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The Campaign Against FreshDirect: Bronx New York, USA

FreshDirect, a food delivery company based in Mott Haven in the South Bronx, is responsible for increased emissions and poor air quality in an already at-risk community.


In February 2012, a bidding war between the Bronx and New Jersey broke out regarding where the online grocer FreshDirect’s new warehouse would be built. A 400,000 square foot site in Port Morris, the South Bronx, along the Harlem River waterfront, was chosen due to over $100 million in state and city tax incentives. The deal was facilitated by the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, and former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg. The project is estimated to bring $112.6 million in investment to the Bronx and approximately 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:The Campaign Against FreshDirect: Bronx New York, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York
Location of conflict:Mott Haven
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Land
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

FreshDirect is an online grocer based in New York City; they began delivering groceries to customers' homes in the New York Metropolitan area in 2002. The company has over $600 million in annual revenue [10]. FreshDirect was offered over $100 million in taxpayer subsidies to move their warehouse in Long Island City, Queens to the South Bronx [1]. The company makes up to 12,000 deliveries per day, and in 2011 expected revenues to increase by 15% to 20% per year for the next five years [13].

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Project area:3,716
Level of Investment for the conflictive project$112,600,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:44,193
Start of the conflict:02/01/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Harlem River Yard Ventures, INC. from United States of America - Under a 99 year lease from the NYSDOT, petitioned against in lawsuit
FreshDirect, LLC from United States of America - Petitioned against in lawsuit,
New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) from United States of America - The DOT would be responsible for managing the increase in trucks and traffic surrounding FreshDirect
UTF Trucking, INC. from United States of America - Petitioned against in lawsuit
Empire State Development Corporation from United States of America - Petitioned against in lawsuit
New York City Economic Development Corporation from United States of America - Petitioned against in lawsuit
New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) from United States of America - Petitioned against in lawsuit
Relevant government actors:The Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo
Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:South Bronx Unite
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Potential: Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsAsthma and other ailments related to poor air quality and diesel emissions
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Proposal and development of alternatives:Since FreshDirect is currently operational in Mott Haven, it is difficult to explore viable alternatives to this issue. There is always the option of having FreshDirect relocate their business to a community that is less at risk for asthma and other health impacts, but this is highly unlikely since FreshDirect is settled in Mott Haven. Additionally, even though FreshDirect has tried to add some electric and bio-diesel trucks to their operations, these attempts have not been widely successful and have not made a huge impact on air quality. FreshDirect could put more effort into investing in more electric and bio-diesel vehicles that will be reliant and minimize their environmental impact.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The petitioner's lawsuit was dismissed, the case was thrown out, and FreshDirect opened their warehouse in 2018. FreshDirect claims they are committed to reducing their diesel emissions by finding electric vehicles that meet their standards. In 2018, they fulfilled their commitment by purchasing and incorporating 10 electric vehicles into their fleet [14]. As of 2020, none of these electric vehicles are functional and their manufacturer has gone out of business, and FreshDirect has not yet found an alternative. According to the City, FreshDirect has hired more than 1,500 employees from the Bronx since 2014 [14]. While FreshDirect has provided jobs for residents of the Bronx, they failed to adequately assimilate electric trucks into their fleet, but are attempting to use bio-diesel in some trucks, and have purchased newer diesel trucks that emit less PM/pollution [17].
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[16] The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Modifiable Risk Factors for Asthma Morbidity in Bronx Versus Other Inner-City Children, Karen Warman, Ellen Johnson Silver, Pam R. Wood, 6/28/2010
[click to view]

[1] Gotham Gazette, Savannah Jacobson, For Ruben Diaz Jr., a Booming Bronx and Plan to Run on Development, 6/3/2019
[click to view]

[2] Point2, Mott Haven Demographics, accessed 9/19/2020
[click to view]

[3] NYU Furman Center, State of the City 2019 Mott Haven/Melrose BX01, accessed 9/19/2020
[click to view]

[4] Verified Petition, South Bronx Unite, accessed 9/15/2020
[click to view]

[5] New Yorkers for Parks, Mott Haven Open Space Index, 2014
[click to view]

[6] South Bronx Unite, Why We Fight FreshDirect, accessed 8/15/2020
[click to view]

[7] The New York Times, Residents Sue FreshDirect Over Move to the Bronx, Winnie Hu, 3/4/2013
[click to view]

[8] dnainfo, Judge Tosses Lawsuit Meant to Stop FreshDirect from Moving to The Bronx, Patrick Wall, 6/3/2013
[click to view]

[9] Daily News, Kerry Williams, 3/6/2013
[click to view]

[10] Vox, FreshDirect dominates grocery delivery in New York. Now it has $189 million to compete elsewhere., Jason Del Rey, 9/26/2016
[click to view]

[11] South Bronx Unite, Lily's NYMTC Testimony, Lily Kesselman, 3/1/2012
[click to view]

[12] The Guardian, 'Asthma alley': why minorities bear burden of pollution inequity caused by white people, Hazar Kilani, 4/4/2019
[click to view]

[13] South Bronx Unite, "FOILed" Documents Redacted 204213_FD UTHTC App# 204213, accessed 11/19/2020
[click to view]

[14] The Bronx Chronicle, FreshDirect- A Followup, Robert Press, 4/23/2019
[click to view]

[15] Union of Concerned Scientists, Diesel Engines and Public Health, 7/15/2005
[click to view]

[17] FreshDirect (Gager, R., N.D.). Transportation and Logistics International
[click to view]

Other comments:The Bronx is considered one of the poorest counties in America, and it also happens to have some of the highest asthma rates in the nation. 15.5% of 4-5-year-old Bronx children were found to have asthma; to put this statistic in perspective, 9.2% of New York City students overall have asthma [16]. Children living in the Bronx are twice as likely to be hospitalized for and die of asthma than other US children [16].
Meta information
Contributor:Julia Duff, Skidmore College, [email protected]; Andrew J. Schneller, Skidmore College, [email protected], Jessica Plotnick, Skidmore College, [email protected]
Last update19/07/2021
Conflict ID:5232
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