Mayor throws his weight behind FreshDirect

The mayor has removed another hurtle from FreshDirect’s plans to move to Port Morris, but opponents remain steadfast.

City Councilwomen Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Melissa Mark-Viverito say 2000 FreshDirect truck trips per day would add to Mott Haven's existing environmental woes.

But opponents say deal remains far from done

Mayor Bloomberg has approved a modification to the lease of the Harlem River Yards parcel in Port Morris where FreshDirect hopes to build a new headquarters, removing another hurdle in the online grocer’s path to the Bronx.

The mayor’s say-so followed a similar approval in July by the City’s Planning Commission and a controversial “yes” vote by Community Board 1. Bloomberg’s approval means that the online grocery company would receive about $90 million in city funds if the deal receives a final go-ahead from the state, which would in turn provide an additional $33 million in subsidies and tax exemptions.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Julie Wood, said the project “is critical for the future of our City’s economy. FreshDirect’s expansion in the Bronx will bring 2,000 jobs a borough where unemployment is far too high, while creating 1,000 additional jobs. This is a major win for the Bronx and New York City.”

But opponents of the move say the mayor’s celebratory tone is premature. They  contend that the deal violates the original lease because FreshDirect would contribute to local traffic problems and that a new 500,000-square-foot facility would get in the way of freight train use. They remain hopeful the courts will agree.

Mychal Johnson of the grassroots group South Bronx Unite, said the mayor’s approval was just one step in a broad approval process.

“He cannot approve the entire subsidy package himself,” said Johnson, contending that the state would still need to override local zoning restrictions in order for the deal to become final. In addition, the citizens group expects an appeal it has filed in court to be heard some time this fall.

FreshDirect’s CEO Jason Ackerman, was elated over the mayor’s announcement. The company says it projects construction of its new facility to begin next spring and take about two years to complete.

“We are excited to enter the next phase in making the Bronx our new home and look forward to continuing to work with the local community as the process moves forward,” said Ackerman, in a press release.