Hunts Point Market wins court decision against New York City

The Hunts Point market beat city hall.

On midday May 15 came word that New York State Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings ruled that last fall, New York City was unfair in putting out a bid for a warehouse property next to the Hunts Point market.

Believing this was the case, early this year the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association Inc. in the Bronx, NY, sued New York City's Economic Development Corp., the New York City Business Integrity Commission and one of the market's major customers, Baldor Specialty Foods Inc., also located in the Bronx. Last fall, Baldor won the bid to lease a sprawling warehouse that belongs to the city. This warehouse, which was suddenly vacated last July by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. in Montvale, NJ, is immediately outside the back gate of the Hunts Point Market. When the city put the 185,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse up for lease bid, it gave only a week to respond to the request for proposal.

In that time, Baldor registered a bid three times greater than the one submitted by the market in the timeframe, thus winning the proposal. The lawsuit by the Hunts Point Market made many points, but among them was the basic charge that all parties should have been given more time to consider their bids.

According to Matthew D'Arrigo of D'Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc. and Hunts Point Cooperative co-president, the judge ruled that New York City has two choices: to either appeal the decision or put the A&P property back up for open bid.

If the city decides to appeal the decision, "I'm unsure how long that would take," Mr. D'Arrigo said. The hearing with Judge Billings took almost two months to reach a decision. And it has been about four months since the market filed its initial lawsuit. "The appeal process I suspect would not go that long," Mr. D'Arrigo said. "It is not a retrial but an appeal of the original decision. Some other judge goes over the original work."

On May 16, Mr. D'Arrigo said that if the city decides not to appeal the decision, it "will put the property up for rebid right away. We will bid again, as will many other people. This is not a secret any more. This has had plenty of advertising by now. We will be one bidder of maybe a couple dozen bidders now."

The Hunts Point market merchants "are obviously quite happy with the decision," Mr. D'Arrigo said. "We feel the decision was just."

Calls asking Kevin Murphy, Baldor's chief executive officer, and the firm's spokesman Jim Grossman to comment on this story were not returned by press time for the May 22 issue of The Produce News.. Cynthia Arato, an attorney representing the market, also did not respond in time to telephone messages.

Mr. D'Arrigo said, "Where do we go from here? Ideally, I'd like to see a dialogue between the market and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who really represents and runs all the city's economic development projects. He works directly with the mayor. He was the point man on trying to get the Olympics to New York, which didn't work. And he tried to build a West Side stadium. That didn't work either."

But, he said, "We'd like to get in and see where we stand with the city on a full rebuild" of the Hunts Point Market. "There can be a lot of nice bells and whistles in a rebuild. Maybe the Bronx Terminal Market can be involved."

The Bronx Terminal Market is adjacent to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. A new stadium is being built for the Yankees and the Bronx Terminal Market, which is in a state of disrepair, is being destroyed to make way for a new baseball palace and the shiny infrastructure that will bring with it. The Bronx Terminal Market operators are being evicted effective June 1.

Among the issues in the lawsuit was a New York City hope of moving Bronx Terminal Market businesses into the current Baldor warehouse once Baldor moved to the A&P warehouse. That plan was jammed not only by the lawsuit but because the Bronx Terminal operators refused to move into the Baldor site, citing deficiencies in the facility relating to their businesses. With their operational venue to be destroyed in a matter of days, some Bronx Terminal Market businesses still had no homes. They receive no relocation money from the city until they relocate.

Mr. D'Arrigo said that two Bronx Terminal Market companies had moved into the Hunts Point market and that there is discussion of moving a small farmers market at the site into Hunts Point. "We have done more for the Bronx Terminal Market than the city has done," he opined.

"Maybe the Bronx Terminal Market can be involved" in renewed discussions with Hunts Point and Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, Mr. D'Arrigo said. "Maybe there are things we have not thought of yet that can be thought of now" to improve produce distribution in the Bronx. "Maybe this can help a lot of people, not the least of which is help the market get into the new millennium and start growing its business again."

Mr. D'Arrigo said, "It's looking late for the Bronx Terminal Market as a market. I don't know the disposition of those firms, but there are three or four produce-based firms that could fit into a move to the A&P warehouse. Then if we rebuild, we could incorporate them into the new market after the fact. They could make an interim move. The Bronx Terminal Market operators didn't like any of the places they were shown" as alternative locations.

Of the lawsuit, Mr. D'Arrigo said, "We were expecting the victory. There was a tone that our counsel was optimistic going in that there was something that would get a decision in our favor and it turned out that way. This had never happened before. It was all new to all of us. This is round one. Now we'll see what happens."

FCC Hires Keck as executive director

The Florida Citrus Commission in Lakeland, FL, hired Ken Keck on May 17 to serve as executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

Mr. Keck replaces Dan Gunter, who resigned last month to take an executive position with a private agribusiness company.

"The search committee looked at a number of qualified applicants for this position both internal and external," FCC Chairman Andy Taylor said. "Ken Keck rose to the top of the list. In addition to having a broad knowledge of citrus, Ken possesses sharp intelligence and integrity beyond reproach. This is a terrific hire, and I'm positive Ken will continue to ensure that the FDOC and its programs benefit the Florida citrus grower."

For the past three years, Mr. Keck, a third generation citrus grower, has served as the FDOC's general counsel and director of government relations. During that time, he helped successfully guide the department through the box tax litigation. Additionally, Mr. Keck assisted in securing federal funding that augmented the FDOC's budget in the wake of the hurricanes.

"This is a tremendous opportunity, and I hope to continue to build on the momentum created by Dan Gunter and the great FDOC staff," Mr. Keck said.

Prior to arriving at the FDOC, Mr. Keck served as director of legislative and regulatory affairs at Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest citrus grower organization. He also worked as legislative director for Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and in government relations with Robinson Lake Sawyer Miller in Washington, DC.

Mr. Keck has a bachelor's degree from Stetson University and his law degree from Widener University School of Law. He is a member of the Florida and District of Columbia bars. Mr. Keck's family has grown citrus in Florida's Highlands County for three generations.

Laura Wieking leaving Pear Bureau Northwest

After nearly four years as public relations manager for the Pear Bureau Northwest, Laura Wieking announced in mid-May that she is leaving the position, effective June 2.

Ms. Wieking joined the bureau as its PR manager in September 2002, and she said that the decision to depart the organization was a difficult one.

Her new job, which will be part time, is communications manager with the Credit Union Association of Oregon. She said that logistics factored into the move, and the CUAO offices are a shorter commute from her home and her family.

Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the bureau, lauded Ms. Wieking's commitment and said she would be "difficult to replace."

Ms. Wieking said that her replacement will likely be hired before the August pear harvest.

"I will greatly miss working with everyone in this industry, and I am thankful for the professional and personal opportunities it has brought to my life," she said in a prepared statement.

Dole Fresh Vegetables moving to Monterey

Dole Fresh Vegetables is moving its offices from Salinas, CA, to Monterey, CA, beginning this summer. Dole will shift employees from 639 S. Sanborn Road in Salinas to 2959 Monterey-Salinas Highway in Monterey. The move will place about 180 office employees under one roof instead of the current setup at the Dole site in Salinas with multiple buildings.

Dole Fresh Vegetables is a division of Dole Food Co. Inc.

Red Blossom Farms adds growers
Salinas, CA-based Red Blossom Farms has added Lupe Valdez and Ruben Lara of V&L Farms to its roster of Salinas growers.

"Lupe and Ruben bring the expertise and quality we needed to complement our steady expansion and advancing cultural practices," said Doug Turner, general manager of Red Blossom.

V&L Farms will cultivate 240 acres of Red Blossom strawberries for the 2006 season. Messrs. Valdez and Lara have a long-standing family history of Salinas Valley farming and combined bring more than 17 years of strawberry-growing experience.

Donohue elected to the Americans for Libraries Council board
Dennis Donohue, president of Salinas, CA-based European Vegetable Specialties Farms Inc., has been elected to the Americans for Libraries Council board of directors at its recent meeting in Boston.

For more than a year, Mr. Donohue was a key organizer in the citizens' drive to keep Salinas libraries open. As a member of the "blue-ribbon" committee that oversaw the Rally Salinas! campaign, Mr. Donohue helped raise more than $767,000 to keep the libraries open, and he campaigned for Measure V, the half-cent sales tax increase that passed last November that will fund libraries and other city services. Mr. Donohue's efforts on behalf of libraries were recognized by the California Library Association, which awarded him its 2005 President's Award.

Mr. Donohue also was instrumental in bringing national attention to Salinas' libraries by inviting the Americans for Libraries Council to host a forum on the "Future of Salinas' Libraries" at Salinas' historic Steinbeck Library in September 2005. The forum, which brought together community leaders and members of the public to express their visions for the future of Salinas libraries, was part of a two-year research and dissemination project carried out by the Americans for Libraries Council with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Americans for Libraries Council is a national nonprofit that champions the role of libraries in American life and promotes new approaches to sustaining and developing libraries in the 21st century. Through its program division Libraries for the Future,, the council develops and oversees national programs to strengthen individual libraries and library systems.

IPC ads win top honors

The Idaho Potato Commission's recent advertising campaign in the consumer, retail and foodservice arenas in both print and television mediums has been awarded four prestigious "Best of NAMA" awards (one national, three regional). The Santa Barbara, CA-based National Agri-Marketing Association's Best of NAMA awards competition recognizes excellence in creative agri-marketing communications and is a hallmark of distinction in the agricultural advertising industry.

This year, NAMA received 1,230 entries at the regional level, three of which were submitted by the IPC's California-based advertising and marketing agency, Evans Hardy+Young Inc. All three entries were awarded regional Best of NAMA awards, and one entry moved on to be awarded a prized national Best of NAMA award.

"To have our advertisements recognized as some of the best in the agricultural industry is phenomenal," said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the IPC. "Our recent consumer, retail and foodservice ad campaigns have been extremely successful in increasing the consumption of Idaho potatoes on a national level, both in the home and in restaurants."

Advertisements submitted and awards received are:

Retail Trade Campaign Print Ads
A National Merit Award and a Regional Merit Award were conferred for a series of IPC retail trade advertisements. The ads were entered into the "Trade Ads Series" category for the regional awards competition.

These ads were created to effectively communicate to retailers that Idaho potatoes in produce displays drive sales. The ad campaign was launched in September 2005 and is currently running on a national level in retail trade publications.

Foodservice Trade Campaign Print Ads
A Regional First-Place Award was received for a series of trade ads created as part of a Foodservice Trade Campaign for the IPC. This ad series was evaluated in the "Trade Ads Series" category for the regional awards competition.

The ads were designed to promote the use of Idaho potatoes in the foodservice industry and encourage foodservice professionals to incorporate the vegetable in their menus. The ads referred to the fact that using nutritious Idaho potatoes could cut preparation and cooking times, waste and labor costs. The ad series ran on a national level in foodservice trade publications from September 2004 through August 2005.

Austin Television Commercial
A Regional First-Place Award was received for an innovative television commercial starring renowned fitness guru and IPC spokesperson Denise Austin, which was developed to creatively promote Idaho potatoes to consumers. This commercial was judged as part of the "Producer or Company-Funded Advertising Campaigns" category for the regional awards competition.

The commercial was designed by EvansHardy+Young to illustrate to consumers that Idaho potatoes are an important part of a healthy diet. In the commercial, Ms. Austin spoke about the significance of a well-rounded diet and incorporating exercise into a healthy lifestyle. She demonstrated this by walking up an oversized version of the U.S. government's MyPyramid food guidelines. The commercial aired on a national level from September 2004 through August 2005.

Frank Muir said, "Connecting Denise Austin, the MyPyramid food guidelines and a healthy lifestyle with Idaho potatoes has been key in educating consumers who became caught up with Atkins and other low-carb diets. Idaho potatoes really are nutritious."

Although Idaho is famous worldwide for its premium potatoes, some consumers do not realize that only potatoes grown in the Gem State can wear the "Grown in Idaho" seal. Both Idaho potatoes and the "Grown in Idaho" seal are federally registered certification marks that belong to the IPC. These marks ensure that consumers are purchasing potatoes that are grown in the state of Idaho.