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An Act of War

TimesLedger Newspapers

Can someone tell the New Jersey governor that stealing Fresh Direct would be the economic equivalent of an act of war?

Fresh Direct, an online grocery that employs 2,000 people in Long Island City, is considering relocating to New Jersey. The company was seduced by a program offering tax credits equal to up to 100 percent of qualified capital investments for companies to relocate.

Erin Gold, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said the state did not pursue Fresh Direct, but she concedes the company had applied to New Jersey’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program in November.

Should this company flee Queens, part of the blame belongs to Empire State Development, a state agency that promotes business investment and growth. This would not be the first time this agency has dropped the ball.

City officials said they were hoping to get Fresh Direct to move to a new facility in the Bronx. That will not do. There are delis and other businesses in western Queens that benefit from the workers at Fresh Direct. They will suffer if Fresh Direct relocates.

“My main concern as always is to create jobs in western Queens,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris. “Their departure to any other place has been disappointing to us.”

We share his sentiments, but at a time when the metropolitan area is in the midst of a crippling recession with record unemployment, we would prefer he take a stronger stand. We would like to see Gianaris, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg tell New Jersey that stealing Fresh Direct is an economic act of war. New York state and city should keep Fresh Direct here and start offering incentives for New Jersey companies to relocate to the five boroughs.

The company has every right to move, but at the same time the thousands of customers in the city also have every right to say they no longer want to patronize a business that would put that many New Yorkers out of work.

New Yorkers who have grown accustomed to buying from Fresh Direct may find that they can buy even fresher food from neighborhood stores that continue to employ New Yorkers.

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