South Bronx Demands Respect

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in the Bronx, and I spent part of it with South Bronx Unite, a group that has lead the pushback against the relocation of Fresh Direct from Queens to a public waterfront in the Port Morris section of the Bronx. About 100 people were there, singing and chanting to some slammin pleneros who had come for the occasion. Nine volunteers were arrested in an orchestrated display of civil disobedience to draw attention to the health and environmental hazards that come about when we cede our waterfront to corporate entities like Fresh Direct, Fed Ex, and the New York Post, who has a headquarters just to the east of the demonstration site.

Local children playing cello join the demonstration
Local children playing cello join the demonstration

The video says it all. There was a protest during which protestors placed flowers on the gate that Fed Ex uses to mark the limits of their site and deny locals access to the waterfront, a group of nine protestors staged a sit in and, as orchestrated with the NYPD, were arrested and taken to the local precinct. Protestors marched from the waterfront site at 132nd St and St. Ann’s Avenue to the precinct at 138th and Alexander Avenue and waited for the release of those arrested. When they were released, there was a celebration.

In a statement following the demo, South Bronx Unite asserted: “Residents have filed a lawsuit in opposition to Fresh Direct’s proposed relocation. The lawsuit seeks a full environmental impact study of the proposed project. Mayor De Blasio has the opportunity to drop the City’s opposition to the lawsuit. This would compel the environmental review. Fresh Direct, if allowed to proceed, would bring 1500 additional daily truck trips through the South Bronx. this plan is a Bloomberg-era relic attempting to give the diesel-intensive grocer nearly $130 million in public subsidies to move to this public waterfront land. The community is already burdened by asthma hospitalization rates at 21 times that of other New York City neighborhoods.”

South Bronx Unite and community members present hope that elected officials will look out for the rights to a clean and safe environment of local residents, but the people will speak regardless. It’s time that Bronx residents are allowed access to restored waterfront spaces the way our counterparts in Brooklyn and Manhattan do, and protected from environmentally destructive events like Fresh Direct’s relocation. For more info about South Bronx Unite and the work they’re doing, go to http://www.southbronxunite.com and follow them on Twitter, @SouthBronxUnite.

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