Is Fresh Direct moving from L.I.C.?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com |


Rendering courtesy Fogarty Finger Architects

A Queens produce supplier may be saying goodbye to the Big Apple and starting fresh directly across the Hudson River.  Fresh Direct, the online grocer currently based in Long Island City, is being lured by New Jersey with a reported $100 million package of tax breaks, land and other subsidies if they relocate to Jersey City.

Erin Gold, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, confirmed Fresh Direct has applied for assistance under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program, which encourages private investment in nine designated urban centers in the state, including Jersey City. According to Gold, a minimum investment of $50 million and 250 employees is mandatory to qualify for the program.

Bettina Damiani, project director of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog on the city’s economic development subsidy program, finds Fresh Direct’s potential move discourteous and offensive. “The conversation really needs to be about their subsidies from the city for their L.I.C. facility” said Damiani. “If they move, my question is, don’t they have to pay back some of their subsidies to the city? I think it is insulting that Fresh Direct, which has benefited from tax payer subsidies, is putting their thumbs in our eyes when we helped them reach the point where they want to expand. They are playing unfairly. They are asking for more money, and then they are playing the whole New Jersey border war.”

Damiani says Fresh Direct agreed to a package with New York City from 1999 to 2025 worth $5.3 million, of which they have currently used $2.2 million. A public hearing is currently scheduled for February 9, during which the grocery provider can officially request a subsidies increase.

The decade-old company, which delivers fresh food and grocery items to New York City, Nassau County, Westchester County and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, declined to comment regarding its potential relocation across state lines. According to a city official, New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are countering the Garden State’s offer with a deal that would move the grocery supplier to a new, 500,000-square-foot facility in the Harlem River Yards of the Bronx.

Repeated attempts to contact the mayor’s office went unreturned.

Negotiations are currently ongoing between the city and Fresh Direct, which the official says has outgrown its current L.I.C. facility and needs more space to expand. The grocer, which currently employes roughly 2,000 people, is aiming to create 500 new jobs within the next three years.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents L.I.C., says the state and city are working on a deal to ensure the produce supplier continues to grow in New York.

According to published reports, Fresh Direct is leaning towards staying in the city with a move to the Bronx.

“Fresh Direct is an important New York City employer,” said Kyle Sklerov, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “We want to ensure that it continues to create new jobs right here in the five boroughs.”