City approves incentives package for FreshDirect

Comptroller John Liu addressed protesters downtown after the city approved a subsidies package for FreshDirect.

Comptroller John Liu addressed protesters downtown after the city approved a subsidies package for FreshDirect.

Final decision now lies with the mayor

To no one’s surprise, the city’s Industrial Development Agency on Monday voted to approve a package of tax exemptions and incentives that would bring online grocer FreshDirect to the Harlem River Yards in Port Morris.

The only dissenting voice came from City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu, who said at a press conference after the meeting that the deal is unfair to taxpayers and would hurt small businesses.

FreshDirect’s CEO, Jason Ackerman, hailed the development agency’s decision.

“With each approval, we are getting closer and closer to achieving our goal of bringing thousands of good jobs to an area of the city that needs them most,” said Ackerman, in a statement.

A spokesman for the development agency echoed the statement.

“At a time of too-high unemployment – especially in one of the country’s poorest Congressional districts – FreshDirect’s expansion in the Bronx will bring 2,000 jobs to the borough and create 1,000 more, providing a major impact to the local economy,” Patrick Muncie wrote in an email.

The Mayor now has three weeks to sign off on the plan.

In response to criticism from opponents that an agreement with the Bronx Borough President’s office to create jobs for Bronxites is non-binding, the company said it would lose out on $18.9 million in benefits if it fails to live up to its promise to create 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

After the hearing, Liu and two-dozen protesters rallied across the street from the development agency’s headquarters near Wall Street. They reiterated previous contentions that FreshDirect’s cars and trucks will make the area’s traffic and pollution problems worse, that small businesses and bodegas would be hurt, and that FreshDirect’s new facility on the Harlem River waterfront would be prone to flooding, with taxpayers left to pay the bill.

“The city once again threw away a lot of money to a big corporation,” Liu said, adding that taxpayers will pay $131,000 for each new job.

“The salt in the wound is that they would put it in the South Bronx without proper community input,” he added.

Francine Rogers, who has lived in Melrose for 34 years, came to the meeting expecting there to be more debate.

“I’m disappointed they’re not having more discussion about these issues,” she said, expressing skepticism that FreshDirect will live up to its promise to convert to an all-electric, non-polluting trucking fleet in five years.

“They have 150 trucks. Only 10 are electric,” she said. “We get the asthma.”

A lawyer representing a group of Mott Haven residents whose lawsuit to stop the move was tossed out by a judge, said his group is appealing that decision.

“This is not a done deal,” said Gavin Kearney of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.