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Six Bronx, N.Y.-based community organizations have expressed their support for online grocer FreshDirect as it fights a lawsuit blocking its plans to build a state-of-the-art operations center in the South Bronx that the company says will employ hundreds of local residents.
In a jointly signed amicus brief submitted to the Bronx Supreme Court, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Green Bronx Machine, Health People, Sylvia Center, Fedcap Rehabilitation Services and Millbrook Houses Residents Association said they were in favor of FreshDirect’s relocation to the borough because of the e-retailer’s commitment to creating 1,000 new jobs and boosting Bronxites’ access to nutritious foods, as well as the company’s record of environmental responsibility.
“FreshDirect’s relocation will bring much needed jobs and revenue to the Bronx,” noted Bronx Chamber of Commerce CEO Lenny Caro. “The company will substantially increase the volume of its purchases from Bronx suppliers and have a positive ripple effect throughout the community.”
“Unemployment is well documented as a major contributor to chronic disease, and far too many Bronxites suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses as a result,” added Chris Norwood, executive director of Health People: Community Preventive Health Institute, an organization that helps residents in low-income areas take charge of their health. “FreshDirect’s move to the Bronx will help fight chronic illnesses on two levels, decreasing unemployment and increasing availability of fresh, healthy foods.”
Last year, Long Island City, N.Y.-based FreshDirect joined forces with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to invest $112.6 million to build a new headquarters at Harlem River Yard in the borough.
The move will enable the e-grocer to create 1,000 new jobs over the next decade, at least one-third of them pledged to go to Bronx residents. So far, about 25 percent of 300 positions filled by the company at the end of the year have gone to Bronxites. Building the headquarters will also create about 684 construction jobs.
The suit blocking construction was filed by South Bronx Unite, a coalition of residents and community groups, which claims that FreshDirect officials have understated the traffic issues and other negative effects its facility would have on their neighborhoods.
FreshDirect has also revealed a plan to transition to a 100 percent green transportation fleet over the next five years, and, to meet that goal, has already ordered 10 electric delivery trucks that will be built in the Bronx by Smith Electric Vehicles.