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Hunts Point lease expected to be extended until a decision is made about its future

by Christina DiMartino | May 24, 2011

With the 10-year lease for the Bronx, NY, location set to expire for the operators of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, speculation has swirled about whether the market will look for an alternate location in New Jersey or elsewhere.

However, it appears that that the market will remain in its current location, at least for the time being.

According to a May 22 story on Crain's New York Business web site, city officials and members of the cooperative are hammering out a short-term extension while they haggle over a 30- or 40-year lease that would include a $320 million revamp of the antiquated facility.

Joel Fierman, co-owner of Fierman's Produce Exchange and a member of the Hunts Point cooperative, told The Produce News May 24 that the $320 million figure is the estimate to rebuild the facility, not the cost for short-term improvements until a decision is made.

“In the meantime, New York City and the states of New York and New Jersey continue negotiations,” said Mr. Fierman. “We cannot comment further on how negotiations are unfolding.”

Since opening in 1967, Hunts Point has catered to the largest ethnically diverse region in the world, with an estimated population that exceeds 22 million people within a 50-mile radius. It is the largest produce market in the world, but it is sorely in need of renovation, as it falls short in the need for cold storage, forcing many companies to store fresh produce in trailers because the loading docks are not refrigerated. Some complain that trucker access in and out of the market is poor and that roads are in disrepair or just cannot handle the thousands of loads that move in and out of the terminal weekly.

The market, which employs 3,000 union workers, sits on a 130-acre site that is owned by New York City. It has 42 tenants that occupy every available space. Its combined revenues exceed $2 billion annually, more than any other produce terminal market in the world.

New Jersey is aggressively negotiating to have the terminal moved there, while New York City and New York state want the market to stay where it is and to renovate it to bring it up to today’s standards and needs.

The Crain's New York Business coverage also quoted Daniel Kane, head of Teamsters Local 202, which represents 1,500 of the market's employees, as saying, “Three years ago, the city had a home-field advantage. New Jersey is competing now. It's a problem if 28 vendors want to stay and 19 want to move to New Jersey.”

Mr. Kane added that based on his discussions with [vendors], he estimates that about 40 percent are leaning toward moving to New Jersey.

Viewpoints and opinions on the issue from several of the Hunts Point tenants are included in a story in the April 18 edition of The Produce News.