On Tuesday a city agency approved an $84 million subsidy package to help FreshDirect move from its Long Island City headquarters to the Bronx, up from the initially proposed $74 million, according to published reports. The decision was passed 14-1; a representive for City Comptroller John Liu cast the dissenting vote.
The Industrial Development Agency’s decision brings the total amount of money that FreshDirect will receive from the city to nearly $130 million, a figure which includes subsidies, tax breaks and loans.
Liu released a statement on Tuesday explaining his opposition to the plan.
“For the cost of this benefits package, the city could give 4,385 students full, four-year scholarships to CUNY or hire 1,458 new teachers or pay 350,000 GED test-prep programs or launch a micro-lending program for minority and women entrepreneurs,” Liu said. Referring to both the Economic Development Corporation’s promised $100 million loan to Cornell University for its proposed school on Roosevelt Island, as well as the FreshDirect deal, Liu added: “The cost to the City is $93,000” for each new job that will be added by the organizations.
FreshDirect, which employs over 2,000, said it will add 1,000 new jobs by 2020.
But some labor groups as well as residents in the Bronx are questioning the value of these jobs. One group, calling itself South Bronx Unite! Stop FreshDirect, released a statement that noted the company has no obligation to create the number of jobs it says it will, or to hire people from the South Bronx.
The release also cites the dearth of fresh food options in the area where FreshDirect’s facility will be, pointing out that FreshDirect doesn’t deliver to the South Bronx or accept food stamps. Additional concerns center on the air pollution that will be created by the company’s fleet of delivery trucks.
Watchdog group Good Jobs New York pointed out in a statement that the company has a history of friction with its workers: efforts to unionize have been rebuffed, for example. The company has numerous labor complaints filed against it, according to GJNY, which questioned whether the new jobs would be quality ones worth the city’s massive subsidy package.