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Produce market wants new facility or else

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A staple in the Hunts Point peninsula for over 40 years is considering leaving for what could be greener pastures, spurring outrage from those who feel the city should save the complex.

On June 12, Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. announced his intention to call upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg to place the same degree of attention and importance on protecting the New York Terminal Cooperative Produce Market as the mayor has placed on finding $350 million more in tax free bonds for the completion of the new Yankee Stadium.

“Meanwhile, the Hunts Point Produce Market is actively seeking a new home due to the mayor’s refusal to assist the market,” Diaz stated.  

The produce distribution center, built in 1967, supplies 3.3 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables a year to restaurants and grocers, who would have to travel further and pay more for items should the co-op move when their lease expires in 2011.

The market was made a cooperative in 1986, when a 25-year lease was signed at the current 125-acre city-owned facility that includes about 400,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouses, plus railroad tracks, loading docks and parking for trucks at Halleck Street and Spofford Avenue.

Published reports estimate that the market will outgrow its capacity in five years, making a new facility all the more necessary, but a representative of the market said that the decision to leave the city was not a done deal.

  

“It is speculation at this point,” said co-president of the Hunts Point Produce Market’s board, Matthew D’Arrigo. “We have had a low grade discussion about the redevelopment of the facility for years. I don’t think we are now in the position to sign a new lease without the redevelopm­ent.”

To totally revamp the site, which would include the expansion of warehouses to handle greater volumes of trade and larger trucks, while addressing current loading docks without refrigeration, would cost the city an estimated $750 million, according to published reports.

D’Arrigo believes the project can be done at only $450 million, of which he wants the city to contribute about $150 million, and the rest to come from state, federal and private funding.

D’Arrigo said they are asking the city to build a new facility at the far end of market’s property to modernize the operation and make it state-of-the-art.

“We are working with the NYC Economic Development Corporation to get the deal done,” D’Arrigo stated. “It is our job to look at every option.”

Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the EDC stated that the co-op “has not made us aware of any plans to relocate out of the city,” and added that they were actively working on ways to keep the cooperative in the Bronx. 

D’Arrigo said many of the co-op’s 50 members do not want to move, as it would require a tremendous logistical shift. That being said, if the redevelopment at the current site is not forthcoming, the co-op may not have any other choice.

“There are interested parties outside of the city that are looking to talk to us about redevelopment in southern Westchester and New Jersey,” D’Arrigo noted. “No one really wants to move, but at the same time, we know the future is not bright unless we get a viable deal with the city.”

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group