Promised a free hot meal from a popular local restaurant courtesy of the delivery giant Grubhub, more than 100 hungry elderly and disabled Upper East Side residents stood assembled in a long line that snaked from one end of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center guided through the lobby with stanchions, down a long corridor, through another hallway, out the side of the building and into an alleyway between the senior center and a brick wall, then were forced to wait, and wait, and wait.
That’s because Grubhub told the vulnerable senior citizens who call the New York City Housing Authority’s Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers home that to get the free meals — which are intended to be used as evidence that the soulless, calculating, investor-driven multi-national corporation is locally altruistic in a tax-deductible way — they needed to be assembled and ready for the distribution, which would start at 12:00 pm sharp on Thursday.
However, the very first elderly Upper East Side woman at the front of the line would not receive their meal until 40 minutes later, due to what appears to be not only a combination of poor planning and execution by Grubhub, but also, in part due to fixation on staging a table with the packaged meals to look better for photographs.
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Rather than using their horribly-underpaid contract delivery workers who could get actually the job done right, Grubhub, a technology and logistics company whose whole enterprise is centered around food delivery, sent three corporate employees to pick up the food — including a ‘senior manager’ seen wearing a bright orange Grubhub hoodie still featuring the creases from being pulled from a sealed bag — and bring it to the Isaacs Center some seven blocks away.
Upper East Site has learned from a source familiar with a timeline of Thursday’s events that the 500 hot meals ordered from The Mansion diner, located at 1634 York Avenue, at the corner of East 86th Street, were completed and ready for pickup at 11:00 am — the time agreed upon and expected — however, the three Grubhub employees would not retrieve them until 11:40 am.
It is not clear why Brett Swanson — a Grubhub Senior Manager of Community Affairs and Social Impact — and his two subordinates were 40 minutes late picking up their order from The Mansion diner, nor is it clear why it took Swanson and company 45 minutes to travel just seven blocks to the Isaacs Center, located on East 93rd Street, east of First Avenue within the NYCHA development.
When Swanson finally arrived, Upper East Site inquired whether it was his first time in the city. Swanson said it was not, however, his LinkedIn page states that he is based out of Brooklyn.
We inquired further why his team arrived 25 minutes after distribution was supposed to begin, but Swanson, who began frantically stacking black plastic take out containers from The Mansion on a folding tape draped with a blue Isaacs Center tablecloth, refused to answer our questions — including whether he thought it was appropriate to keep elderly and disabled Upper East Side residents waiting.
For the next 15 minutes, Swanson and two other Grubhub employees scrambled back and forth bringing in more bags of food, waiting until they had a significantly large number of take out containers that would look impressive in photographs, before allowing the very first people on line — who had been standing in line more than a hour — to pick up their meal.
Pausing to take photos, elderly and disabled Upper East Side residents filed past, allowed to take only one meal — even a volunteer who arrived at 10:00 am and had been helping the line of senior citizens to assemble was told she could not receive an additional container to take to an elderly NYCHA resident who couldn’t stand in line.
She called him on speakerphone in front of us and we heard the man, who went back home, thank her for getting him one of the three tasty dishes prepared by The Mansion — spare ribs over rice, chicken and vegetables, as well as macaroni and cheese for the vegetarians — which she then left to bring him.
Thursday’s food giveaway was part of Grubhub’s ‘Serving the City’ program, meant to help address food insecurity by purchasing meals from New York City restaurants and delivering the meals to those that need them most.
The company sent a media advisory to Upper East Site on Tuesday announcing the event, claiming that Upper East Side City Council Member Julie Menin would be serving the meals with Mr. Swanson — even leading the headline of the advisory with the lawmaker’s name — and stating that interviews would be available with both.
Neither were true. Not only did Swanson refuse to answer any questions unless he deemed them to be ‘positive,’ Upper East Site has learned that Council Member Julie Menin was never scheduled to be there to distribute the meals — she was busy downtown in council meetings.
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Furthermore, we’ve learned the council member’s communications director never approved the media advisory sent out by Grubhub’s public relations team.
Just before we left the Isaacs Center Thursday afternoon, there were still seven people standing outside the building, waiting at the end of that long line still snaking through the building.
Following the event, Upper East Site reached out to Grubhub’s representatives to get answers to our questions, but we did not hear back.
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