Bronx bodega saves community fridge designed to help local families

Volunteers help move the Mott Haven community fridge and pantry.
Jason Cohen

Just two weeks ago, the newly launched Mott Haven fridge received unexpected news that it was no longer welcome at its home outside Chicky’s Mini-Market.

However, after over a week of stalled negotiations, Mott Haven Fridge organizers Charlotte Alvarez and Daniel Zauderer received a phone call from a local volunteer, coincidentally the niece of the manager of neighboring Brito Deli Grocery.  Thanks to this family connection, the fridge only moved 30 feet from its original location and is now in front of a vacant lot owned by Brito.

On Dec. 5, amidst the rain and nasty weather, Alvarez, Zauderer, and volunteers met outside Chicky’s on 141st Street and St. Anns Avenue to move the fridge and pantry.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to stay so close to our original home, and we know that our amazing volunteer’s uncle will not regret his decision to save our treasured community resource,” they said in a statement. “This move is a blessing in disguise. Not only do we get to stay on the same block, but we also have the opportunity to beautify a neglected sidewalk in New York’s ‘forgotten borough.”

Alvarez told the Bronx Times the original owners were welcoming but there were always issues. Once they wanted the fridge to move the organizers questioned where the fridge could go.

She explained that if it went too far from its current location they would lose their volunteers and be far from where she and Zauderer teach.

“A lot of our parents are really instrumental to keeping it running,” she explained. “This takes a lot of work, but you are always rewarded and reminded why.”

Immediately after moving the fridge and pantry, a team of volunteers cleaned out the area, which was full of crumbling sidewalk and heaps of garbage. Organizers hope to find a local Bronx artist to paint a mural on the wall behind the fridge in the near future.

They also set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for its winter restock, where donors have raised $30,000.

Abella Brito, who teaches at Young Leaders Elementary, 468 E. 140th St., saw on social media the impact the fridge was having on the community. When she heard it might be evicted, she reached her out to her uncle, Anubis Brito, who said he was willing to let them use his storefront.

Brito noted she was surprised Chicky’s wanted the fridge to move.

“I’m glad that we were able to find a solution,” she said.

Nearby resident Carlos, known as “Macho,” has brought food to the fridge on numerous occasions and was caught off guard when he heard Chicky’s wanted it gone.

“With everything going on, like crime, killing, drugs, you’re worried about electricity,” he said. “I thought they [Chicky’s] were part of it.”

This first appeared on BXTimes.com

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