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INDUSTRY VIEWPOINT: Can New York afford to lose the Hunts Point Terminal Market?

The largest wholesale terminal market in the United States sits on the bank of the East River on Hunts Point in New York City, looking across to Riker's Island. The New York City Terminal Produce Co-Operative Market has been at Hunts Point for over 35 years, serving the New York metropolitan area with its ethnically diverse population that is estimated at more than 16 million people. It is estimated that the revenues exceed $1.75 billion annually, which is more than any other produce market in the world.

The Hunts Point market receives produce deliveries daily by rail, tractor- trailer and air cargo from across the United States and around the world. Over 50 merchants call the market home, selling produce to vendors, retailers, foodservice providers, bodegas, individual markets, restaurants and schools.

The thought that Hunts Point could close and move to New Jersey is ludicrous and ridiculous. The thought of Hunts Point continuing to deteriorate and crumble is a reality unless New York City, the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, the state of New York and the federal government come together and recognize the urgency to rebuild the market and keep it in New York state where it belongs.

The debate has been going on for years, and while talk is cheap, the facilities are in desperate need of renovation and updating. Currently, hundreds of trucks sit in the yard with units running to keep produce refrigerated because the market cannot handle the traffic. Energy costs are skyrocketing, and the amount of exhaust that is generated from the idling trucks is reason enough to update the facility.

Across the street, the city's terminal fish market operates in a new state-of- the-art warehouse, as does a meat distribution market nearby. The produce market needs the same attention, and the appropriate agencies need to make this happen.

How important is the market to the state's economy? Consider that with agriculture being the leading business in the state, having a distribution center such as the Hunts Point Terminal Market within six hours of the largest population center in the Northern Hemisphere is extremely vital. Hunts Points merchants move truckloads of the state's produce every day, and without this market, farmers across the state would lose one of their larger advantages in the marketplace, which is proximity to the market.

Losing the market to New Jersey is not just a problem for the city, it is a statewide issue. While New York farmers and shippers can still deliver their goods if the market moves across the river, the state will lose the revenues. The way the economy is moving, New York cannot afford to lose any more.

The state needs a new, modern, greener and state-of-the-art facility coupled with a new farmers' wholesale market at Hunts Point -- now.

(Jim Allen is president of the Fishers, NY-based New York Apple Association.)