Thursday, May 24, 2012

Congressman, state senator express doubts about South Bronx development in wake of FreshDirect deal 

Bronx pols say too many trucks

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Rep. Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx) and his son, State Sen. Jose Marco Serrano (right).

Keith Bedford for New York Daily

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx) and his son, State Sen. Jose Marco Serrano (right).

Two more elected officials have expressed doubts about the use of state-owned land on the South Bronx waterfront for online grocer FreshDirect and other businesses that use trucks.
But they lauded the recent announcement that FreshDirect will deliver to all borough ZIP codes as "a positive step."
Rep. Jose E. Serrano and state Sen. Jose M. Serrano have asked Albany to halt development at the Harlem River Rail Yards pending an audit of the site where FreshDirect plans to build its new base.
They outlined their concerns in a May 16 letter to Joan McDonald, state Department of Transportation commissioner. Two City Council members, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Maria del Carmen expressed similar concerns in a letter sent to the transportation honcho May 3.
The DOT said it will respond later this month.
Their letter puts the Serranos somewhat at odds with the Cuomo and Bloomberg administrations. In February, the governor and mayor announced a $130 million subsidy package for FreshDirect to relocate from Long Island City, Queens to the South Bronx.
They argue the deal will create 1,000 new jobs and keep the firm from moving to New Jersey.
But in their letter, the Serranos noted that FreshDirect will spawn nearly 2,000 vehicle trips per day and generate diesel exhaust.
The land reserved for FreshDirect is owned by the DOT but controlled by Harlem River Yard Ventures, a private firm with a 99-year lease for the site. When it signed the lease in 1991, it vowed to develop a new rail system for freight that would reduce truck traffic.
But the Serranos claim it has done the opposite, subleasing to firms with heavy vehicle use.
"Such development has exacerbated the health problems," they wrote, noting that 1 in 5 South Bronx children has asthma.
The Serranos claim the South Bronx has changed and want the state to reevaluate the waterfront as a hub for industry.
In their letter, they blasted FreshDirect for not delivering to the South Bronx. But the firm announced last Friday it will now serve all ZIP codes in the borough. It will also launch a pilot program for food stamp recipients to order groceries online.
Rep. Serrano called the news a "positive development."
"I hope to see FreshDirect, the city and the state engage in a more direct dialogue with the community," he said Monday.
FreshDirect has said it plans to replace its diesel fleet with "green" trucks within five years.
dbeekman@nydailynews.com
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