Posted on January 10, 2022 at 12:22 PM by West Sider
By Joy Bergmann
Board member Gale Brewer is targeting grocery delivery apps, calling their operations “illegal” and an existential threat to family-owned stores in the city, including its Upper West Side neighborhood.
“They’re going to kill the wonderful Latino restaurants, the wonderful bodegas, the wonderful delicatessens, every wonderful mom-and-pop supermarket,” Brewer said at a press conference on Sunday with other elected officials and a coalition of business groups. small businesses. held in the Lower East Side. “These Gopuffs, JOKRs and Gorillas have to go!” “
But representatives from some of these companies say their operations are painted with an unfair brush, with critics ignoring community benefits such as the jobs and the positive consumer experiences they bring.
On the Upper West Side, at least five delivery companies are now operating what Brewer and others call “dark stores” or mini-warehouses. Customers order items through digital apps. E-bike couriers then deliver them, with some brands promising an arrival in just 10 or 15 minutes.
WSR located these operations at:
120 Riverside Boulevard (66th Street) – 1520
50 W. 72nd Street (Columbus) – Fridge No More
2409 Broadway (88th Street) – JOKR
2680 Broadway (102nd Street) – Gopuff
2681 Broadway (102nd Street) – Gorillas
So what is the problem? Isn’t this capitalism at work? WSR asked.
No. It’s an unfair fight with competitors breaking the rules, said several speakers.
App startups have Resources solo entrepreneurs can only dream of, Brewer said. “They have billion venture capital behind them.”
These deep pockets can fund marketing blitzes and promotions like $ 10 or $ 20 off first orders. Independent wineries can’t hand out $ 20 bills to every new person who walks through their door, a man said in the crowd.
“We’ve seen this game before,” New York City controller Brad Lander added, citing what Uber and Lyft have done to the cab industry and Amazon has done to brick and mortar retailers. “We allowed a model of finance to come in and drive them out of business for the enrichment of a small handful of people.”
Representatives of the wineries said they were also investing in technology and hoped to provide more options for consumers. But they have yet to garner the same interest from venture capitalists as newer companies.
“We are not against technology,” said Francisco Marte, founder of the Bodega and Small Business Association. “We need business leaders to work with us… to take our bodegas to the next level. ”
“We have our own software,” said Frank Garcia, president of the National Association of State Latino Chambers of Commerce, citing My Bodega, a delivery platform for local stores that he says hasn’t received the funding to scale it up. “Why aren’t American companies supporting them? It is economic racism. Because we are not white on Wall Street, we are not getting this money.
One of the main concerns of elected officials is zoning; they say warehouses shouldn’t be in buildings zoned for commercial and residential use.
According to the New York City Planning Department website, “warehouses and distribution centers” belong to manufacturing districts.
Brewer raised the issue of zoning, among other things, in a october letter at several city agencies. The answers did not come.
“All we got from the Buildings and Town Planning Department was ‘we’re talking’. It’s not good enough, ”she said. “We will work with the new [Adams] administration. These dark stores are illegal.
A city planning spokesperson referred zoning issues from WSR to the Department of Buildings.
“These types of quick-service distribution centers are a new type of business in the city, and they’re not specifically mentioned in the city’s existing zoning bylaws,” a DOB spokesperson told WSR. “We are actively working with our partners in other agencies to explore appropriate zoning districts for these types of establishments.”
Security is another multi-faceted concern.
Many app storefronts have windows covered with paper or promotional ads, which reduces visibility from inside and out. “It spoils the streetscape,” Brewer said, indicating that she believes such coverage is a violation of New York City code. “It’s illegal.”
Additionally, electric bikes fitted with lithium-ion batteries are kept on the premises, Brewer said, noting recent deaths such batteries catch fire. “I wouldn’t want to live up there.”
And the speed at which delivery people must complete their assignments puts them and passers-by in danger, she says. “It doesn’t make sense to ask someone to bring someone an apple in 15 minutes,” Brewer said. “They’re going to make people run towards the customer and run over pedestrians.”
In interviews, people working in the companies had positive things to say about the new delivery model.
A Gorillas delivery guy told WSR he was happy with his job. He is paid $ 15 an hour plus tips and Gorillas provides the electric bike. He said location 2681 Broadway is busy, operating from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. “Milk” is the most popular item, he said.
“It’s cool,” a storefront worker told Gopuff. She said their location 2680 on Broadway delivers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that “Covid tests” have been launched through the door.
“Bread, eggs, milk,” that’s what’s hot at Fridge No More at 50 W. 72nd Street, a delivery guy told WSR.
The three workers called their workplaces “warehouses” and said people could not shop inside.
A JOKR official preparing for its 88th and Broadway for its recent opening said customers can pick up their orders in addition to taking delivery.
WSR emailed detailed questions to the five companies operating on the UWS.
Gorillas, based in Germany, returned a basic press release and “backgrounder.” He highlighted the Gorilla treatment of the “Cavaliers”, providing training and full-time employment conditions and benefits, including health insurance and paid vacation.
The 1520 message bounced from the address listed on its website.
JOKR emailed a statement outlining their community involvement and policy of hiring full-time W2 workers receiving “competitive wages and full benefits” as well as “comprehensive safety training.”
“The JOKR community lives and works in the same neighborhoods that we serve and, as such, the safety of our runners, neighbors and customers is of paramount importance,” wrote a spokesperson.
JOKR also works with third-party service providers like Too Good To Go to pick up “discounted products that would otherwise be wasted,” she said.
JOKR, which lists New York and Luxembourg addresses on its website, says its business responds to “ever-increasing consumer demand for more spontaneous, personalized and convenient delivery of fresh produce and favorite local brands.” .
Brooklyn-based Fridge No More did not respond to WSR.
But a spokesperson for Gopuff responded to several of the allegations made by opponents of the app.
“Gopuff does not operate dark stores in New York City,” she wrote. “Customers can enter or zoom to enter all of our New York City locations. Each location has a point of sale system and cash register to facilitate customer transactions.
“We are working to ensure that we are following zoning regulations in all the cities in which we launch operations,” continued Gopuff’s response.
“Gopuff offers a unique assortment of products… and partners with local brands to support their distribution, as well as to ensure that surplus products from our sites are donated to Feeding America or one of their local affiliates.
Regarding the job, the Philadelphia-based company said, “If someone wants the flexibility and freedom to work on their own schedule, they can become a delivery partner as an independent contractor (the partner average American delivery man earns between $ 18 and $ 25 an hour with Gopuff). If someone is looking for more predictability and benefits, they can join our local team or our team as a full-time or part-time employee.
Gopuff added, “New York has a rich and rich culture of bodegas, delicatessens and convenience stores, and we want to complement and complement their offerings for consumers. “
Brewer isn’t buying it, promising to go all the way to reverse the proliferating presence of apps in these times of a pandemic. “They open every minute. But we will continue like this, ”she said. “We are going to fight to keep our bodegas and get rid of these obscure stores. ”
Legislation can happen.
“We need a comprehensive regulatory framework to take all illegal businesses off the streets,” said Lincoln Restler, Brooklyn board member. “We’re going to do everything we can to elevate the wineries, to help deliver new technology, to help bring real relief from city, state and federal government. And above all to encourage each of our neighbors to do their shopping in the stores that make up our neighborhoods.