Tag Archives: Good Jobs New York

FreshDirect leaving Long Island City for the Bronx

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

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.

Could Queens get two convention centers?

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Possession is nine-tenths of the law — a lesson Governor Andrew Cuomo has apparently learned the hard way.

According to published reports, when the governor proposed a plan for the largest convention center in the country next to Resorts World in South Ozone Park, he was under the impression the land belonged to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The property, however, is reportedly owned by New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may be hesitant to sell due to his plans for a convention center of his own in Willets Point.

The Willets Point convention center is part of a redevelopment of the entire area, which will include retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel, mixed-income housing, public open space and community uses.

The $4 billion project in South Ozone Park, dubbed the New York International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE), would be financed by Resorts World and encompass 3.8 million-square-feet, including 3,000 hotel rooms.

Repeated attempts to contact Cuomo’s office went unreturned. The mayor’s office declined to comment pending further information.

Bettina Damiani, the project director of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog on the city’s economic development subsidy program, is disappointed the city and state have been unable to collaborate to promote the most productive project.

“Why is the Cuomo administration pushing for a convention center at Aqueduct when the Bloomberg administration has already put so much effort into one at Willets Point?” Damiani asked. “One hand not talking to the other is disappointing.”

Despite the recent rush to construct convention centers, Damiani believes the facilities may not be the best venture for New York.

“History shows convention centers are not a good investment,” she said. “A report by the Brookings Institution showed that attendance to convention centers has been declining across the country since the late 1990s.”

Other Queens leaders believe the borough could benefit from both facilities, with neither diminishing the other.

“The governor’s proposal is exciting, but I don’t think it prevents the one in Willets Point,” said Claire Shulman, president and CEO of the Flushing, Willets Point, Corona Local Development Corporation, which is advocating for the Willets Point project. “The one in Willets Point is a bit more modest of a convention center, which would deal with LaGuardia Airport business. Queens can use both.”

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, echoed Shulman in promoting the distinct benefits each center would offer.

“The Ozone Park convention center is great for the borough,” Friedman said. “It is transformative, and in many ways, will help establish the borough as a tourist destination. It is a huge opportunity to rebuild south Queens area, specifically downtown Jamaica and the Rockaways. For years, Queens has suffered from tourists coming into our airports, taking cabs into Manhattan and not spending any money in the borough, and I think this will change that. The one in Willets Point is a completely different type of convention center. It is for smaller trade shows and exhibitions. The thoughts of convention centers in South Ozone Park and Willets Point are not mutually exclusive – they can support each other.”