid to bring FreshDirect to the other side of the Hudson. The deal was announced before a scheduled public hearing on the FreshDirect facility that was held last Thursday.
In her letter to the IDA, Ms. Mark-Viverito asked the agency to delay its vote on the proposal to allow for more feedback from area residents.
“To hold a public hearing after an agreement was already announced in the press, and then schedule a final vote just a few days later, makes the City’s agreement with Fresh Direct seem like nothing short of a done deal,” Ms. Mark-Viverito wrote. “I understand that the City and State entities involved have engaged in a real effort to gain a number of concessions and reassurances from Fresh Direct to assuage community concerns, but since the vote is coming so soon after yesterday’s public hearing, members of the surrounding community feel that their concerns are not genuinely being taken into account.”
At the same time, Mr. Diaz and the BOEDC announced they created a “memorandum of understanding” with FreshDirect for the company to agree hire locals, work with nearby vendors, expand service in the area, accept EBT benefits and commit to using environmentally-friendly alternative fuel vehicles.
“I am very excited that FreshDirect will make the Bronx its new home, and that we have come to an agreement with the company that will ensure their commitment to the Bronx for decades to come. FreshDirect’s decision to stay in New York City, right here in the Bronx, is a win-win for everyone,” Mr. Diaz said in a statement announcing the agreement.
Jason Ackerman was also quoted in the statement announcing the memorandum.
“We’re thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of the Bronx community. We have historically created a large amount of new jobs and look forward to creating many more hand-in-hand with our new neighbors,” Mr. Ackerman said. “Also, we take seriously our shared responsibility to the environment.”
Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro also weighed in with a statement of his own encouraging the city to “move forward with their support and welcome FreshDirect to the Bronx.
“FreshDirect’s move will also provide additional opportunities for the members of my Chamber to interface with another growing Bronx entity that is in need of their products and services,” Mr. Caro said.
The IDA is due to vote on whether or not to O.K. the $74 million subsidy package tomorrow.