A plan to better connect borough consumers to produce grown by upstate farmers appears to be gaining momentum.
Non-profit Grow NYC is continuing its advocacy to build a regional greenmarket food distribution hub for New York-sourced produce in Hunts Point, a move that could increase access to fruits and vegetables in communities where they are hard to find.
The center, which would also help regional farmers by increasing capacity at Grow NYC farmers markets and programs, is currently in its design phase, said Marcel Van Ooyen, Grow NYC president and CEO.
The organization is in the process of acquiring the land for the 75,000 square facility in a space that is currently an auxiliary parking lot for the Fulton Fish Market near Halleck Street and Viele Avenue, said Van Ooyen.
That land is owned by New York City, and would be leased, according to the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
The greenmarket hub is envisioned as a wholesale warehouse, but Van Ooyen said that there would be retail components as well.
“There will be farmers in the parking lot who will sell by the case who would be more than happy to sell to folks…who want to buy it directly,” said Van Ooyen.
He added that there would be some kind of retail component either directly at the facility or in the nearby Hunts Point residential community consistent with Grow NYC’s goal of increasing access in underserved communities.
“We are going to talk to people in the neighborhood and see what their thoughts are and how they would like to see their community better served,” he said.
The project has garnered support from key elected officials, including Governor Cuomo, who in 2016 committed $15 million to fund the project, as well as Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
The borough president said that he believes that the construction of a regional greenmarket hub in Hunts Point would expand opportunities for new and existing businesses.
He said in a statement that he also believes the facility will facilitate access to fresh food for stores, restaurants, and people in ‘food desert’ communities, where fresh produce is in short supply.
“A regional greenmarket food hub in this neighborhood creates multiple job opportunities, directly and indirectly, and at the same time will foster entrepreneurship in the Hunts Point area,” said Diaz.
The food hub’s construction underscores that the borough is the economic development gateway between upstate New York, the city and the northeast corridor of our country, said the borough president, who thanked the governor for his commitment to improving the economy and infrastructure.
Also, Senator Jeff Klein, whose district covers the Hunts Point markets, said in a statement that the project would also play a vital role in promoting healthy eating for people in nearby communities.
Currently, a 5,000 square foot warehouse services the non-profit greenmarkets and ‘green box’ distribution programs Grow NYC runs, limiting the organization’s’ ability to buy food in bulk and pass cost savings onto consumers, said Van Ooyen.
“This would allow us to dramatically increase the amount of retail outlets we run,” he said, adding that his organization is working with NYC EDC to make the project a reality.