Bronx Residents Flock to Apply for Low-Wage Fresh Direct Jobs in Queens

Fresh Direct is opening a new headquarters in the Bronx in 2015, but residents of the borough aren't waiting around for the new facility to get a foot in the door.  

Seventy-five Bronxites are applying to be picker/packers, delivery reps and mobile equipment operators at the company's current home in Queens in the hope that their jobs will move to the Bronx in three years.

"In that particular area where Fresh Direct is going into, they're experiencing 21 percent unemployment," said Marlene Cintron, whose team is helping prep the applicants for interviews. Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said the residents of Mott Haven — where the new facility will be — need the work.

The Bronx as a whole has an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent, much higher than the 9.6 percent citywide average and the highest of any county in the state, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

Most of the 43 jobs do not pay much more than minimum wage. For example, a picker/packer can expect to make between $8.25 and $8.75 an hour.

Despite the flood of applications, some members of the community say entry-level jobs with Fresh Direct don't pay nearly enough to pull people out of poverty.

"A lot of these jobs are low-paying," said Mychal Johnson, a member of Bronx Community Board 1 and the group South Bronx Unite, which recently sued Fresh Direct on an unrelated matter. "Employees working in 38 degree temperature rooms, having to start shifts from 12, 2, 4 and 6 a.m. in the morning. These aren't living wage jobs."

Fresh Direct has pledged to create 1,000 new positions over 10 years and retain 2,000 more when it moves to the Bronx, where three out of 10 of the new job slots are reserved for residents of the borough.

"From the outset, we said we were going to hire residents from the Bronx and this is the start of our effort to fulfill that commitment," Fresh Direct told WNYC in a statement.

Potential applicants who would like to be pre-screened for the positions by BOEDC have until the end of the day Monday to do so.