Critic of borough president gets the boot

Mychal Johnson, a leading opponent of the deal to bring FreshDirect to Port Morris, is the only member of the board not to be reappointed.

He attributed the borough president’s decision to “my difference of views on FreshDirect and recreational space along the waterfront.”

Mychal Johnson speaks out from Mott Haven on Vimeo.

In an email response to questions from the Herald, Diaz’s spokesman John DeSio did not address the specific reasons for the borough president’s action, saying only that decisions about community board members are made in a “long internal process,” and are “based on how we believe people will represent both our office and their respective communities.”

At a meeting of Board 1 hours after Johnson received an email from the borough president’s office informing him that he would not be reappointed, District Manager Cedric Lofton refused to allow Johnson to speak and engaged in an angry confrontation with him.

As Johnson began to question Alex Zablocki of the city’s Department of Homeless Services, about the concentration of homeless shelters in Mott Haven, Loftin cut him off.

“It’s my understanding you have an organization,” said Loftin.

Loftin approached Johnson, who was seated.

“You can sit down, sir,” Johnson said.

“If I was going to step to you, believe me, I would step to you,” Loftin responded, before walking away.

Johnson is a leader of South Bronx Unite, which has sued the city in an effort to stop FreshDirect from moving to the Harlem River Railyards.

He is also an appointee to the state-administered Open Space Conservation Plan Regional Advisory Committee, which is calling for increased public access and economic diversification on state-owned waterfront land.

Portions of committee’s plan for the waterfront are in direct competition with plans for FreshDirect to move to the Bronx, a move Diaz has backed with subsidies from funds he controls and with a vigorous campaign on the on-line grocer’s behalf.

While Johnson and his allies say FreshDirect will increase truck and automobile traffic to an exhaust-choked neighborhood and will cut off access to the Harlem River waterfront, the borough president has emphasized the jobs and economic development the company will bring to the borough.