After flirting with a move to New Jersey, a Queens produce supplier has accepted a fresh offer – and will most likely relocate to the Bronx.
FreshDirect, an online fresh food grocer, will uproot from its operations in Long Island City and leave the borough for larger facilities, according to a joint statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on February 7.
The company said it will retain nearly 2,000 existing jobs and create almost 1,000 new jobs when it moves to the location at Harlem River Yards. However, not everyone is thrilled about the move.
Bettina Damiani, project director of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog of the city’s economic development subsidy program, feels the city did not do its diligence in making the negotiations as transparent as possible. She also believes that FreshDirect is turning its back on Queens and is picking cash from taxpayers’ money tree – a tactic she believes it used when the company threatened to move to New Jersey.
“They [the city’s Industrial Development Agency] conducted a cost benefit analysis, but it doesn’t acknowledge that the city already gave FreshDirect subsidies for the spot in L.I.C.,” she said. “Taxpayers already gave. And instead of thanking the taxpayers, they were put over a barrel and were told to give more or [the company] would move to New Jersey. If they wanted to do this solely on their own dime, it wouldn’t be our fight. But they are using taxpayer money.”
FreshDirect contends that the company needs to move to a larger location in order to better serve its growing customer base – and the Bronx offered the best option.
“With significant growth in our customer base, we need to expand our operations,” said FreshDirect chief executive officer Jason Ackerman. “A new state-of-the-art facility at the Harlem River Yard in the Bronx would allow us to operate more efficiently, maintain our relationships with NYS vendors, local farmers and purveyors and continue our long track record of growth and job creation in New York.”
FreshDirect, founded in 1999, purchases produce, meat and dairy from over 60 New York State-based farms and serves a customer base of over 100,000 people with 97 percent of their employees coming from New York State.
To convince the company to stay in the city, a package of state and city incentives valued at over $100 million is being provided to augment the company’s private investment of $112.6 million.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents a portion of western Queens, said that he was disappointed to hear the company is leaving L.I.C., but he’s glad that they decided to stay in the city. “It’s a testament to their success that they’ve outgrown the space in L.I.C.,” he said. “We certainly hope that no one will lose their jobs over this, and we do plan to fill the space vacated by FreshDirect with another job creator.”
Before the move is confirmed, a public hearing will be held at the New York City Industrial Development Agency on Thursday, February 9 at 10 a.m.