City approves FreshDirect subsidy

The New York City Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday approved a package of subsidies that will help move the facility for the grocery-delivery giant FreshDirect from Long Island City to the South Bronx.

The measure passed without much contention, with City Comptroller John Liu casting the only “no” vote.

In a press release following the vote, Liu said “it was a bad idea when it was first voted on a year ago, and it’s an even worse one today.”

The city and state have pledged sizeable subsidies to help grocery giant FreshDirect relocate from Queens to the Bronx. Photo: roinks/Flickr

The city and state have pledged sizeable subsidies to help grocery giant FreshDirect relocate from Queens to the Bronx. Photo: roinks/Flickr

The proposed move is set to bring FreshDirect roughly $127 million in city and state subsidies. The project is one of the biggest beneficiaries of economic support under the current administration, according to Liu, who called the plan “another Bloomberg big business boondoggle.”

The online grocer’s proposed move to the Harlem River Yard in the South Bronx has met with opposition from the community and praise from the mayor, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A city official on Tuesday morning called FreshDirect’s move to the South Bronx “a huge boost” for the community.

FreshDirect has promised to relocate 2,000 jobs to the area and create 1,000 new positions. One-third of those, FreshDirect announced following Tuesday’s vote, will go to Bronx residents.

“With each approval, we are getting closer and closer to achieving our goal of bringing thousands of good jobs to an area of the city that needs them most,” FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman said in a statement.

Plan opponents advised to look at the job numbers skeptically.

“How do we know that’s actually going to happen?” asked Bettina Damiani, project director at Good Jobs New York and a vocal opponent of the plan. “There are no job-related recapture provisions from the IDA that require FreshDirect to create any good jobs for Bronx residents.”

In a joint reaction with other activist groups fighting against the move, Damiani called the plan “one of the largest corporate giveaways of city subsidies during the Bloomberg administration.”

Approval from the mayor’s office is still needed before the move can go through. Meanwhile, activist groups are appealing a state judge’s recent ruling dismissing a lawsuit against FreshDirect and city and state agencies.

Despite opposition from locals, Community Board 1 in the Bronx showed its support for the project during a recent meeting.

The IDA’s vote will have no bearing on opponents’ ongoing lawsuit seeking to block the move, said Gavin Kearny, a director at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

The subsidy approval “doesn’t make the lawsuit obsolete,” Kearny said.

Multiple activist groups — including South Bronx Unite and Good Jobs New York  — say that the move was presented without any community input and would be a environmental hazard to an already congested area of town.

“IDA’s approval of this subsidy for FreshDirect makes the City directly complicit in exacerbating the devastating health crisis in the South Bronx,” said Libertad Guerra, a professor, resident and South Bronx Unite petitioner, “implicating every New York City taxpayer with them.”

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