Hunts Point Produce Market thisclose to city rehab deal

Worker at Hunts Point Produce Market could soon be working in modernized surroundings.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

The sprawling Hunts Point Produce Market isn’t quite ready to pack off to New Jersey.

In fact, market officials are cutting the city some slack to close a deal for a multi-million dollar market makeover to keep it in the Bronx.

They let a June 29 deadline that would have freed them to resume talks with the Garden State come and go.

If two final sticking points can be worked out, they said the cooperative will happily stay and chip in half of the $332 million cost of modernization.

“It’s now or never,” Matt D’Arrigo, president of the market’s cooperative association, told the Bronx Times of the negotiations. “All the planets are in alignment. The time is right to make a deal.”

He said two major sticking points remain:

•Understanding the exact terms of the debt service that association members would have to deal with in splitting the cost of fixing up the market.

The city and state are putting up $137.5 million, while the cooperative members will put up $160 million.

“We don’t know yet what that will mean until our consultants tell us the specifics,” said D’Arrigo.

•The Business Integrity Commission’s increase in “certification” fees for members – basically background checks – from $280 to $4,000.

The BIC was set up under the Giuliani administration to root out mob infiltration, once prevalent at the market. The organization said it had not raised its fees since 1996.

To sweeten the pot, a host of government officials joined market leaders on Monday, June 25 to announce a $10 million federal grant for rail freight improvements there.

Local Congressmen Jose Serrano and Joe Crowley said that along with New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, they heavily lobbied U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for the grant.

Serrano, whose re-drawn district lines will now take in the entire market, told Monday’s group: “I don’t intend to have a district in New Jersey. Everybody now has to step up to the plate.”

The 45-year-old market, which sits on leased city land, is in bad physical shape and in major need of both improvement and expansion.

Its more than 115 food wholesalers and processing firms employ more than 3,600 workers and serve as the city’s – and region’s – premiere transfer and distribution center for produce coming in from all points on the compass, as far away as California and Florida, and back out.

It generates more than $3 billion in sales annually and serves 6,000 institutions, restaurants and bodegas across the city.

It also takes in produce from some 200 farms across New York, a fact that has put Gov. Cuomo into the mix in efforts to keep the market in the Bronx.

Crowley called the rail improvements coming with the $10 million grant “a win-win for everyone… with less need for trucks on our roads, and reduced air pollution when asthma is so prevalent. This is the kind of investment the federal government SHOULD make.”

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