On Monday several hundred people from all ranks, majority Bronx residents packed a Hostos Community College auditorium to express their opinion at the Empire State Development’s Public Hearing on whether to grant Fresh Direct corporation a $9million dollar grant and $1 million dollar loan for their relocation to the South Bronx.
The company has already received a truck load of monies from the city, thanks to the exiting mayor Bloomberg’s administration to help corporations over small businesses. They have also received support from the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr. who see’s this as a gain in employment and business opportunity for the Borough.
The packed house was occupied by a large number of Fresh Direct employees who live in the Bronx and were there to help their employer move closer to their homes as many are now community to Long Island City where the plant is presently located.
The other half of those in attendance were community residents, activist, laborers, students and the like that are against Fresh Direct moving into the South Bronx, never mind getting additional monies to carry out that move.
There were so many arguments as to why Fresh Direct should not move into the South Bronx and by now many of my readers know many of them as I have raised the issues in many other forums and public meetings. The bottom line is that what I continue to see in these numerous public meetings that I have attended is the same scenario, one part of our community versus another. It’s not like if it was Bronx Vs. Manhattan, people of color vs. anglos, exclusively poor vs. overwhelmingly rich. No it’s not that clear cut.
The Fresh Direct workers who volunteered to be present (only they would know that, or chosen to be present) were majority, African American and Latino men. Very few women and a few whites. They were there arguing for their jobs. Though they are all working, they were probably told how showing up to this hearing in their borough would help their cause for longer term employment, of future raises. Whatever, the reason, the fact is that I can’t argue against a man wanting to fight for the right to have, or maintain a job. That is the essence of maintaining and raising a family. No job, makes you feel you are less than a man. So I don’t blame these brothers for being there and cheering on everyone who spoke in favor of Fresh Direct.
This drives me to the point. The folks arguing against Fresh Direct are not against people working. Our argument is quite simple, but sometimes lost in the type of public hearing held on Monday that looked more like a rival college boxing match. Our argument is basically: HEALTH. Another 1000 trucks driving, idling, or just parked in an area that presently has one of the highest asthma rates in the State and country is unacceptable. The health of our children, the health of our seniors and the overall health of the people living in Mott Haven and Port Morris is the real issue.
Noticed I said Mott Haven and Port Morris and not the Bronx. The reason is that this issue does not affect the entire Bronx, therefore the majority of the employees and those that support the Fresh Direct should be silent since none of them from what I saw at the meeting live in the community that will be most affected.
If everyone that spoke in favor of Fresh Direct, but did not live in the community were to have left the auditorium, and some of those that spoke in favor, but do not live in the affected area would have been asked to leave, the over 1/3 left in the auditorium left were the true spokespersons for the issue of Fresh Direct and that overwhelming majority would have said NO, WE DON’T WANT FRESH DIRECT.