A Noisy “Ghost Bodega” in Gowanus Delivers Headaches to Neighbors

A Noisy “Ghost Bodega” in Gowanus Delivers Headaches to Neighbors
A lot on 6th Street in Gowanus, where food refrigeration trucks operated Reef Technology and Fresh Direct are generating noise complaints from neighbors living in adjacent buildings. (Image: Billy Richling/Bklyner)

A tech company’s effort to get into the food delivery game is delivering nothing but headaches to some Gowanus neighbors.

An industrial lot at 246-250 6th Street near 4th Avenue in Gowanus, run by the delivery service NBRHD Kitchens, is filled with food storage units and refrigerated trucks that serve as a distribution point for a host of NBRHD-linked businesses selling ice cream, candy, chips and other bodega staples via UberEats and other delivery services.

But residents living adjacent to the site say that, since NBRHD arrived a couple of months ago, the noise generated by generators and trucks on the site has driven them crazy.

“It runs 24/7 and is very loud,” said Sara Sopher, a Gowanus resident whose building on 7th Street backs up onto the lot. “My neighbors and I have called 311 to complain about this noise but nothing has been done.”

“It’s near impossible to have windows open, and our balconies are now rendered unusable,” said another nearby resident, Desiree Dymond, who also complained about “banging sounds” at all hours caused by workers moving merchandise and slamming truck doors closed.

311 records show dozens of noise-related complaints have been filed in recent months at the site, which is owned by the construction firm Perfetto Enterprises and sits on a block zoned for commercial and manufacturing uses.

The site’s C8-2 zoning permits nearly all commercial uses. But the constant din has nevertheless resulted in city action, according to a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“DEP’s noise enforcement staff have inspected this site and they issued a Notice of Violation for excessive noise from a cooling unit on one of the trucks,” DEP spokesperson Ted Timbers told Bklyner. Timbers said the notice was issued May 7th.

Such a notice is answerable before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and could potentially carry a penalty if the issue goes unresolved.

The NBRHD service is a subset of REEF Technology, which calls itself “the largest operator of mobility, logistics hubs, and neighborhood kitchens” in the US and Canada, along with a growing presence in Europe.

The company has about 4,500 locations, most of which are parking lots on which REEF installs infrastructure for cloud kitchens, healthcare clinics, last-mile delivery and other services. Last year, REEF raised $700 million in investments from SoftBank and Mubadala Corporation.

A spokesperson for REEF, Katy Feinberg, described the NBRHD service as “a physical platform for the modern economy helping food brands scale,” and said the Gowanus distribution site is one of two NYC locations where they are “piloting last-mile delivery-only convenience items and local NYC brands.”

In other words, a convenience store version of the ghost kitchens that have popped up in cities across the country to offer delivery-only meals.

A lot on 6th Street in Gowanus, where food refrigeration trucks operated Reef Technology and Fresh Direct are generating noise complaints from neighbors living in adjacent buildings. (Image: Billy Richling/Bklyner)

But it doesn’t appear that the brands being distributed at the Gowanus site are, in fact, local. A sign placed outside the lot lists four entities operating at the site: Light Speed, Goodees, Stock-Up Mart and NBRHD Scoops, all of which appear to be subsidiaries of REEF, which is based in Miami and has employees in various locations around the world.

The “terms and conditions” and “privacy policy” pages on Goodees’ website, for example, indicate the entity is directly controlled by REEF. The website listed on Stock-Up Mart’s Facebook page redirects to the Goodees website and features a video of an NBRHD exec delivering emergency meals in Miami. The Light Speed Market name is trademarked by Reef and has locations around the country.

That has residents concerned that the tech giant is competing with local delis and bodegas who sell similar products. Sopher, for example, told Bklyner she thought it was “tone deaf” for REEF “to come into a Brooklyn neighborhood and set up ‘fake’ bodegas for their own profit” when small businesses are still struggling to recover from hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feinberg, the REEF spokesperson, disputed that characterization and said REEF was working to partner with local businesses.

“Everything at the location is purchased by a third party and delivered either with REEF team members of third party services,” she said. “We’re not competing with bodegas in that respect. Further, we’re in the process of adding more regional partnerships. REEF is currently working with local, independent and craft New York brands and businesses to help them expand their footprint across the city.”

In any case, when Bklyner visited the Gowanus site one morning this week, a REEF employee named Simone said that, in addition to the snack provision service, the site is also used for Fresh Direct deliveries and a “local kitchen which is still preparing to open.”

Simone said management was aware of the noise complaints and told her to keep the noisiest truck parked on the nearby curb during her shifts, where it would be further away from the windows of residential neighbors. A private vehicle with Florida plates was also parked on the sidewalk in front of the lot.

A lot on 6th Street in Gowanus, where food refrigeration trucks operated Reef Technology and Fresh Direct are generating noise complaints from neighbors living in adjacent buildings. (Image: Billy Richling/Bklyner)

“REEF cares about the community and our local neighbors,” Feinberg told Bklyner. “Right now, we are working quickly to resolve the issue.”

But Sopher and other neighbors say vehicles come and go from the site, and that the noise has gotten worse, not better.

“Our backyard is a quiet haven from the asphalt jungle,” said 7th Street resident Tom Miller. “Not anymore.”

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