Announcing $10 million dollars in federal money for the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, two congressmen with districts in the Bronx, José E. Serrano and Joseph Crowley, said the cash infusion might be a small step to modernizing the market and keeping its namesake location.
“Hunts Point has played a critical role in New York’s economy for over 40 years and we should do all we can to ensure that it continues to do so for many many decades to come,” said Crowley.
The funds, announced last week as part of the federal Department of Transportation’s TIGER program, will fund a receiving warehouse and a renovation of the rail lines that supply food to distributors within the market. Over the years, many of the rails decayed or sunk into the ground. And over the market's 45-year history, truck, rail and other traffic patterns have gotten confused.
According to the D.O.T, the $10 million is half the estimated cost of the $20.6 million project, some of which will also be paid for with fees paid by co-op merchants.
The funds come at a time when the city is trying to work out a deal to keep the massive terminal, and its jobs, from moving across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
Crowley said the grant represented a vote of confidence the market would stay in the Bronx.
"I don't think the federal government during these difficult times is about making frivolous investments," Crowley said.
Crowley and Serrano were joined by city Economic Development Corporation president Seth Pinsky and Kenneth Adams from the Empire State Development Corporation.
According to Pinsky, the expansive market accounts for nearly a quarter of regional produce sales and 60 percent of those in the city, and around 6700 direct and indirect wholesale jobs.
"But to remain competitive, the market not only needs to stay here in the Bronx, but it needs to modernize and it needs to expand," he said.
Matthew D’Arrigo, one of the co-op’s two presidents, thanked the government for its organizational help.
“We come to work every day, every night, and we sell the fruits and vegetables that the 22 million New Yorkers consume every day and we’ve been doing it for 45 years,” he said. “The jobs that are here, the family relationships that are here, it’s a whole culture. That culture doesn’t understand how to rebuild this market.”
D’Arrigo said the improvements could start anywhere from six months to a year from now, but probably not until 2013.
“The way we’re viewing it, it’s a piece of a larger puzzle,” he said, referring to a $320 million redevelopment the market is seeking in order to stay.
He said that the market needs a full redevelopment, including new terminals. The older buildings would then handle oversupply.
The market has threatened to leave the Bronx for New Jersey as recently as last year, before signing a three-year lease with the E.D.C., which owns the land.
After the press conference, Crowley and his staff went for a tour of some of the current freight lanes.
Standing amid trucks, stationary rail cars and smashed produce packaging, they spoke to produce distributor Joel Fierman, who said he could get up to eight train deliveries in the September peak season.
Fierman said many of his trains get tied up in New Jersey, in which case the produce goes on trucks that cross the George Washington Bridge.
“Now if we could eliminate that Jersey link and just have the product come to New York, just think how many trucks aren’t going to cross the G.W. Bridge, how much traffic stays here," he said. "But the rail has to be efficient enough to do that.”