Melissa sent a letter today to the NYC Industrial Development Agency asking that the approval process for $74 million in financial assistance for Fresh Direct be slowed down to allow for more community input. Fresh Direct has proposed building a new facility in the South Bronx part of the district. Though City and State officials already announced that Fresh Direct would receive tax subsidies from the IDA, it held a public hearing on the deal last Thursday, and has scheduled a final vote on the financial assistance package for tomorrow.
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. 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.
However, beyond the rushed review and lack of public input, community groups and labor unions are concerned about other issues with Fresh Direct and the proposal. Fresh Direct’s labor practices are troubling, as workers are forced to work upwards of 16 hours in facility refrigerated to 38 degrees and the company has worked to prevent employees from joining Teamsters Local 805. This project could also impact the Randall’s Island Connector which will provide access to green space for residents of the South Bronx, when they so need the space. In addition, the additional truck traffic could cause pollution and asthma attacks in an area which already has some of the highest asthma rates in New York City.