November 20, 2014
By Stephanie West
Bronx, NY – More than 100 residents, clergy, labor leaders, and health professionals packed an Empire State Development Corporation hearing Monday evening November 17th to oppose a proposed $10 million city subsidy to FreshDirect. The payout is part of a package of $140 million in taxpayer subsidies that would support the relocation of FreshDirect facilities – and its polluting vehicles – to the borough of the Bronx.
“Today, the South Bronx community is proud to stand arm-in-arm with labor unions, faith leaders and medical professionals in opposition to the allocation of taxpayer money to subsidize FreshDirect and the 1,000 diesel trucks it would bring through our community every day,” Mychal Johnson, Co-founder of South Bronx Unite, said at the hearing. One in four South Bronx children suffers from asthma and “we remain confident that this community will prevail and that we will stop FreshDirect,” said Johnson.
Teamsters Local 202 joined opponents at the hearing. "FreshDirect is bringing pollution and poverty to the South Bronx, two things we have plenty of already,” said Local 202 President Dan Kane Jr.
New York City Teamsters locals have been speaking out more and more on environmental issues in recent years. In September, the union joined the People’s Climate March and it has partnered with environmental justice groups to introduce clean trucks, and advocate for the equitable distribution of sanitation facilities across the five boroughs. Local 202 has fought for funding to make the Hunt’s Point Market – where many of its members work – more resilient in the face of climate change and extreme weather.
While the Teamsters are committed to a clean environment, Kane made it clear, this is a worker issue too. “The company has rejected calls to pay a living wage and is not required to create a single job to get this massive subsidy.” In fact, said Kane, jobs posted by FreshDirect pay as little as $8 per hour. The Teamsters have a different vision for the South Bronx, says Local 202 President Kane. “We know how to create strong industries that breed prosperity, and this isn't it. Community members are standing up and the Teamsters are standing with them.”
Organizers are confident that the broad opposition that the subsidy has garnered will win the day.
“The FreshDirect relocation would significantly harm the health and quality of life of Mott Haven and Port Morris residents,” said Gavin Kearney, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “It is vehemently opposed by residents and community-based organizations in these neighborhoods and is unsupported by the elected officials that represent them. For these reasons, Empire State Development should reject FreshDirect’s subsidy application.”