Together, our South Bronx Unite community worked thousands of volunteer hours to achieve the following key accomplishments in 2013:
(1) A Lawsuit, an Appeal and a Special Plea from Internationally Renowned National Resources Defense Council
In March, our attorneys from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) argued in the Bronx Supreme Court that FreshDirect and government officials failed to sufficiently assess the environmental impact of the company’s proposed move to the South Bronx when they relied on a 1993 environmental review of the site to evaluate the impact of FreshDirect’s self-disclosed 1,000 daily diesel truck trips through a residential community notoriously plagued by high rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease. Despite expert testimonies documenting the severe health and environmental consequences of the project as well as the overwhelming support of 50 organizations calling for a full environmental impact statement and the denial of subsidies, Justice Mary Ann Brigantti-Hughes delivered her ruling in June that a two decade old environmental analysis was sufficient for this community. We appealed the decision, together with support from internationally renowned National Resources Defense Council, which filed an amicus brief in support of South Bronx Unite and blogged “Will Fairness Prevail in the South Bronx?” In December, South Bronx residents flooded the Appellate Division, First Department, courtroom as NYLPI argued our appeal before a panel of judges. While we await the decision of the First Department, we are mindful that our legal system does not always provide an avenue toward justice and that we must keep focusing on a broad-based and diverse opposition to this project.
(2) A Senior U.S. Congressman Standing Up Against Subsidy and Land Grabs in the South Bronx and an Incoming Mayor, Public Advocate and Speaker of City Council Opposed to the FreshDirect Subsidies
Throughout 2013 (as we did in 2012), the South Bronx community successfully blocked FreshDirect from receiving the undemocratically-promised $127 million in subsidies. In June, Comptroller John Liuvoted "no" to the subsidy package (as he had in 2012) calling it “another Bloomberg big business boondoggle.” Now, as the Bloomberg administration comes to an end, we are excited to continue our fight with both new and seasoned elected officials with whom we have been actively engaging in our struggle through meetings, waterfront tours, phone calling campaigns and postcard campaigns, including:
City Council Speaker-elect Melissa Mark-Viverito – who was the first elected official to confront the undemocratic deal
Public Advocate-elect Letitia James – who, from the beginning, stood with our community against the enormous subsidy which, according to Tish, would provide an “unfair advantage over others…[when] grocery stores all over the city are suffering”
State Senator José Serrano and Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo – who joined with Congressman Serrano and Council Member Mark-Viverito in reaching out to the NYS Department of Transportation with respect to the alarming health consequences being caused by the current uses of public waterfront land at Harlem River Yards (including where FreshDirect proposes to build)
As we look to 2014, we are profoundly aware of the numerous additional hurdles FreshDirect must cross, each of which presents a new opportunity for the community to be heard on this project, including the need for FreshDirect to receive a zoning override as well as the need of FreshDirect to make a formal application, triggering formal hearings, for the additional $50 million subsidy from the Empire State Development Corporation. A few Bronx politicians continue to advocate for and aggressively protect antiquated policies of subsidizing polluting industries with low wage job promises in the South Bronx. Change is hard. In 2014, we will continue trying to find ways to work with all of the borough’s elected leaders for the betterment of the Bronx.
(3) A Re-Envisioned Waterfront - Memorialized in the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan
In March, South Bronx Unite developed the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan, a blueprint of seven interconnected waterfront projects along the Mott Haven-Port Morris coastline that have been the subject of decades of community advocacy. The seventy-five page proposal was drafted and presented to the NYS Open Space Region 2 Advisory Committee, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of recommending the entire plan for priority designation in the NYS Open Space Conservation Plan. We await public hearings on this matter, likely to take place in early 2014. Meanwhile, we continued to host local events to continue brainstorming and refining the waterfront plan, including in collaboration with resident architects, CUNY-based urban planners and architects from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico (adding to 2012’s collaboration with urban planners from Columbia and Pratt.) We held multiple environmental bike tours of the waterfront, including one in conjunction with the city-wide Turning the Tide initiative on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We also worked with local businesses as well as Museo del Barrio and La Respuesta to host international urban art festival, Los Muros Hablan (The Walls Speak), which brought together international muralists to create a series of murals, including two in Mott Haven (on 138th Street and Grand Concourse) focused on environmental justice and our waterfront.
(4) A Story 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. 2013 media mentions include: