Mayor Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. weighed in on the Fresh Direct controversy stewing in the Bronx in a New York Daily News op-ed Sunday. Writing in favor of Fresh Direct’s move to the South Bronx the two politicians tried to assuage critics’ fears over the damage the company would bring to the neighborhood, and justify the $128 million incentive package going to the online grocery service.
Having gotten too big for its Long Island City headquarters, Fresh Direct announced earlier this month that it was going to move operations to the Bronx. In doing so the company forwent the big bucks offered from New Jersey.
“The community has had waterfront access and mixed-uses aspirations for decades,” Harry Bubbins, director of Friends of Brook Park, told Runnin’ Scared about two weeks ago. “We want to entirely stop this — it’s a totally inappropriate use of taxpayer money.”
Still, even though the New York City Industrial Development Agency heard the voices of opponents at a meeting to vote on the deal to give Fresh Direct grants, tax credits and vouchers, Fresh Direct got its money.
In their piece Bloomberg and Diaz outlined “points to bear in mind” when considering with the criticism of funding:
First, these programs, along with other benefits, will cover just 23% of the total construction cost of the project and help defray a small portion of their operating expenses. The remaining 77% of construction costs will be funded by Fresh Direct — a major private investment in an area where jobs are too scarce.
Second, New Jersey, which made a strong push to lure the company, had offered tax credits worth 100% of the project costs. We refused to get into a bidding war, but nor could we ignore New Jersey’s offer.
Third, this investment will not only ensure that we do not lose thousands of current and future jobs to New Jersey, but the new economic activity will generate over $250 million in tax revenue for the city over the next 25 years. That’s good news for all New Yorkers and a huge return on our investment.
Finally, if Fresh Direct does not keep some of its commitments to the Bronx, the city and state will be able reclaim benefits.
Furthermore, they assured locals that hires will be local, and trucks will be greener and, for the most part, won’t be going through residential neighborhoods.
Update: 3:34 p.m.
We got a hold of Harry Bubbins to get his opinion on the op-ed. Though he said he thinks the information in the piece perpetuates “lies,” he said he’s happy for the attention the issue is getting.
“Our initial reaction is it’s a strong indication that the widespread opposition is compelling them to trot out their false justifications for this rotten deal,” he said.
He added that it’s not a “done deal” and opposition is still moving forward.