|New York City, City Hall, Protest against FreshDirect, November 14, 2012|
The issue in regard to FreshDirect, the on-line grocer which delivers directly to residences or offices, is that it is moving its distribution center from Queens to a new site in the Bronx. However, Bronx residents and civic organizations were given no input into the process. In essence, FreshDirect had worked out a sweetheart deal with Albany and the office of the Mayor of New York in which it will receive around $130 million in public money (through tax exemptions and through direct subsidies).
I think that the whole issue of urban governments subsidizing private, for-profit corporations ought to be reassessed, whether it be a food distribution center or a sports stadium. And in this case, when New York City desperately needs so many other things, why is it supporting what Sarah Jaffe remarks is “a grocery delivery service that is notorious for underpaying its workers, has faced multiple accusations of discrimination and has been accused of using all sorts of shady tactics to block its workers from joining a union?”
Besides subsidies that seem unfair, the closed process which led to them also lacked the transparency that we have come to expect in our democracy. Nevertheless, the issues surrounding FreshDirect and New York City are hardly black-and-white. For anyone interested in them, I would suggest the article by Sarah Jaffe, in the March 4, 2012 issue of AlterNet, “How FreshDirect Delivers Misery Along With Your Groceries--And How Workers and the Community are Fighting Back;” the article by Michael Powell in the February 20, 2012 issue of the New York Times, “In Bronx, FreshDirect and Land of Great Promises;” the article by Dennis Slatery in the June 3, 2013 issue of the New York Daily News, “Judge hands Fresh Direct a victory, paving way for grocer’s move to the South Bronx;” and the article by Patrick Wall in the November 14, 2012 issue of DNAinfo New York, “Gristedes Owner and Other Grocers Join Fight vs. FreshDirect's Subsidies.”
Meanwhile, here are a few more photos of some of the people who spoke out against FreshDirect on that chilly, November day last year.
|New York City, City Hall, Protest against FreshDirect, Bettina Damiani, November 14, 2012|
|New York City, City Hall, Protest against FreshDirect, Irene Prestigiacomo, November 14, 2012|
|New York City, City Hall, Protest against FreshDirect, Letitia James, November 14, 2012|
|New York City, City Hall, Protest against FreshDirect, Mychal Johnson, November 14, 2012|
Mychal Johnson is one of the major advocates for the South Bronx and a member of South Bronx Unite. He also was a member of Community Board 1, until Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. refused to reappoint him because of his active position against FreshDirect.
It was an e-mail from Mychal yesterday that alerted me to today's meeting at 3024 3rd. Avenue in the Bronx. Mychal will be at the Community Board offices today at 5:30, simply in the capacity of a concerned citizen. So will I, and I invite anyone else who is interested in this issue to join us.