FreshDirect is still a couple of years from moving its entire operation from Queens to the Bronx, but the borough is already getting some benefit with dozens of new jobs going to its residents. NY1's Bronx borough reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Getting from the Bronx to Long Island City doesn't make for the easiest commute but FreshDirect says it's hired 71 more people from the borough to work at its headquarters in Queens. The company says it makes sense to bring on people from the borough it expects to call home within two years.
"When we make the move from Queens to the Bronx it will be a much smoother transition if we could retain employees and have them from the Bronx," said FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman.
Ackerman says the new hires will earn an average of $12.25 an hour in positions from kitchen work to packing up deliveries in the warehouse. That's $5 more than the local minimum wage. It's good news for a borough with some of the state's highest unemployment and poverty rates.
FreshDirect employs just over 2,200 people. Ackerman says he expects to hire even more Bronx employees and that number to grow by a thousand once the move is complete.
In addition to bringing jobs, FreshDirect is also bringing business to the borough by partnering with businesses that are already in the Bronx.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Junior has said that he wouldn't back a project unless it had a comprehensive green design, so FreshDirect is purchasing zero-emission electric trucks from Smith Electric, also located in the South Bronx.
"We're very excited about the tests we're working on. Very clean, quiet trucks," Ackerman said.
The company says it also plans to grow its own produce on a rooftop greenhouse at the Bronx facility.
"They're making sure that everything that they provide, not only to the Bronx community that's buying from them now, to the City of New York has the freshest fruits and vegetables, especially organic, as they ever can," said Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. President Marlene Cintron.
Ackerman says he wants to be a good neighbor, and so FreshDirect is continuing a pilot program that allows residents in neighborhoods near the future plant to make purchases with foodstamps.
The company also delivers to the entire borough, something it doesn't do in its present borough of Queens.