Testimony of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Before the Empire State Development Corporation
RE: Freshdirect’s Proposed Relocation to The Bronx
I testify today in favor of Freshdirect’s move to The Bronx, and in favor of the subsidy package the State has presented to the company.
What we have in Freshdirect is an opportunity to expand a diverse economy in The Bronx, to create new jobs on an underutilized industrial waterfront, and to develop the blueprint for corporate America to work hand-in-hand with elected officials, community organizations and the people of this borough to make sure those jobs go to Bronx residents.
When Freshdirect’s move to The Bronx was first announced, the company entered into a “memorandum of understanding” with my office and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.
That MOU stated, among other things, that Freshdirect would commit to local hiring, that they would expand their services to the entire Bronx, that they would build a “green” delivery fleet and that they would work to accept EBT benefits for their services, among other things.
Freshdirect currently has a workforce of roughly 2,500 individuals—about 600 of whom live in The Bronx and commute to Long Island City every day. The company has worked with BOEDC over the past three years to hire numerous Bronxites. Already, before they put shovel to ground in The Bronx, Freshdirect is creating jobs for our residents.
They have also come to an agreement with Uniform Food and Commercial Workers Local 2013, which represents roughly 900 Freshdirect employees, on a new contract, and my office is happy to see such cooperation between labor and management.
Freshdirect has expanded its services to every corner of The Bronx, something it does not necessarily do in other boroughs. For those who receive EBT benefits, Freshdirect has launched a pilot program in the 10454 and 10455 zip codes to accept EBT benefits from eligible Bronxites. Currently, EBT benefits cannot be accepted by online retailers due to federal law, and Freshdirect is working to change the current law, so that they and other online retailers can expand their services to more individuals and families who may want to take advantage of them.
Freshdirect has also begun the process of greening its fleet. Over the past months, the company has converted ten percent of its truck fleet to environmentally-friendly fuels, as its tests out both electric trucks and CNG trucks in advance of a full conversion.
Most importantly, the company has committed to bringing new jobs to our borough. Already, the company has 600 Bronx employees—employees who would have likely been unable to keep their jobs if the company had moved to New Jersey. Upon their move to The Bronx, they will expand their company to hire even more Bronx residents.
This project represents new jobs, and new development, and is a key component of our “New Bronx” agenda. Now that this project has cleared the hurdles placed before it, I would urge the Empire State Development Corporation to continue its own support of this critical project, joining my office, Community Board #1 and numerous elected officials, community organizations and people of The Bronx.
Since Freshdirect first announced their move to The Bronx in February 2012, they have been a good neighbor, and have done everything we have asked of them. They deserve our support in return.