FreshDirect Press Release

Today at City Hall
Time: 1:00 PM

Subject: Opponents Rally against FreshDirect Subsidies at City Hall

Supermarket operators, bodega owners and small business advocates, joined by South Bronx Unite! And Willets Point United, will assemble at City Hall today to protest the city and state’s decision to provide the online grocer FreshDirect with $127 million of tax payer subsidies. Business and community leaders will be supported by Council members Viverito, Levin and Halloran and other elected officials who believe that it is a mistake to use tax money for a single food retailer when the city has a huge budget shortfall.

Earlier this year the city and state made a preliminary decision to provide the online grocer FreshDirect with $127 million worth of tax subsidies so it could move from Queens to the Bronx. The move has been opposed by a coalition of local residents under the banner of South Bronx Unite, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest and Good Jobs New York. South Bronx Unite Has filed a lawsuit on environmental and other grounds against the use of the Harlem Rail Yards site and because the subsidies were not an appropriate use of state funds since FreshDirect is not a wholesaler but a retailer.

Now, however, South Bronx Unite is being joined in its opposition by the New York Association of Grocery Stores (NYAGS), an umbrella group representing city supermarkets, green grocers and bodegas. NYAGS is appalled that public money is being used to advantage one food retailer at the expense of hundreds, if not thousands of other operators who have not received a dime of public money as they struggle in this economic recession.

Lending support to the effort is John Catsimatidis, the owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain. As he points out in his prepared statement:

“I am opposed to using my tax money and the tax money of all of the smaller and struggling food retailers in NYC, to fund our competitor. A competitor who’s objective is to put the City’s neighborhood supermarkets out of business. This puts my business and the majority of my employees and families most of which have been with my company for over 20 years, at a disadvantage.”

Adding his voice to the protest against this misuse of taxpayer money is Morton Sloan of the MortonWilliams chain who says that it is unfair for the government to single out one retailer for support while others are competing-without public funds-using their own money:

"When you help somebody you often hurt somebody else. I just opened a store on 57th St. and I got no tax breaks, not a single penny. This is a misuse of my tax dollars."

The retailers and NYAGS are examining joining the legal fight brought by South Bronx Unite and are looking to generate city wide support against this corporate giveaway policy. The local group is enthusiastic about the growing coalition of opposition and issued the following statement of solidarity with all of the city’s neighborhood food stores:

“In addition to the devastating environmental impacts that FreshDirect’s relocation would have on South Bronx residents, the proposed subsidies would harm local groceries and bodegas--‐not just in the South Bronx but throughout the entire City. In neighborhoods that struggle to keep local grocery stores open, such as the South Bronx, it’s profoundly disturbing to see FreshDirect’s ads touting their intention to make local grocery stores and bakeries obsolete. And it is unacceptable that the City and State intend to give huge subsidies to a company looking to drive our local grocers out of business.

South Bronx Unite commends the New York Association of Grocers, the Bodega
Association, and John Catsimatidis and Morton Sloan for speaking out against this unfair and destructive deal.”

The opponents will also be joined by Ramon Murphy, the head of the Bodega Association. As Murphy says;

“The small business community in NYC is in a state of crisis. Bodegas have been particularly hard hit by store foreclosures and bankruptcies. In the middle of this crisis the city has increased taxes on us and has made our lives a living hell with all kinds of different regulations that make doing business harder. Our struggle has been ignored by the city, but when it comes to looking for-and finding-additional money, the city knows exactly where we are.

In the middle of this economic disaster we find out that our city and state is handing over $127 million to FreshDirect, a single food retailer-a retailer who is telling its customers that they no longer have to go the their neighborhood store any more. This is an outrage and needs to be stopped immediately.”

Adding to this chorus is Irene Prestigiacomo of Willets Point United whose property is being threatened over at Willets Point-and where the city has simply handed over $200 million worth of property to a pair of rich developers;

“The campaign against FreshDirect is very similar to the Willets Point fight. It is a fight against economic development policies that victimize neighborhoods and small businesses like my own for the benefit of the well-connected. In both situations the city is giving away millions of tax dollars for projects that will hurt the quality of life in neighborhoods that have fewer resources to fight against the special interests.”

NYAGs intends to use today’s press conference as the opening salvo in a city wide campaign to support neighborhood retailers and oppose the use of public monies for corporate giveaways that are not available to the great majority of city food stores.