This week, activists in the South Bronx launched a boycott of Fresh Direct, the online grocery-delivery company. The boycott itself is somewhat ironic, since Fresh Direct does not deliver to the South Bronx, which is largely a food desert, or to most of the Bronx for that matter. To launch the boycott, activists had to travel deep into the heart of the Fresh Direct customer base (the Upper West Side) to explain why getting your groceries delivered by low-paid workers driving diesel trucks that idle at the curb — even if the trucks have vegetables and words like “eat local” printed on the side — is not, if you stop to think about it, really all that green.
In February, the city announced — with great fanfare but, whoops, before the public hearing on the topic — a $130 million subsidy package to help Fresh Direct move its warehouse/distribution center from its current (subsidized) location in Queens to the Harlem River Yards on the Bronx waterfront. This deal, like so many in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York, came as a surprise to residents and galvanized them to engage in a battle against bad city planning, sweetheart deals and pervasive environmental racism.
We should all be watching this battle and doing what we can to help. For those of us in 10471 and 10463 — among the few Bronx zip codes that currently receive Fresh Direct delivery — that means joining the boycott.
Pediatric asthma rates in the South Bronx are currently 25 percent (five times the city average) and the Fresh Direct proposal, which would generate at least 2,000 additional diesel truck trips through the community every day, would not help. Green space would help. Waterfront access would help. Bike paths would help. And South Bronx community activists have been fighting for these things for many years.