Richard Leal

last updated 8/21/2018

Richard J. Leal

Vice President of Facility Design and Development at FreshDirect

Location:
23-30 Borden Avenue, Long Island City, New York, United States
Company:
FreshDirect
HQ Phone:
(718) 928-1000

Recent News  

FreshDirect move enters home stretch - Mott Haven Herald

A FreshDirect spokesman, Richard Leal, reiterated the company's promise to convert to an all-electric, non-polluting fleet within five years.
Leal responded that "The purpose of the incentives was to try to maintain the company in New York," adding FreshDirect is a "homegrown company. We're going to be adding 1,000 new jobs to the Bronx. These are good-paying jobs." Leal said there would be jobs for "technically-oriented people," and added that some of the current Queens-based workers may decline to move with the company, which would open up opportunities for Bronxites. Although the company's non-binding agreement with the Borough President's office that calls for creating jobs for Bronx workers "is not that specific" about hiring residents of Mott Haven, he said "the company will work with the community."

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FreshDirect's New Facility is Beating the Odds - American Builders Quarterly

Richard Leal helps online grocer FreshDirect navigate scores of obstructions to build a mammoth facility in New York
In 2012, Richard Leal was tasked with managing the construction of a 650,000 square foot warehouse and shipping center for FreshDirect in the Bronx, and the process was anything but easy. The project involved working through a seemingly endless tangle of obstructions-but luckily, Leal came to the task armed with three decades of construction experience. "I wish I'd had the ability to build this facility when I was 40, but I came here with an education of 30-plus years," Leal, FreshDirect's vice president of facilities, says. "Without that education, I'm sure the project would have been overwhelming." Leal, who is the son of Cuban nationals, didn't grow up with construction as a career option on his radar. In college, he decided that his goal was to become a fighter pilot in the military. Unfortunately for him, when he went to the Navy ROTC, one of the first questions they asked him was about his vision. He gave them the truthful answer, which was that he used contact lenses, and was told that disqualified him from being a pilot. With that long-held dream suddenly an impossibility, Leal went into mechanical engineering. Upon graduation, he worked for Newark-based energy company PSE&G. "The first four months, I worked in every single department as part of a management training program for all inbound engineers," he recalls. "They did that so when we were in the field we could connect with someone in whatever department we needed to interact with. For me, that was a great education." It was a good job, but his career path soon took a different turn. During high school, Leal had spent his summers working in the warehouse of Big M, a women's apparel chain in New Jersey that his father worked for. While still at PSE&G, he got a call from the owners asking him if he would direct construction for them as they continued to expand. Over the next 18 years, Leal build 250 stores for the company. He eventually became director of store planning, handling procurement of everything but the clothing itself. He negotiated trucking contracts and led distribution management; his narrow experience as an engineer had expanded to include every aspect of the business. The business was family-owned, so there were no stock options or other ways to participate in the company's equity. At the end of his time there, Leal had become involved in every major decision the family made, but he didn't feel that the importance of his role was being acknowledged and remunerated. "I got frustrated," he says. "Something was missing." Disenchanted, he went to work for a trucking company, turning a $40 million dollar business into a $60 million dollar business during his tenure. From there, he worked for two years on building a 20,000-square foot wine store in Manhattan, a major project in a New York historical building. Leal and his team brought in architectural lighting, gas turbine cogeneration, and HVAC systems, making the entire store a temperature-controlled walk-in wine cellar. After selling his house in New Jersey during the housing crash and moving permanently to his family's second home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the opportunity at Fresh Direct arose, but accepting the role would mean dividing his time between New York and Hilton Head. If he was going to do that, there had to be something very attractive about the offer. For Leal, the scope of the project and all the imagination it would require was what sealed the deal. The FDNY mandated two water sources, so Leal and his team put up a 175,000-gallon water tank at the side of the building. Those are only a few of the scores of engineering coups that Leal and his team had to pull off.

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http://www.motthavenherald.com/2013/06/14/freshdirect-move-enters-home-stretch/

A FreshDirect spokesman, Richard Leal, reiterated the company's promise to convert to an all-electric, non-polluting fleet within five years.
Leal responded that "The purpose of the incentives was to try to maintain the company in New York," adding FreshDirect is a "homegrown company. We're going to be adding 1,000 new jobs to the Bronx. These are good-paying jobs." Leal said there would be jobs for "technically-oriented people," and added that some of the current Queens-based workers may decline to move with the company, which would open up opportunities for Bronxites. Although the company's non-binding agreement with the Borough President's office that calls for creating jobs for Bronx workers "is not that specific" about hiring residents of Mott Haven, he said "the company will work with the community."

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