July 15th, 2021 – MANHATTAN, New York: In the Spanish Harlem section of Manhattan, underneath an on-ramp to the Triboro Bridge, sits an encampment of off-duty Latino app-delivery workers. Their goal is to ensure the safe passage of colleagues, those who are working the late-night shift peddling food deliveries across the Willis Avenue Bridge into and out of the South Bronx.
The group is called El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana (Translated: Diary of the Delivery Boys in the Big Apple). Their leader is Cesar Solano, originally from Mexico and an app-delivery worker, since just prior to the start of and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, explained that the bridge was known for frequent and, at times, violent armed robberies of delivery workers. Because the Bronx-side of the footpath is poorly lit and tunnel-like, it makes the riders easy prey for muggers in a blind alley.
Solano states that since the start of the operation a month ago, there has only been one incident of a biker being attacked. The footpath has otherwise been peaceful. But work is still needed to make the path secure, which is very isolated and uncomfortable to ride on at night. Solano hints to working with local police as a way to figure out a response that results in a solution. However, for now their nightly operation will go on as long as needed.
The group works solely off the help of volunteers. They give out donated hot food — home cooked or store bought — either by the workers or supportive families that live nearby.
The safe passage operation is only a part in a bigger picture of a rise in community action amongst app-delivery workers in New York City who have long been the target of violent robberies, which at times have been fatal.
Such as in the case of the attempted e-bike robbery shooting death of Francisco Villalva Vitinio this past April. Vitinio was gunned down in a school playground at 108th street and 3rd Avenue, located in the same Spanish Harlem community as the safe passage initiative.
E-bikes are often targeted by would-be robbers because of their resale value on the street. The cost of a new electric bike can range anywhere from the high hundreds to a few thousand dollars. This can net the robber a hefty return and the victim, often low-wage and immigrant, a severe and devastating economic blow.
Video by Dakota Santiago (FreedomNewsTV)