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2014 in Reflection

Thanks to all who work tirelessly for environmental, economic and social justice in the South Bronx. No more devaluing our lives for the financial or political gain of others.

I.  Stood Our Ground and Changed the Headlines as FreshDirect Attempted a Secret Groundbreaking on a Monday Morning at 10 am Three Days Before Christmas

On December 22, at 10 am on a Monday morning, more than 100 South Bronx residents gathered outside the gates of Harlem River Yards with baby strollers, banners and bullhorns to oppose a secret FreshDirect “groundbreaking” ceremony taking place in a small tent behind three fences and two security checkpoints.  Even though community opposition is growing, litigation is ongoing, federal subsidies have been blocked, State subsidies remain under consideration (following November’s overwhelming opposition to the project) and Mayor de Blasio has yet to speak on previously-approved City subsidies he vowed to stop while campaigning, FreshDirect and a few representatives from outside this district aimed to confuse and silence opposition to the project by christening the deal as done.  Unfortunately for them, we are strong, smart and resilient, and we are able to see through self-proclamations of “done deals” as well as false promises of electric trucks and jobs.  We are more determined than ever to stand our ground.

II.  Coordinated Dozens of Testimonies, Tours and Actions Generating 1,000s of Phone Calls, Emails and Statements Against the FreshDirect Deal

Just last month, the New York Empire State Development Corporation hosted the very first and sole South Bronx public hearing on the proposed subsidies to FreshDirect.  Hundreds of residents and local businesses and organizations submitted testimony in opposition to the project, and not a single local resident testified in favor of the project who was not a paid employee.  Our community's call for justice has reached thousands of people this year through creative grassroots efforts led by residents - from waterfront environmental justice tours with medical schools, urban farmers, architects, professors, urban planners, international climate justice advocates and teams from the Office of the Attorney General - to public educational events in Melrose, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Riverdale all the way to the CUNY Graduate Center, the High Line and Brooklyn.  We have also participated in nearly a dozen City and State hearings on subsidies, development and waterfront planning, and we have been awarded the “2014 Environmental Justice Award” from the Professional Staff Congress (the union representing more than 25,000 faculty and staff at CUNY) as well as the “Felix A. Fishman Award” by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for our contribution to expanding access to justice.

"There are organizations that are formed in strength of name only with little impact, and then there are movements.  South Bronx Unite is the latter."
-Pastor Que English

"I applaud South Bronx Unite's tireless advocacy for a healthy and safe South Bronx."
-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

"South Bronx Unite has fought tirelessly for a better quality of life for everyone in the Bronx. The Bronx is a healthier, cleaner, and stronger place thanks to their work."
-Congressman José E. Serrano


III.  Selected to Attend United Nations Climate Summit, Marched in Historic People's Climate March and Performed Our Cantastoria of the South Bronx

In September, South Bronx Unite representative Mychal Johnson was selected to attend the United Nations Climate Summit with more than 100 global heads of state and 37 civil society representatives, bringing international attention to our ongoing fight to stop the subsidized relocation of FreshDirect’s diesel trucking operation and broadening awareness of climate justice movements across the Bronx and other urban communities of color.  Simultaneously, we collaborated with a Bronx-wide coalition under the banner Bronx Climate Justice to coordinate historic participation in the People’s Climate March.  Hundreds of South Bronxites marched with asthma pumps, oxygen tanks and a mock FreshDirect truck plastered with images of our three year fight against the company's slated environmental injustice in the South Bronx.  With these props and a community-written script, all developed in collaboration with Papel Machete, we also performed in the Bronx and Manhattan Our Cantastoria of the South Bronx, a theatrical interpretation of the needs, issues and experiences of the South Bronx.

IV.  100s Marched, 9 Arrested in Protest of Proposed Relocation of FreshDirect to the South Bronx

In March, under the theme "we need to breathe; we came to plant," an exuberant march of 100s of South Bronx residents and allies marched through the streets of Mott Haven and Port Morris in protest of the planned relocation of FreshDirect. The dynamic march included pleneros, a mariachi band, giant puppets, a local orchestra, and an interfaith reflection. Upon arriving at the waterfront site proposed for the diesel trucking company's relocation, nine South Bronx residents were arrested when blocked from entering the public, brownfield site to plant soil detoxifying sunflowers.  According to Rev. Rubén Austria, one of the Mott Haven residents arrested, "our actions are reflective of our belief, to paraphrase Dr. King, that one who violates an unjust law is in reality expressing the highest regard for the law." In June, all charges were dropped against the Mott Haven Nine following representation of the nine by Mott Haven resident attorney, Donald Dunn.

V.  NYS Recommended Prioritization of the Community-Developed Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan

The community-developed and -driven Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan was voted by overwhelming majority for inclusion on the draft list of priority projects of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Open Space Plan. Never before has our community had a priority project in the plan! The Open Space Plan serves as a blueprint for the state’s land conservation efforts, identifying priority open space projects for protection and guiding State Environmental Protection Fund investments. More than 200 residents submitted comments and/or attended the public hearing in support of the plan's prioritization, notably including the Speaker of City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York Restoration Project and New Yorkers for Parks. Stay tuned for developments and stay involved to ensure that our public waterfront becomes accessible to the public and that the decades of solely using it as a duping ground for diesel trucks, waste transfer stations and fossil fuel power plants come to an end! 

VI.  Developed a Movement Being Watched Beyond the Geographic Boundaries of the South Bronx

Our resident media team has worked tirelessly to ensure our story is told broadly and loudly though our voices.  2014 media mentions include:
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