Jason Ackerman, CEO of FreshDirect, obviously thinks very little of Bronxites. He thinks we won’t notice when he lies and panders while affirming that his company, which fought for exemption from the City’s Fair Wage standard, pays fair wages. He lies when he tries to make us believe that FreshDirect’s “recent” move to Mott Haven is a fait accompli. FreshDirect has not moved to the South Bronx and it never will.
He lies because of who he thinks Bronxites are. Let’s be brutally frank, and not hide behind politically correct euphemisms: Mr. Ackerman’s attitude can only stem from one place — condescension. But I have painful news for you, Mr. Ackerman: everything you have assumed about us Bronxites is wrong, and in your rush to wish this PR nightmare away, you further insult and galvanize us.
You assume that because Mott Haven is poor, and mostly black and brown, we will take any jobs in exchange for your pollution, asthma and corporate thievery. You think you can talk about a few electric trucks and we will be suitably shocked and awed into oblivion. No, Mr. Ackerman: your 2,000 truck trips will clog our streets to a crawl no matter the fuel type, bringing more pollution and health problems to our neighborhood and destroying our quality of life.
You deem our input about your sinister designs on our publicly-owned waterfront unnecessary. Of course in your parallel universe, strange and twisted things happen. You proudly show off a multi-million dollar Soho apartment in New York Magazine while shamelessly seeking hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to subsidize your ventures. You ask for government handouts while spending tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists to promote your Wrecking of the Bronx and try to sway our politicians (which isn’t working: they are listening to us). And talk about fair wages: you “paid” your hard-working laborers by calling immigration when they tried to organize. Your company is the poster boy of unfair wages in New York City; your own fancy neighbors have begun complaining about your constantly-idling trucks; yet you come to these pages and lie. In fact, your letter to The Press last week was your first public comment in the Bronx media. Riverdale, you must have thought, is white and wealthy and disproportionately powerful like yourself. Riverdale will understand.
Mr. Ackerman, we have a very clear vision: our waterfront as a health enhancement site. Your stunning environmental racism and patronizing disrespect do not confuse us. You can live in your fantasy world, threatening to move to New Jersey, blabbing about ten electric trucks, lying about wages, irresponsibly name-dropping your fashionable business partners (though you may find they don’t appreciate it).
But consider yourself warned: the South Bronx always keeps it real.
Libertad Guerra is a Mott Haven resident. The Points of View column is open to all readers.