Hunts Point Market wins court decision against New York City
May 21, 2006
by Tad Thompson
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."